Light-hearted Insights

Proof-of-Stake Founder Sunny King on Tackling Bitcoin’s ‘Energy Problem’

“Crypto Titans” is a series of personal interviews conducted by CoinMarketCap with prominent and forward-thinking minds tinkering on and behind the scenes of the cryptocurrency landscape. Click here to see all the Crypto Titan interviews up to today!

Sunny King, CMC’s next Crypto Titan, is the inventor of the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, as well as the creator behind three blockchain projects: Peercoin, Primecoin and most currently, V SYSTEMS.

While King prefers his privacy (like CMC founder Brandon Chez, they both took the stage at CMC’s The Capital conference in masks), that didn’t prevent him from sharing his crypto origin story when he set out to “improve” on Bitcoin way back in 2011.

What got you started in crypto?


I started in 2011 with studying the intricacies of Bitcoin design and trying to improve upon it. Peercoin was my first design to tackle the energy issue of Bitcoin. Peercoin eliminated energy consumption for consensus by introducing proof-of-stake consensus.

My second design was Primecoin, which tackled the energy problem from a different angle. Primecoin is proof-of-work consensus, but uses more intelligent prime proof-of-work instead of hashcash.

How has a failure in crypto set you up for better decision-making? Do you have a favorite failure?


I try to learn from others. Designing and implementing new technology is one thing, making a successful venture is quite another.

There are many aspects to it. It doesn’t have to be failures, I think I can appreciate the experiences of Jobs, Musk and maybe General Magic’s AMD, for example

In the last year or so, has your philosophy or belief about crypto changed?


My philosophy about crypto is that it brings about a new class of private property I call “strong private property.” Even though they are virtual assets rather than real assets, it is more and more accepted that the line between the virtual and the real has blurred. I still believe strong private property embodied in crypto will bring about revolutionary changes to our civilizations. It is most definitely an era to look forward to.

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to enter the world of crypto?


My recommendation to anyone new to the crypto world is to experience it first hand. Don’t just store your coins in exchanges like with stock brokers. Use the non-custodial wallets, properly keep the passphrases and learn the principles of brain wallets.

And begin to take some cryptos for jobs or favors! This is truly the new experience with the money of the virtual worlds, with freedom and privacy. Learn risk management, practice self-responsibility and self-accountability.

Given how the industry has evolved, do you think the industry at large should embrace regulation or champion freedom and deregulation?


This is probably a hotly contested topic. The industry has evolved into two distinct branches of development, one as decentralized financial infrastructure, and the other as a general technology infrastructure for diverse applications. Cryptocurrencies have a culture for freedom and deregulation. However, blockchain in general would likely have wider use in society as a technology platform — but the two branches are still closely connected. 

As a disruptive technology with the capability of changing our civilization, of course there will be some compatibility issues with the current society. I think the industry as a whole has always been pretty open to discuss the various matters with establishment. On the other hand, the lawmakers probably also need to be more open-minded and consider the benefits of the new technology, making necessary adjustments.

What is your vision of the future of the crypto industry?


We have cryptocurrencies and strong private properties in the virtual worlds. The virtual worlds have more freedom and self governance.

The real world, however, despite the progress of science and technology, could still be subject to war, poverty, violence and resource shortages. Of course, I mean there will be cultural differences between the two worlds, yet they are still connected. 

Which world do you prefer? It’s probably still too early to judge the relative merits of each world.

Debunk a common myth in crypto.


Regarding monetary value, a common misconception is that energy consumption gives it “intrinsic value.”

This is demonstrably false by proof-of-stake consensus. Proof-of-stake consensus does not require energy consumption, yet proof-of-stake coins have taken a significant market share. This proves that monetary value does not derive from energy consumption.

Monetary value could derive from monetary utility alone. 

The more people acknowledge and use it as money, the higher monetary base value it achieves. This is an important insight the cryptocurrency experiment contributes to monetary economics.

This interview has been edited.

Enjoyed reading our Crypto Titan series? Catch our previous interview with Emin Gün Sirer, designer of the first proof-of-work cryptocurrency. Or check out the full list here.

Molly Jane is a content manager at CoinMarketCap. Previously the head of news at Cointelegraph, she has also contributed to Decrypt and Modern Consensus. You can find her on Twitter at @MollyJZuckerman.

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