The Consensus: Singapore blockchain conference was a two-day event held at the Marina Bay Sands, near downtown Singapore, in September, 2018. Wessel Simons of the Dutch media company Bitcoin Magazine NL caught up with NEO founder, Da Hongfei, at the event on September 19th for a brief interview.
Topics included the development of NEO 3.0, centralization of NEO as a strategy, game development on NEO, and Chinese regulatory attitudes. A transcript of the interview can be found below.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: We’re here at the beautiful Singapore Consensus and a NEO meetup. How are you doing, Da Hongfei?
Hongfei: I’m good, I’m doing good. Yeah.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: All right. You had a good turnout here, at the meetup, right?
Hongfei: Yes, yes. It was pretty packed, and Singapore…everything is quite intensive. Yesterday we had NGC [NEO Global Capital] co-hosted an afterparty, and there were about 600-700 attendees.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: You still go to all these afterparties?
Hongfei: I was briefly there, yeah. It’s organized by NGC, so I have the obligation to be there, yes.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: What are the next developments for NEO, if you look at the roadmap?
Hongfei: We are focusing on two things.
The first thing is, we are drafting out a yellow paper, so we will have a specification to follow as a protocol. So that’s the first thing, I think there are a few, only a handful of projects that are doing that. Most projects are following the practice of Bitcoin, that code is a specification, or a protocol, but we are doing a different way, a more programmatic way, to have the specification first.
And the second thing we are focusing on is NEO 3.0, we are actively discussing other features that will or will not be implemented into NEO 3.0. Yeah.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: Because, if you look at protocols, what do you see as the challenges? Of course we have scalability as the main challenge, that we see with Ethereum, how do you look on that?
Hongfei: There are many challenges. So far, one of the challenges, is if we make everything in the perfect way, it means we will probably break compatibility with current NEO network. So probably we need a hard fork, or even a new genesis block, so that’s possible, but it’s still under discussion, so we will listen to the voice of the community to see what’s the best practice to do that. So until we have a perfect migration plan, we won’t do anything yet.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: So, about the hard fork, can you talk anything about the idea about it? And when will it be planned, if it’s going to take place?
Hongfei: I think at least a year away. It won’t affect current NEO development, so if you are a smart contract developer, you can still deploy your smart contract on the current NEO network, and we will help you to seamlessly migrate to the new network, if there is a new one.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: And why is it necessary, the hard fork? Is it to make it just a better more scalable system, a faster system?
Hongfei: We want to refactor all the code base, and we need to change some of the instructions in the virtual machine to make it more efficient. But that’s only one of the options to change it, so it’s still under discussion.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: It’s quite a hard reset. That option is quite a hard reset, or is it?
Hongfei: Well, actually it’s not. So if you’re a developer, it won’t affect you. It affects those core developers. So if you are just doing smart contracts dApps with NEO, it won’t affect you. Yeah.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: Just a few more questions. Some people say, it’s just what people say, that NEO is like, too much centralized at this moment? Are you thinking of more decentralization?
Hongfei: Ahh, yes. I think it depends how you look at it. If you’re comparing NEO with existing centralized services networks, definitely NEO is more decentralized. But if you are comparing NEO to Bitcoin, or maybe Ethereum, then yes, it’s more centralized than both of them. But there are pros and cons.
So, we can move faster than both of those, they’re really quite fully decentralized projects. You will see that Ethereum and Bitcoin are struggling with fundamental technology advances, so, yeah, the block size of Bitcoin, the proof of stake, Casper, of Ethereum, took a long, long, time to implement, yeah.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: And it’s still kind of delayed. So you, actually, think you’re gonna act faster, than, yeah [Bitcoin and Ethereum]?
Hongfei: I believe so. I think it depends on what stage are you in. If the project is still immature, there will be a lot of change, you need to have efficiency first. And after the network is really matured, you can decentralize everything.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: All right. What’s your personal motivation to be in this space? I mean, you’re a hard worker.
Hongfei: Ahh…I think it’s a very interesting industry, where you can really, really change the world. From the very fundamental part, yeah. It’s not like you are inventing a product, or launching a new service, you are building the infrastructure for the future economy, the smart economy.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: We’re still in a very early age?
Bitcoin Magazine NL: The stage of this?
Hongfei: Definitely, definitely, yeah. The industry is so, so new.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: Do you still have to explain to your family what you do? Are your parents proud of you, what you do with NEO? Do they understand what you do?
Hongfei: They understand what we are doing, what the NEO team are doing. And my nine year old daughter, she understands what we’re doing.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: She can use the technology you’re building.
Hongfei: Not yet, maybe in a few years.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: Do you do some trading yourself?
Hongfei: I think I need to correct the previous question, my daughter probably can use the technology in a few months. Because NEO are focusing on helping games to move on blockchain. So yeah….I think in six months’ time, we will see a lot of games that are based on the NEO blockchain, or connected to the NEO blockchain, so kids will be able to use NEO.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: All right. And how old is she?
Hongfei: My daughter’s nine.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: So she’s a gamer.
Hongfei: Yeah. [Laughs]
Bitcoin Magazine NL: All right. Thank you very much, how do you see the longer development of this industry, also, maybe in your homeland China? I mean, we still have some struggling with regulations?
Hongfei: The Chinese government or the regulators are really pro-technology, or blockchain itself. But they are kind of against speculation, and raising funds, targeting the general public.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: Last question, what is your favorite coin, after NEO?
Hongfei: I think my favorite coin, my favorite two is Bitcoin and Ethereum. Although they are from some aspects, moving slowly, but I do think that both the inventor of Bitcoin, and the inventor of Ethereum, is really honorable, and is a person that I respect.
Bitcoin Magazine NL: Thank you very much Da for all your time, and all the best with all the development.
Hongfei: Thank you very much. You too, thank you.
Video of the interview can be viewed at the following link: https://youtu.be/Wn8QVpq-nuQ
Bitcoin Magazine NL is located here: https://bitcoinmagazine.nl/?lang=en
About The Author: Colin Closser
Colin Closser, M.D., was a speaker at the first NEO DevCon in San Francisco. A devoted contrarian, he has managed the improbable: a peaceful and healthy life, despite holding a medical degree. He aspires towards the wisdom of Michael Lewis and Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
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