Sunny King delivers innovation.
Sunny King, a pseudonym, is the creator of the two cryptocurrencies Peercoin and Primecoin. Each provides important advancements to the technology that powers cryptocurrencies. Peercoin was the first to use proof-of-stake instead of proof-of-work to secure the blockchain. Proof-of-stake is a method that requires very little energy for mining.
Primecoin on the other hand, was the first to show that a proof-of-work algorithm could exist to compute things other than cryptographic hash functions. Primecoin's proof-of-work uses mathematical algorithms to find chains of prime numbers.
For these reasons Sunny is a heavyweight in this space, and ends up doing many interviews. The problem is that most of his interviews are very technical in nature.
Therefore, the intent of this interview was to portray the personal side of Sunny. You will find that at times he remains vague. In some cases, he even declines to answer the question. He does however express personal views that I have not seen before. Hopefully that makes for an interesting read and you enjoy getting a glimpse of the person behind the mask.
Whether we like it or not, Sunny King remains like Satoshi. He is an intelligent and mysterious figure who shares free market principles and hopes for a better future through software innovations.
[Editor's note: The following interview has been reproduced verbatim except where indicated with brackets]
Interview on July 10th, 2014 via Google Chat – SunnyKing9999@gmail.com
Sean Mikha: Hi Sunny! Thanks for joining us today for the featured interview article in www.LetsTalkBitcoin.com. The purpose of this interview is to get a real understanding of the day-to-day life, experiences, and thoughts of one of the great cryptocurrency inventors. The person 'behind the mask', so to speak.
I completely understand your discretion and needs for privacy. However, my plan is to be forward. I will ask questions that you may not want to answer, so let me know and be candid. It is totally fine, and I will not ask the same question again. I will also plan to send you a transcript of the final article before publishing so you [can] verify content.
Sunny King: Oh thanks :)
SM: Previously in your interview for Bitcoin Magazine with Vitalik Buterin (Aug 2013), you answered that you have not revealed your identity because of the political situation. Looking back over the year with the political situation now changing (federal government auctioning off Bitcoins, name-brand companies like Overstock.com, Expedia, and DISH Network accepting Bitcoin). Along with the fact that other crypto-currency inventors such as Dan Larimer of BitShares and Charlie Lee of Litecoin have exposed their real identity for over a year now. Do you feel your secrecy concerns are still valid?
SK: People are easily getting complacent of the situation. Meanwhile during the year we have seen Russian and Chinese central banks showing concerns and restrict[ing] cryptocurrency, and some central banks of small countries even outright banning cryptocurrency. So it's certainly not all rosy. The political concerns have always been there. We know that the world is losing freedoms at a rapid rate. So I think sooner or later we have to deal with the conflicts between freedom in [the] cryptocurrency world and the reality in the political world.
SM: Ok so it sounds like you believe that there are still some events unforeseen that need to come to pass before you consider it secure for you to reveal your identity. You somewhat alluded in the same interview with Vitalik that you currently live in the US. Or at least I assumed you do. Do you live in the US today?
SK: I have never alluded to that, no I don't think. Maybe in the future. I don't know yet. Everyone has [a] different situation. So other developers might be more optimistic regarding the political situation in the world today, many of the peercoin/primecoin community also open to their identities.
SM: Ok that was my assumption on the US thing. Sorry. Can you tell me about some of the fear and concerns you have (wherever you live) if you were to reveal your identity? Government raids, prosecution? Hackers messing with your identity? Others?
SK: Sure all of these are quite possible. You never know what the governments are capable of these days. Even many years ago cryptographers had to live in fear of persecution. So in my opinion it certainly could be a lot worse today when not only cryptography is involved, but money is involved as well.
SM: What are your major philosophies on freedom? Who do you look up to? Who have you read?
SK: Generally I am in favor of free market principles. You can say I am a libertarian, but I don't outright reject the existence of government. I think it's better to give people more free choice, not always forcing people do this or do that. In terms of economics I am more subscribed to classical and austrian theories, not very much in favor of the central planning 'modern' theories.
SM: Any particular people you want to mention [that] you look up to or have read? It can also be current people [like] other crypto developers.
SK: Can't say I read very deep in theories, but let's say Bastiat and Rothbard are among my favorites. Of course I respect Satoshi's work very much
SM: Do you think Satoshi was one person or a group of people?
SK: Probably one person. He is brilliant.
SM: Yes it is pretty amazing what he/she has created. Not sure if anyone has asked you: are you one person or a group of people?
SK: I am just one person
SM: Where did you get the name Sunny King?
SK: Well it's just a pseudo name, no need to read too much into it
SM: Do you invest your own money in any crypto-currency? If so, which ones?
SK: For myself, not very much. I wish I could have invested in bitcoin two years ago, probably like many of you I wasn't able to do [so] for various reasons. It's tough. So no, I am not fit to provide any advice :P
SM: How much money would you say you've earned from crypto-currency? If you have not converted to fiat, how much would you say your stake in Peercoin is worth? In Primecoin? If you can't give us exact [numbers], maybe a range if you can share?
SK: Sorry, I don't wish to disclose such information. Both Peercoin and Primecoin were released with open mining, so I don't have any advantages over other miners. Meanwhile many developers are releasing coins with [an] IPO format so they can hold large sum of stakes without much investment whatsoever. Let's just say I have earned my living, so I don't have to earn huge sums from cryptocurrency to sustain my work. That's also the reason that I don't ask for any donations for my work. Also I don't aspire [to] an extravagant lifestyle so I think I am doing quite okay.
SM: Do you do development full time?
SK: Yeah pretty much
SM: Do you regularly read, visit sites, or visit chat forums (besides Peercoin/Primecoin) in the crypto-currency space?
SK: I do visit our forums regularly.
SM: Any others? Blogs or Reddit?
SK: Sure, occasionally, and some media sites as well.
SM: Do you listen to Let's Talk Bitcoin?
SK: I probably should. :p In the past I read bitcoin magazines more often.
SM: What is your favorite food?
SK: Haha I don't know ... how about Chinese dim sums?
SM: Do you have a formal education in computer science?
SK: Let's just say I do have some experience in computer programming. Also designing algorithms and a cryptocurrency system requires a lot more than a degree in computer science.
SM: Ok but you can't tell us if you went to a college for any of those subjects or not?
SK: Sure, [but] does it matter that much? I did. To be fair I think especially in this Internet age, one can indeed self-educate in these subjects, so I would generally not judge people with their degrees but instead of their actual communications and work produced.
SM: Ok so you went to college for computer science?
SK: Let's keep that private matter still.
SM: What is your favorite hobby? Besides crypto-currency?
SK: I do some meditation, tennis, etc.
(Start of technical focused questions)
SM: What led to the creation of the proof-of-stake algorithm? What inspired you? Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you came up with it?
SK: That was in 2011, we had a small study group on bitcoin
Back then there were already a few 'altcoins' floating around, and more being created, but of course not as much as nowadays. We were thinking about something different, not a clone of bitcoin, but different algorithms, for example, addressing the energy problem of bitcoin.
That's how we started looking into alternative consensus mechanism, that using coins itself to secure cryptocurrency. We came up with the ideas ourselves, but later we learned that some people were discussing related ideas on bitcointalk forums in 2011 as well. Overall I think proof-of-stake is a good term describing the general ideas. The difference is, in 2011 we were pretty much the only people committed to use pure proof-of-stake as consensus mechanism. Everyone else were just trying to see if proof-of-stake can provide some patchwork to bitcoin's proof-of-work.
SM: Would you say you were the first 'altcoin' to implement proof-of-stake?
SK: Yes we are the first to have implemented proof-of-stake, any kind. Most other proof-of-stake coins are still a clone/fork from our system.
SM: Can you tell us who the "we" is? Are they still involved in the crypto space? Did they go on to make other altcoins?
SK: Mainly my co-author of the Peercoin paper, Scott. He hasn't been very active in the past year. No I don't think he made any other coin, at least not that I am aware of.
SM: Anyone else?
SK: There was another guy making minor contributions and studying with us. But mainly just me and Scott.
SM: Ok, same question for Primecoin. What led to the creation? What was the inspiration, etc.
SK: Primecoin was conceived in March 2013. I came to the idea that prime number search can indeed serve as proof-of-work consensus, which most people believed only hashcash could work as such mechanism.
That was back then.
Of course, after Primecoin people would know better. So far Primecoin's proof-of-work is still pretty much the only alternative proof-of-work in production other than hashcash. Oh by alternative proof-of-work I mean alternative proof-of-work consensus.
Interestingly, Primecoin also tries to address bitcoin's energy problem, from a different angle. In a free market, there is bound to be [the] coexistence of energy intensive currencies and energy efficient currencies, meaning, people have free will to consume energy to produce currency for example, mining gold. So Primecoin would demonstrate, such energy consumption can be made energy-multiuse, while preserving the critical decentralization property.
SM: When you say energy multi-use you are referring to the fact that bitcoin hashing or mining provides no meaningful by-product whereas Primecoin delivers the chains of prime numbers?
SK: Yes, Primecoin is the first cryptocurrency with such property.
SM: Now with Primecoin running for over a year, has anything meaningful come out of the mining effort against the coin? Do you have plans to make any tweaks to it or have faith it will deliver value in the future if it has not already?
SK: If you are fascinated with prime numbers, sure enough Primecoin has already delivered. It now holds 5 out of 21 world records in simultaneous prime numbers. For immediate practical benefit, there are firms attempting FPGA/ASIC development at Primecoin mining, which is a lot more challenging than hash based ASIC, thus providing immediate value to [the] cryptography and computing industries.
SM: So you do believe that the algorithm used in Primecoin has the potential to affect scientific knowledge still? Some have argued that since Primecoin is not finding a single large prime number, and instead just the chains, it doesn't hold scientific value.
SK: That's certainly debatable. For example, the 'Twin Prime Conjecture' is considered by many mathematicians as one of the top problem in number theory, versus, finding the largest Mersenne prime (currently the record for largest known single prime number). So it's not obvious that infinite existence of Mersenne primes are more valuable than infinite existence of twin primes. In my opinion, Cunningham chains and bi-twin chains are among the most beautiful prime number structures, but that could just be my taste.
SM: Does Primecoin provide value towards solving the 'twin prime conjecture'?
SK: It provides financial incentive to these math research, if your theory advancement can provide [a] better mining algorithm for Primecoin mining. Twin prime is a special case of bi-twin chain. A bi-twin chain of length two, that is.
SM: I see. So what you’re saying is [that] you have opened the door with PrimeCoin. You proved [that] it's possible to do a proof-of-work consensus other than hashcash and have potential math research along with the fact that FPGA / ASIC development incentive may lead to problems being solved that have never happened before.
SK: It's possible, when you have ASIC primality testing chips, the computation capability in these fields would make a giant leap. That could also indirectly help theoretical research.
SM: I understand there are developments in Peercoin such as innovations with the 'cold minting'. I haven't checked Primecoin recently is there any other developments coming with it?Any areas you want to touch up on? How it might change or where Primecoin will be in two years?
SK: We were planning a minor protocol update with Primecoin. I am also investigating the possibility of sidechain technology, so when it's ready, we plan to support both peercoin and primecoin sidechains.
SM: Oh that’s awesome. I have heard you refer to it as the back-bone so I assume [that] this will allow the ability to now scale out new types of applications and properties.
SK: Yeah I have been contemplating data applications for quite a while since 2012. For scalability reasons, data for specific use is better [to] stay out of the currency block chain. That's why side chain is a significant advancement.
SM: When you say data applications since 2012, are u talking about something like Storj? But on a side chain?
SK: Right. Namecoin and Ripple have been the pioneers in data applications. The problem is the impact on base currency scalability. It would be a lot better with sidechains, each application can use a different sidechain, say if you use email you deal with an email sidechain, so the scalability of email sidechain does not impact the scalability of another sidechain and the base currency blockchain.
SM: In your research of side chains have you looked at tree chains by Peter Todd? https://github.com/petertodd/tree-chains-paper
In an interview with Let's Talk Bitcoin, he has some big concerns about side chains and why they won't work. I won't elaborate here as we are running out of time. But have you had a chance to look?
SK: Not yet. I would love to look into it soon. Thanks for the pointer.
SM: In your interview with the Peercoin community on Saturday May 24th, you said*: "The BitShares team is working on another one, but I also have doubts there." In reference to proof-of-stake and their implementation of delegated proof-of-stake or (DPOS). What doubts do you have about BitShares implementation? Can you elaborate?
SK: I don't know enough details of BitShare's DPOS proposal, the main issue I am concerned [with] is related to the cost of 51% attack on the delegates. But I think [that] they are doing good work researching proof-of-stake in general. So I think it's a lot more meaningful than just clon[ing] Peercoin's design.
SM: Any thoughts or concerns on NXT?
SK: NXT bears some similarity to Ripple. Although it uses Peercoin's consensus algorithm (or a close variation of it) rather than Ripple's mechanism. I think it also aims to provide data applications inside [the] blockchain, like Namecoin and Ripple.
SM: What best practices would you recommend for people starting either new coins or communities? Many people start new coins or communities because others fail. With your past experience and success with Primecoin and Peercoin. What advice would you give others?
SK: I would say be ethical. Everyone has different opinion[s]. This we all understand, it's a free market. But I think [that] in order to win the battle of freedom, we would also need to look in the mirror. Does free market equate to no ethics and endless fraud? Maybe the loss of freedom in society is also related to our own corruption. So I think it's always important to look at ourselves for higher ethical standards.
SM: Well Sunny, what a great answer, and a perfect way to end our interview! I want to thank you so much for taking the time with us today and going over all these tough questions! I hope we can chat again sometime in the future, AND, if you ever decide to reveal your identity will you do an article with us first please?
SK: Sure you have it :)