Bitcoin Spring in Dubai

In February 2024, I was given the opportunity to take part in two Bitcoin events, one where I was a panel speaker and the other event was structured very differently. I wanted to log my experiences, both for those who were unable to attend, so the benefit could be shared with the world, and also to share the crazy amount of work that is happening in this space. I tried my best to capture all that I experienced but please forgive me for any shortcomings in my review. The two events were “Satoshi’s Round Table”, and the second was “Bitcoin Oasis”. Here is a brief ‘Table of Content’ you can use to jump to the particular relevant parts, but its highly recommended to read it in order. Hope you enjoy.

Satoshi’s Round Table

Winter 2024 in Dubai kicked off with the event known as “Satoshi’s Round Table”. Modelled after the “Knights of the Round Table,” who were the finest knights of the mythical kingdom of Arthur of Britain, chosen for their bravery, hour and chivalry, a description fitting for the aimed setting of this event. Continuing the theme of the round table, this conference is an ‘unconferenced’ conference. Meaning there are no lectures, workshops or presentations. We are all Satoshi’s knights, we form round tables, and we discuss affairs we feel are important in this space.

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The event began in a huge presentation hall in the hotel, given that we had the entire hotel to ourselves, with a general announcement by the organisers, Bruce Fenton and his team. Inspirational words to kick off the weekend, to motivate and fire up the imagination. Last year’s opening presentation was absolute fire, where Bruce pointed out the evils of interest and the need for a fair financial system, and this years presentation was equally inspiring, highlighting the huge responsibilities we have to build for our futures and to create wonderful things. Much like how IBM changed the future with he invention of the GUI in a meeting just like ours, we too can shape the next 20-30 years. This is what I love about the Bitcoin community as a whole. The desire to develop tools for mankind, working for everyone’s financial freedom, the goals of the libertarian cypherpunks.

Then the rules of the evening were laid out.

  1. No doxing people’s presence or their opinions without their consent
  2. Place your topics you wish to discuss on the board and look if your ideas are the same as anyone else’s. If they are, put them together.
  3. If you suggest a topic and session, you must lead that session.
  4. You’re here to discuss, benefit and be benefited, so treat everyone with respect and fairness.
  5. Have a position, but listen as much as you speak.
  6. Never assume someone has more or less knowledge than you in the topic.

Simple ingredients for a simple yet powerful dish. Then the next day we discuss.

There were many amazing topics; I wish I could of attended them all, but I was unable due to the hour slots given. So here is a brief summary and small glimpse of what occurred. In previous round table sessions, summaries where recorded by Jameson Lopp, but this year, I decided to take up the mantle, continue is legacy and pick up as many gems I was able to capture.

Jump to Bitcoin Oasis

Day 1

9:30 - ZK / Hardware / NM Chip

This round table discussion revolved around the use of specialist Hardware for the generation of ‘Zero Knowledge’ proofs. A collection of around 15 specialist seated the hotel sofas, crowded round a pop up whiteboard hashing out this problem was the scene. The conversation was intense with one candidate putting forward the case for the positive use for the hardware while others raising their objections of its practical use. But what is a ‘Zero Knowledge proof?”. A Zero knowledge proof, as the name suggests, is a method that allows one party (the prover) to prove to another party (the verifier) that given statement is true, without revealing any of the information beyond the validity of the statement itself. Similar in effort to how a Bitcoin miner finds the right NONCE to make the next block valid, which requires a lot of energy and time, but then a node can easily verify, with that NONCE, the block is valid. 

This means a prover can convince the verifier that they know a secret or a certain condition holds, without actually disclosing what that secret is or the details of the condition. A simple crude example is if you wanted to prove you knew the password to your electronic safe without telling them what the password is. So you take their wallet, put it in the safe, lock it, tell them to turn around while you unlock it and take out their wallet. So they know you can open it because you know the password but without them knowing what the password is. This example, although gives a basic idea of ‘proving you know the secret without revealing the secret’, the analogy falls apart in the real world, as even actions can ‘leak’ information about the secret indirectly. A true Zero Knowledge proof is a mathematical construct that achieves this goal without any physical actions that could leak information. It simply proves the statement ‘I know the password’ and thats it.

This technology is generally used for privacy applications, but it can also be used to drastically reduce the amount of information needed to be stored on the blockchain, although that wasn’t the focus of this discussion. The point of this discussion, was that generating these proofs is very computationally intensive, just like mining is, and one participant was suggesting that with this new kind of  nanometer chip, it could be more viable and useful.

Zero Knowledge Proofs have historically been something developed and used on the Ethereum network, but it has become one of the few technologies from an alt coin that has caught the attention of Bitcoin developers, especially as it relates to ‘Validity Rollups’. For further details about that and how it can be used to drastically reduce the footprint of Bitcoin transactions check out this video here: https://youtu.be/feODuDF2xv0

9:30 - Gold / Bitcoin.

Are Gold Stocks more asymmetric than Bitcoin?

This round table session, which took place on the hotel patio overlooking the sea looking on to the Burj al Arab hotel, was a discussion of the Gold market and its supply cycles, along with other raw elements such as silver. It was discussed that prospect of where gold will be in the next 10-20 years, looking at historic data related to Gold and other commodities. It was suggested that there is a supply cycle where the realities for the market always catches up with the price. Gold is in this stage of building up pressure before making its inevitable explosive move, and at that point some suggested that they will then put their profits into Bitcoin. It was explained that Gold, unlike the tech sector or other investment vehicles have natural constraints that makes it behave in these cycles, and they can only suppress the price of gold for so long. Others suggested that they were more bullish around Bitcoin now and didn’t see a need to wait for that Gold move, given Bitcoins increased volatility. They suggested that they would wait for Bitcoin to make its move and then put their ‘USD profits’ into gold, a reverse ‘trade’ of what was suggested by the lead of this discussion. I felt that the age played a significant role in the different approaches to this trading decision. Those who were actively trading the gold market for up to 20+ years were clearly more comfortable with the gold biased trade than the younger participants of the discussion. Tradition plays a significant role in in people’s decision making.

This session was actually more investment oriented than philosophical, which was what I was expecting. Gold will go up, its a good investment to allocate some of your portfolio to, that was it for me. My interests were more philosophical and technical, not investment oriented.

10:30 - Bitcoin Adoptions in the Global Majority

This round table session, held in one of the hotels breakfast bars, overlooking the beach, was chosen and led by myself. The aim was to discuss strategies on how to get Bitcoin adoption in whats called ‘the Global south,’ but I prefer to use the term ‘the Global majority’, as Africa, Asia and South America is the  majority of mankind. The idea was that Bitcoin is a tool that  has the capacity to level the playing field between individuals and nations, so what can we do to get this tool into their hands?

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The conversation took place, addressing the questions of ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what are the challenges’. I made the case for the ‘why’, based on the desire for hyperbitcoinisation, and the desire to get Bitcoin in as many hands as possible before Wall Street hoover up all the remaining Bitcoin. We already see the ETF purchases increasing, locking BTC up for those who already have ‘financial freedom’. It was suggested that Wall Street acquiring a large amount of BTC doesn’t restrict it from anyone else, and the amount of Bitcoin one has doesn’t give them more or less control over the network. But the imbalance in purchasing capacity and therefore influence is still significant. I also highlighted the element of allowing the global majority to exit the current banking systems and having the ability to conduct interest free trade, freeing them from IMF influence and manipulation, however that didn’t consume a large part of the conversation.

Some raised the point that everyone can’t have their own UTXO using our current transaction sizes as the UTXO set has an upper limit. The Bitcoin blockchain on its own simply doesn't scale to 8+ billion individuals, which is why Layer 2 solutions will play an important role in this goal of getting Bitcoin into the hands of the global majority. Layer 2’s such as Chaumian Ecash in implementations such as Cashew, Liquid Bitcoin, Fedimint  and/or simply Lightning with LSP’s.

We also explored, as avenues of adoption, how nation states may use Bitcoin in their own economic infrastructure, such as mining Bitcoin using stranded energy, and how Bitcoin mining is already changing some parts of Africa, allowing small towns to generate electricity in a more economically viable manner. Stranded energy mining is going to be a big thing, and miners I met so far have their eyes laser focused on Africa and Asia, especially if USA increases it’s hostility towards Bitcoin mining.

One of the most significant hurdles and issues was the user experience. We need to, as an industry, perfect the user experience if we are to onboard people at scale. We have both a technical scaling issue and an user experience issue. If we cannot provide a system to prevent the loss of keys, the ease by which to send and receive Bitcoin, then this will always be a hinderance to adoption.

2:30 - Bitcoin L2’s

This open presentation was conveying that there are plenty of Layer 2 options out there that are ready for an explosion this cycle. Lightning, Liquid, stacks, counterparty, RGB, drive chains (if they ever get their upgrade) and list goes on. The idea being that on Bitcoin’s layer 1, it was thought that it was not possible to have full Turing complete code, but this was now possible on Layer 2 solutions. The many different Layer 2 solutions out there are all competing in this competitive development space pushing each project forward. What was key about this discussion was how these L2’s were becoming interoperable, making it easy to jump from one L2 to another.

A counter argument was raised that Liquid network, or Lightning were sufficient. There is no need for these other side chains with their tokens etc, but that was countered in that same competitive attitude by simply “let the markets decide”. The main concern being that all the suggested ‘innovations’ were mainly just scams trying to find its way onto Bitcoin. Just prior to this session was a discussion about ‘staking’ and ‘generating yield’ on ones Bitcoin as an example of whats coming. At one point the discussion got ‘slightly’ heated, but still remained mostly respectful.

The main takeaway from this was that people from different ecosystems external to BTC were now more interested in developing on Bitcoin due to the added abilities found on these layer 2’s, and the projected interoperability between them. The ability to atomically swap tokens between L2’s was going to be a game changer, or at least that was the suggestion.

3:30 - Mining Q&A

This session, set by the hotel pool, was between a few mining pools and a few plebs like myself, generally discussing miner related things. The topic of decentralising transaction selection for miners was a major part of the conversation, especially as it related to Ocean mining pool. So lets briefly set  the scene. Right now, there are a few mining pools that dominate the blocks produced. There are only, on average 144 blocks produced every day, 1008 per week or 4464 per month. That means that the lower threshold to get a monthly payment through mining is a 1 in 4464 chance, or 0.02%. So as the current hash rate is 600EH/s, if your pool has less than 0.134 EH/s, then you’re unlikely to get even a single block in the entire month. This puts a lower threshold for mining pools before mining farms join any given pool. Miners don’t want to mine the entire month and receive zero pay. On the other hand, the top two mining pools mine on average more than half of all the blocks produced that month. But does this matter? Well, yes it does.

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It turns out that the way many (or all, except Ocean) big mining pools work is that the pool operator will make the block templates and transactions, and give it to all the miners. Everyone will attempt to find the block and none of the miners are actually involved in block construction. So if the top 4 mining pools decide to censor transactions, its very possible that most miners wouldn’t even know, as they don’t even run their own node. Running a Bitcoin node is important for the decentralisation of the network as everyone would have their own copies of the transactions in the mempool and they would take part in the consensus of the network. So Ocean has attempted to address this by making the miners be miners again and not just computers who do ‘compute’ for a private company. The idea is to make miners run full nodes, and to select the transactions themselves, therefore making the network more censorship resistant.

So a good part of the discussion revolved around how economically feasible it would be to mine with a smaller poo,  that may be below the above threshold, even though it would involve a more censorship resistant model.

Some of the discussion touched around the topic of mining filters and how that would impact the profitability of the pool. It was explained that on Ocean (for example) there are multiple templates that a miner can choose to use. A template that filters out network spam, i.e. the ordinals inscription transactions, a more aggressive approach, and less strict templates. The argument given against being so strict in filtering is that with filtration, blocks found would be less profitable. However, that argument was countered saying that in practice that wasn’t the case. It was suggested that prioritising actual Bitcoin financial transactions over ordinals, inscriptions etc actually brought in higher revenue through fees.

The general takeaway from this was that decentralised mining is something we need to work towards if we are going to make this network prepared and resistant to government and/or private attacks. The future is looking bright regardless, especially given the Substratum V2 upgrade which is coming soon, but is currently still being tested, requiring miner manufacturers to update their hardware.

4:30 - The Orb!!!

The next round table session, set in the pool clubhouse, in between the hotel and the beach, was an unexpected one for me. I was only interested in these round table session in Bitcoin related discussions, and I was definitely not interested in OpenAI’s ORB for biometric scanning in exchange for their Altcoin…BUT, the tech, at least on the surface, impressive.

Here I would like to point out the irony of this device. We all grew up with sci-fi TV shows and films, such as Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, where people use their eye, face or person to open doors and all forms of security verification, yet here it is and we’re suspicious to even go near it!! At least I was.

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I think that says more about the global situation, where governments and large corporations have behaved in suspicious ways, than us having issue with the tech itself.

So what is this ‘tech’ and why does it exist? With the explosion of AI, and the increased abilities of AI, it will become increasingly more difficult to prove the ‘human-ness’ of online users. The idea behind the orb is that it would scan your eye, and give you a unique ‘number’ or ID that you can use to identify yourself, and prove your human-ness. The orb isn’t your regular camera. The level of detail achieved with their scan gives a high amount of  entropy (randomness) that would be necessary for 8+ billion people on planet earth. The eye was chosen as there is enough data in that to achieve that level of entropy and uniqueness to your ID. If one were to do that with something like ones finger print, one would have to scan the entire hand 🖐️, all 5 fingers, palm and include with that scan subsurface details which would include where ones veins are, both front and back. So the level of detail of these scans are quite intense.

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The orb also scans the face using multiple wavelengths of light, capturing depth and texture, and can even determine if someone is alive or dead. The software behind this is open source and they have welcomed everyone to try to hack, manipulate and/or attack their product. The technology is apparently free for everyone to use and they feel this will become the norm everywhere at some point.

I did ask about how the human body changes and this has the capability to deal with some sort of natural drift over a 5 year period, so it seems that as long as you are scanned, and updated once every 5 years, it should remain valid.

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My personal concern (which doesn’t mean its objectively bad) is just the idea of issuing a coin for this, and the idea of a company scanning and potentially storing ones biometric data. The ‘Orb Operator’ assured me that when one gets a scan, they can choose whether their scan is recorded or not. It’s a bit like how you are asked for anonymised data from your ‘app’ or ‘device’ to help with troubleshooting, you can opt in or out of it, and he recommended opting out, for peace of mind. He also explained that the coin is just a ‘carrot’ to get people onboard, as they feel this needs to be onboarded asap before the AI apocalypse and skynet takes over.

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I think, if I had an Orb for myself, scanned myself, got my special number (ID) and was 100% sure I could use it without any privacy being leaked to big corps or gov, then I would be interested in playing around with it, but I don’t have such confidence. We’ll see what the future holds. Most governments already have our facial scans and fingerprints anyway, so I’m not sure how long we have left before we’re forced to do this anyway. Dubai is implementing a system whereby you just walk into the country and cameras will simply scan you in as immigration, so it starts there and soon it’s everywhere. There are also concerns with biometrics controlling important things like one’s wealth, as it puts your body as risk from violent coercion. But it could be argued that this already is an issue with Face ID.

But a silver spherical orb…its just creepy.

Bonus discussions after sessions

One interesting discussion that opened up after the sessions before the food was served was regarding ordinals and inscriptions. It was at this stage I got to witness a civil discussion about this topic and the arguments for and against. But what are these ‘inscriptions’? Without going into details about the technology behind it, the Bitcoin blockchain was designed to hold information about transactions. But as this is ‘data’, from very early on, people found ways to inject inside the blockchain, data that was unrelated to the sending and receiving of Bitcoin. So for a long time, miners and nodes have ran filters to reduce what was considered ‘spam’, ie ‘unwanted non-transactional information’. But Bitcoin is an open ‘public good’ now. It’s like a wall or a shade. Free for everyone to use, and some have chosen to use it for non-Bitcoin transactions. This would include what Satoshi himself put in the first block where he said “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”. However there were normal limits to what one could put into a transaction which made the ‘spam’ or ‘non-transactional data’ manageable. I remember saying to a friend of mine that we should put the Qur’aan in the blockchain, lock it in there forever, and he said to me years ago “But some will consider it spamming the network” (which is why I didn't do it). However, recently, a workaround was found to exceed this limit somewhat, inflating blocks to go as large as 4+mb large after they used to be only 1mb. So when you make these transactions, ‘inscribing’ extra data into a block, like code, pics, whatever, yours and my transaction are pushed out of the next block because of it. This is the essence of the discussion, including the fact that these other pieces of data are not ‘real’. Bitcoin is ‘real’ within the scope of the blockchain and within that system, but these pieces of information are not, according to those on that opinion. If they aren’t what they say they are, then they are scams, and anyone who buys these ‘cat jpegs’ on the blockchain are being scammed.

Another twist to the conversation occurred when it was suggested that with the re-addition of some Bitcoin script codes, especially considering it used to be in Bitcoin script, one would be able to consolidate and compress all that ‘spam’ into a smaller footprint, making it great for all. However the counter argument was that they shouldn’t be on the blockchain in the first place. I’ll expand further on this later, but the individual who was advocating for this was an extremely impressive person. He was someone who left developing on Ethereum after the POS migration, wanting the more robust system of Bitcoin, but still had ambitions of what could be done on Bitcoin with additional op_codes. He was impressive because he had only been in the Bitcoin space for 4 months, yet he demonstrated some real depth in understanding Bitcoin, down to the Bitcoin script level, leading even others there to praise him.

To understand the context here, we have to understand basic info about ‘Bitcoin Script’. In Bitcoin, you can run ‘mini-scripts’ that perform certain functions. So if I wanted to add two numbers together in a Bitcoin script I  could say:

2 2 OP_ADD

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Which basically takes the number 2, ‘push’ it to the ‘stack’ and then the second number 2, ‘push’ that to the ‘stack’ and then the ‘OP_CODE’ of ‘OP_ADD’  would add the previous two values in the stack together. If I wanted to multiply two numbers together it would be:

3 3 OP_MUL

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But the OP_MUL code was disabled, much like  OP_CAT (which puts two strings together). So if you wanted to do multiply 3 x 3 you have to do it this way:

3 3 OP_ADD 3 OP_ADD - basically ((3 + 3)+3)

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So as you can see from the script instruction stack, multiplication can be done, but its just an inefficient way of doing that and more heavier in terms of code. Imagine 9 x 9! But this code, and other scripts codes were disabled due to concerns about how they could be used maliciously. Bitcoin script was deliberately made simple to preserve the primary goal of keeping the system robust and free from vulnerabilities. Some of the disabled OP_CODES are under discussion to come back, for example OP_CAT due to updates which came from Taproot, but this is a long and slow process to preserve this $1 tril network.

The general stance with Bitcoin is to not rush ahead with ‘new’ features, but to only add things if absolutely necessary and if absolutely all other avenues are exhausted. So considering you can still ‘multiply’ albeit a long route, then there’s no need to make irreversible changes to Bitcoin. Two conflicting approaches. But besides this, the conversation was very productive and I was happy I was a part of it.

Meat, Banking, Ribaa and Tether

After that mini-side discussion, we had food on the helipad, and had some interested discussions about banking in the US of A. There wasn’t anything juicy that I can say isn’t already in the public space, but it was interesting nonetheless to discuss the struggles one would have if they tried to run a bank, in line with Islamic values. So what exactly is wrong with banking from an Islamic viewpoint? Well we have two types of financial transactions.

  1. Qardh, a loan. You give over money to X, X now is the legal owner of that money, and X now has a legal liability to pay back that amount.
  2. Wadee’ah, a deposit. You give over money (or any form of possession) to Y, and Y now is NOT the owner of the item given to them. It is akin to handing over a car to the hotel valet. They drive it, park it and leave it there. When you return to take back the car, they go and get it for you and give it back. They can’t issue loans off of it, use it for trade or anything (not without permission obviously).

So banks operate on type number 1, hence why you receive interest payments on the loan. It allows them to use your capital while still saying that your capital is available to withdraw, the basic premise of fractional reserve banking. But to have a ‘full reserve’ banking is ironically, something the federal reserve bank has been trying to block for a while. They are currently in a legal battle now and if they lose, they will be forced to allow a full reserve bank to operate and to have an account at the Federal reserve, the bank of the banks.

So what are they afraid of? Well, if you have a full reserve bank, that allows people to put their money into a bank that is objectively more safe than all others. Other fractionally reserve banks can fall into bad credit, whereby account holders try to withdraw their money all at once, but the bank, being fractionally reserved, cannot give them back their money. This happened just last year to a number of banks, and was accelerated due to the speed of online banking and withdrawals. But a fully reserved bank wouldn’t have a problem doing this as the money is already sitting there, just waiting to be withdrawn.

One of the features I didn’t anticipate with this model is this amazing feature called ‘segregated accounts’. So when you deposit your Bitcoin into an account, it generally goes into a pot, and the amount of that pot that is yours is in a record. But with segregated accounts, every depositor will have their own actual account in their own account tree. This isn’t a problem with fungible Bitcoin…until you factor in ‘ordinals’ which removes Bitcoin’s Fungibility. Now having all Bitcoin in one wallet means one would have to track actual UTXO’s within that wallet. But with segregated accounts, it removes the possibility of that being an issue. Think of it like gold coins. They are all the same gold. But your gold coin that has a special marking from King so and so of X empire 100 years ago, if you deposit that into a bank, you would want to make sure you get back THAT exact coin, and no other coin will do.

Another interesting thing that was discussed-which is also already in the public sphere, was the legal case going on in the US, where they want all stable coin issuers to register with the federal reserve bank. If that passes, Tether has no intention of registering, which would mark the end of Tether. We’ll see the outcome of that, but there are increasing pressures along the horizon.

Day 2

10:30 - Verifying Zero-knowledge proofs on Bitcoin

This round table session set on the hotel patio, with a pop up whiteboard and 12 people sat in a circle, was almost a continuation of the discussion that occurred the night about zero knowledge proofs. It was a presentation and discussion of the various things Zero-Knowledge proofs can do for Bitcoin, primarily in a system that was developed that seems to function similar to drive chains. So one could, with ZK functions, peg out Bitcoin in an atomic manner to this side chain, transact on that chain, and when one wanted to peg back out to Bitcoin, the issued tokens will be burnt and the Bitcoin would be released. This functions pretty much like all peg-in/peg-out systems like liquid etc, but this would be done in a trust-less manner and atomically. So the Bitcoin will be sent to a ‘special address’ which locks the Bitcoin and cannot be spent unless proof is provided that the tokens issued have been burnt. This removes the risks associated with systems like liquid whereby a federation takes control of it.

There are however a few drawbacks:

  1. If you peg in 1BTC, then you have to peg out 1BTC. So it was suggested that if one wanted to do that then they should break it down into smaller parts, like 10 chunks of 0.1BTC for example. Alternatively, one could simply exchange that token for BTC with someone who wants that token.
  2. The transactions size to peg-out is quite large and meaty. This would be drastically reduced in size if only we had those ‘OP_MUL’ codes that allowed for multiplication that satoshi took away.

I feel these solutions have the potential to be pieced together with the many other solutions out there to form something really useful. This side-chain that was mentioned has total privacy, more so than liquid, but obviously not with the peg-in/peg-out part of the process. The side-chain doesn't operate like a typical blockchain, and it primarily uses Zero-Knowledge proofs to operate.

A discussion did erupt around whether we should get those OP_Codes back, like we had last night. Refer to that discussion above.

11:30 - BTC Core Dev Funding solutions - What to do with funding

Back in the pool house, this was an interesting discussion and initiative, in that Bitcoin, from the very beginning, has been a voluntary activity for developers. Bitcoin Developers don’t get paid as there isn’t anyone to pay them. There is no CEO and no fund. But this discussion was about whether miners should give back to the network. Miners make money from Bitcoin, so it only makes sense that they spend a little to pay for its upkeep and development.

So the discussion revolved around a few key points:

  1. How does this fund get distributed to developers?
  2. Who decides who gets what?
  3. Will miners be interested in this?
  4. How to retain developers longer?
  5. How many developers we need?

In the discussion of who gets what and how, different solutions and ideas were discussed, such as using a voting mechanism, or other systems.  However, what was agreed upon was that it should be kept simple and the need to tread carefully, so as to not cause a greater harm to the incentives and/or the work done. Bitcoin Developers need to pay their bills, and many of them can’t work for free forever, but we can’t allow ‘miner donors’ to exert influence with their money either. So miners should give the funds but play zero role in deciding where that money goes.

This is a governance issue. This idea is still in its infancy, but the need for development support was correctly identified. It was mentioned that we need at least 100-200 dedicated developers focusing on multiple areas, such as code maintenance, platform support, UX development and much more. There are many ideas floating around from the developers that simply don’t get attention because everyone is working only on areas they find interesting to do, which often leaves some areas neglected.  One interesting comment made was “Facebook has 1000’s of devs working 9-5, and we have less than 100 and we’re trying to build the financial layer of the world!”

I was able to make one small contribution to the discussion where I suggested that when, or if, this is launched, it would be a good idea to give a one off payment to those who have supported Bitcoin already in the past. This idea was inspired by the statement of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم

“Whoever is not grateful to the people, cannot be grateful to Allaah”

Acknowledging those who did work before is important, especially when they weren’t forced to, and without their sacrifice (sometimes even financial) much of Bitcoin wouldn’t exist. That idea was received well, and if this thing gets launched off the ground, it would be nice to have this implemented. We just need good transparency and accountability regarding the funds. We cannot have a system that favours some developers over others, or ‘cancels’ developers over their political, religious or any other personal view. As long as it doesn’t interfere with their work, it needs to serve Bitcoin, and not other external agendas.

1:30 - Stop investing in Bitcoin and Crypto Companies

This round table session, taking place in the hotel meeting room, was an interesting discussion, with a deliberate click bait title. The irony was that the first person who attended, besides myself and the session leader, was someone who invests in crypto companies. He said that he saw the title and thought he wanted to hear this perspective as it directly relates to what he does, and I find that really impressive. The willingness to attend and discuss ideas that are contrary to your own ideas and even practices.

The premise of the discussion was that people spend a lot of their capital and time investing in fringe VC ideas, and don’t spend enough time building things that people need and can actually use. We need adoption and we need people to put money behind that adoption.

This meeting extended to the obstacles related to adoption. It highlighted why we even have these custodial solutions and platforms in the first place. It was a semi-consensus that when we try to onboard people, the User Experience (UX) is just not what it needs to be for ones grandmother to use. Managing keys, dealing with unreadable addresses, opening lightning channels and the problems in managing those channels, choosing fee rates and so on. For this reason one participant said that he was happy for the ETF purely for that. It allows people to get access to Bitcoin without all of the above, but it shouldn’t be that way. One participant explained how they lived on Bitcoin, the hurdles they came across but that they were ultimately pushed through the obstacles due to being ideologically driven. This is not the case for most people.

The session was about not investing in crypto companies, but what it became was, Bitcoins UX needs work, and we need to put our money and effort to fixing that if we want mass adoption.

2:30 - BitVM. Bitcoin Peg Security

Since Bitcoin was born, it was designed not to be fully ‘Turin complete’. Bitcoin has its own scripting language, but it was deliberately ‘dumbed down’ to reduce both the attack surface and the possibilities of any vulnerabilities, so it can’t tap into the full scope of coding, such as loops etc. Well at least thats what we thought. It turns out…Bitcoin can, albeit in a different way. So essentially, with BitVM, you can essentially do, what Ethereum does. So how does it work?

All programs use ‘logic gates’ to achieve their computational goal. A logic gate  deal with a single ‘bit’ of information, either 1 or 0, and with these we have the software we use now. This is where the name comes from. ‘Bit’, i.e. 1 or 0, Virtual Machine. The most important gate is the NAND gate. It produces a 0 only when all the inputs are 1, and with this, it can be configured to create all other gates, such as AND, OR, NOT, NOR, XOR, etc. So what they were able to do was to emulate all program logic using this workaround. Whats unique about this is that no computation is done on the Bitcoin Blockchain. What occurs on the blockchain is only the structure that allows the enforcement of a penalty if the ‘program’ outcome is proven to be false. So all the possible outcomes of the program are ‘pre-programmed’, making the computation off chain, the results are placed on-chain and thereby only verified. This is in contrast to how it works on the ETH chain whereby all the computation occurs on-chain, and every node performs the calculations.

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This has great potential, but a lot of work still remains to make this viable. Part of the discussion was when this would be fully ready and available, as one of the drawbacks was that this worked between two people, and not an unlimited number of people. They suspect that by the end of this bull market we should have a fully functional version that works beyond the two person limit. For further details refer to the white paper: https://bitvm.org/bitvm.pdf

3:30 - Privacy

This round table session was an important one touching upon the various aspects of privacy, and why it’s important. One attendee mentioned that as part of his work, sometimes he has to travel the world being directly responsible for large amounts of other peoples money, so security is very important to them.

Everyone has different privacy levels, and reasons for that need for privacy. Some for security, while others it’s just the ability to choose what people know about them that’s important. Whatever the reason, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain ones own privacy. We have our phones which leak data about us, our whereabouts, what we like and browse on the internet, who we communicate with and what we say. This session was jam packed with interesting nuggets of information, but here is the brief summary.

  • Phone numbers - Google voice, you can pick up a VOIP number there, but only for US users
  • VPN - Proton’s VPN service, and mullvad.net
  • SIM cards - They have proprietary software and chips in there that potentially can do malicious things on your phone. That doesn’t mean it does, but it could. So if you can, stop using SIM cards and start using hotspots and VOIP’s.
  • Browser - Brave for privacy, or at least not Google’s Chrome.
  • E-Cars -  These are an issue, and there hasn’t been much scrutiny of the privacy concerns with cars. But if you wanted to be 100% safe to the level of paranoia, then drive an old dumb car.

Day 3

10:30 - Mining Pool Decentralisation

This discussion revolved around a similar session we had on the first day when we had Mining Q&A, so refer to that for what was discussed there. But there were some additional nuggets of information:

  • Why even have multiple pools then if every miner makes their own blocks? Structure and latency. If there was one big pool, mining all together with each miner making their own blocks, that would mean the network as a whole would be slower as they all have to communicate at some level with each other, and what happens when that pool goes down? So multiple pools acting independently would be the ideal model.
  • Miners can mine unfiltered blocks, but there is a slight financial penalty if they do that, as in incentive to filter out spam.
  • Liquid mining is the future, but it has its learning curve. One participant, when hooking up his miner to liquid, had the liquid explode because it was so hot.
  • The dire need to get miners to run their own nodes and choose their own transactions for decentralisation.

11:30 - Bitcoin and the Islamic Economic Model

I lead this session at the beach hut, with the aim of exploring how the Islamic economic model can be considered when designing various systems. This was like a precursor to my presentation I was to later deliver at the Bitcoin Oasis conference. There were people who attended that were interested in how they could do their business in a manner that was inclusive of the Muslim audience. So there were questions about how a Bitcoin Insurance company could work and what model could be implemented? The main problem with insurance, especially on your Bitcoin, was that:

  1. Exchanging money for money generally tends to be Ribaa. Money is a means and medium of exchange. So if you give money (the insurance premium) now and get back more or less later (the insurance claim), and don't have immediate finality, it’s at the very least called Ribaa al Fadhl, and can also be Ribaa al Nasee’ah factoring in the increase and delay. The only way to rectify this would be to get back only what you put in, or paying off any excess given, turning it into a normal loan.
  2. It depends upon gambling. You cannot even take out an insurance unless there is uncertainty of the thing you are insuring against occurring. If you know for 100% certainty of something occurring you cannot take out an insurance on it. So it’s built on the premise of gambling. The only way to fix this is, as mentioned above, turning it into a community loan, or a voluntary community charity fundraiser. So we could join a group that follows X procedures in protecting ones Bitcoin, but if someone has a genuine mistake, or is $5 wrench attacked, we help each other out as much as possible without it being a mandatory obligation. A bit like the ‘hilf al Fudhool’ (the pledge of virtue) that the Prophet Muhammad participated in, where they pledged to help out the needy and vulnerable. But to make it mandatory to pay for such protection, turning it into a financial exchange, makes it gambling. A fee could maybe be paid to the organisers to verify the claim, but that would be a claim by claim basis.
  3. Severe uncertainty about the end result of the transaction, as stated above. This level of Gharar (uncertainty) is sufficient to make it prohibited. There was research done in Germany on how likely someone who pays for insurance is to receive a payout,  it was in the low single digit percentile. All of which would be removed if turned into a community loan program or charity fundraiser platform.
  4. It is a form of ‘consuming peoples money unjustly and in vain’. What good or service was rendered to justify monthly or yearly payment? And what justification is there to receive a payout?

As can be seen above, there are quite a few issues to overcome in order to ever be able to provide such a product to muslims. Another option would be something like a cooperative whereby people donate money to a community pot to help those in the community as a charitable activity, or to simply donate at the time of the tragic event when the time arises as stated above, but to monetise the product is a hard sell. I did suggest maybe providing a personalised service to help educate people and put into place procedures to prevent loss, like what CASA does, but the counter argument was that such procedures simply cannot prevent the $5 wrench attack. If someone comes to your home, threatens your family, you will do all you can to hand over the Coin, and that’s where the insurance comes into play. But likewise, if someone comes into your home, threatens your family and takes your wealth, this is where the community comes into play to help each other out. The idea of monetising tragedy is problematic. We should help each other out in difficult times, not seek to profit from it or from the fear surrounding it.

That was the end of the sessions in the satoshi’s round table and it was an amazing experience, highly recommend for anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of this space, and especially for those who wish to receive or give investments. There were many multi-million dollar deals agreed there, and lots of cool swag!!

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Bitcoin Oasis

The Bitcoin Oasis conference was a different beast altogether compared to Satoshi’s round table. This was the first ever Bitcoin ONLY conference. It sounds weird to say that considering that the UAE has taken a very strong pro-crypto stance. This was organised by two residents of the UAE, one from Switzerland and the other from Germany, and they put forward their time and effort to make this happen. It wasn’t to shill some new token to dump on retail, but it was to change the world through Bitcoin adoption. It was very unique and hopefully one of many such events.

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Day 1

Bitcoin & Islamic Economic Model

On the first day, I delivered my presentation on Bitcoin and the Islamic  Economic model. As this event was an open event, and the presentations were recorded, then I will leave the details of what was said to those videos when they eventually surface online, but what I will focus on here are the interactions that were off camera for everyone to benefit from.

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But in summary of my presentation, Islam had an economic model that revolved around an asset based economy built on a firm foundation of morals and fair trade. The Islamic economic model doesn’t simply reduce the economic activity down to ‘the markets’ hoping for natural equilibrium and fairness to ‘naturally emerge’, but it injects into our activities the spirit and meaning of good and fair trade. Without this, ‘capitalism’ will eventually collapse into a selfish ‘dog eat dog’ world.  Due to this I put forward the idea that capitalism was the child of feudalism and socialist communism was the child of capitalism, or at least where complete and unrestricted capitalism leads to. This wasn’t necessarily a call for government interventionism, but it was a call to a moral fabric and consideration when building out this new economic model. I coined the term “Capitalistic Collectivism”

Meeting Allen Farrington, Muhammed Aali Shaykh and Danny from Coincorner

After my presentation I bumped into Allen Farrington, someone who has also spoken about Islamic finance (or economic values) before, Muhammed Ali Shaykh, a descendent of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahaab, he works in AI and Data Science, and Danny from Coincorner. We had a brief conversation about the age old topic of Bitcoin being halal and why many object to it. We had a deep conversation on the topic, especially around the concept of money and the belief element of money. I mentioned that Saifudeen didn’t agree with my view that money acts like a belief system in that people need to ‘believe’ in its worth before they accept it, which is why you see people acting almost religiously about money. He felt that my idea wasn’t really contrary to Saifudeens idea in that money has worth and utility, and its not just raw belief. Yes, Bitcoin does have value due to its properties, and its not purely based on ‘belief’, but we can’t ignore the fact that the reason why people use any particular form of money is based on their belief that others also consider it money. It’s why a fork of Bitcoin isn’t as valuable as Bitcoin, even though the code is essentially the same.

One thing I was really impressed about Allen is his openness to talk about this topic, depth of thinking and knowledge of Islam’s position towards trade. I believe the industry as a whole would benefit greatly if more were like him.

Another interesting thing we spoke about was how the objections scholars have towards Bitcoin actually applies mostly to altcoins. This is why fatwas that suggest Bitcoin is haram is often conflated with altcoins.

Meeting Thierry Adant from Guatemala

This geeza was really an amazing character. We literally spoke well over an hour about how he can produce a product that would be accessible to the Muslim market. This is something every Bitcoin business needs to consider. 1 in 4 people on planet earth are Muslim, and the majority of them live in the global majority areas, Africa and Asia, so if you want a product that doesn’t exclude 25% of the addressable market, you need to think about these things.

He wanted to know about different ways in which one can structure financial agreements, like through property sales, and what alternative options does Islam have to offer. So we dug in deep, covering various different models and explaining why they work and how they can be implemented using Bitcoin. For example, we spoke about using Bitcoin as an instant fundraising tool, to sell fractions of a % in property and raise capital in a short space of time. As Bitcoin is a global currency, that means that anyone around the world can acquire a share in a property and that could be used to help people get on the property ladder. Over time through the purpose of shares of multiple properties, they can slowly build their property value, and then eventually exchange all of those pieces for a whole property, or keep those fractions and live off of the rental yields.

The conversation was long and exhaustive, exploring different islamic models and options. One of the most important underlying themes was that whatever is done, it has to be in the interest of both parties, where they win together or lose together. Any contract whereby one party inherently has a disproportionate advantage, then in most cases the Islamic economic model would have a different approach. One example is if two people came together in a partnership, they put money together and bought land in order to farm produce. They decide one side they’ll farm potatoes and the other side tomatoes. Then one of them says “As I know about tomatoes, whatever profit made from the tomatoes belongs to me and whatever is made from the potatoes belongs to you…” then this is inherently unfair. If they wanted to do that, then they should break their partnership, divide the land and then do as they please, but as long as they are partners, then they win together and lose together.

As I described it in my presentation, “Capitalistic Collectivism”. You make as much money as you like, as long as it doesn’t harm the collective in the process and infringe other peoples rights, a concept I’m sure most people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike share.

Meeting a British Miner and a Cameroon Bitcoin Educator

It’s always nice to meet a fellow Brit, and I was surprised to meet a British miner. Surprised because electricity prices in the UK are prohibitively expensive so I was interested in his story. He told me that he’s been mining since 2011/12 and his current activity is moving to Ethiopia. Due to their newly built dam, they have a LOT of cheap energy and miners are looking to cash in on those $0.02-$0.03 per KW/h power.

There was also the clear use case of Bitcoin with mining in regions that have stranded and untapped energy. Bitcoin mining will become a necessary part of power production, if it isn’t already necessary for certain types of power generation. So Ethiopia is just one of many examples where the global majority will hopefully be able to generate extra revenue. As of writing this, the potential for income for the nations GDP is more than it’s income from the sale of coffee at  $1.6Billion annually. That’s not a small chunk of change.

At the same time, as I was munching away , I met some people from Cameroon;who have a Bitcoin educational project. They have workshops, tutorials and online groups to help the people of Cameroon in using it. In the global majority nations, it is easier to convince people of Bitcoins worth because they can see it immediately. In the west, most only see Bitcoin as a speculative tool, just a means to get more fiat, but in the global majority countries, they understand what the Dollar hegemony has done to them and their economy. They have seen how fiat only serves the dollar, and it doesn’t serve it’s people. Bitcoin serves its purpose and they understand it’s value.

Meeting Luke Dashjr

During the final dinner of the day, I decided to take the opportunity to chat with the famous Luke Dashjr, Core dev and founder of the Ocean mining pool. I had many conversations with him before, but as the days events were winding down, I thought I would have a general chit chat with him, and there’s so much to say, lol. The first thing I have to say about Luke is that I believe his online persona is easily misunderstood. Luke has a very simple approach to things, is very principled and unlike me, doesn’t excessively talk a lot. He reminds me of the Arab saying:

خير الكلام ما قل ودل

“The best speech is that which is brief but to the point”

This is not to suggest that he is in any way condescending, rude or dismissive, on the contrary, he is very polite and is willing to give you his time, but the best way to describe it is if you spent like 2 minutes building your question for him, he would simply say “Yeah, I think so”, and that’s it, lol. I love it! He has an extremely deep understanding of Bitcoin (obviously) and with good manners and understanding of his character you can have a really good and meaningful conversation, and that’s exactly what we had. We were having a long conversation that lasted easily over an hour, and it was filled with golden nuggets.

So after a general chit chat, where we opened up a conversation, I explained how I was born Christian (not according to him though, lol) and I later accepted Islam, and from that, he began asking me about his Ocean mining pools and whether a particular part of it was halal or not. From here we engaged in a deep conversation of the topic and discover that Bitcoin mines fruits 🍉. Let me explain;

In order to understand the conclusion we got to, we need to first understand what the problem is, what’s the suggested solution and then how we framed the situation. This is important for every new and novel discussion on the legality of ones actions.

The problem

When a miner wishes to mine for Bitcoin, he has to find a very specific number, a nonce (Number used only ONCE), in order to make the block valid. With this number, you can prove the block is ‘valid’ and therefore accepted by the network nodes. However, this miner could try for days, weeks and months to find this number and not find anything due to the network difficulty and his limited mining ability. But if he ‘pools together’ with others, they collectively have a better chance at finding this unique number. This was the birth of ‘mining pools’. But we have a problem. How do you distribute the coin once found? If we modelled it as two people searching the field for a lost watch, they go out in the morning, keep on looking until they find it. This is easy to understand a fair split as they both looked the same amount of time with the same tools, their eyes. But what about if one person started looking at 9am, while another started looking at 12pm? What about if one person looked only with his eyes whereas the other searched with a metal detector and an x-ray camera? The problem is, we have different levels of efficiency and dedication to find this watch. So if the watch is found, does the person who only searched for 1hr get the same as the one who spent all day looking? So regarding miners, there must be a way to reward miners based somewhat on the effort they put into it.

How it currently works

The way mining currently works is that mining pools operate on a ‘centralised model’ whereby mining pools give out work to miners, and they pay the miners for their ‘compute’ or the ‘work’ they do. Miners don’t actually share the income of the Bitcoin mined, but rather they are paid a regular flat fee for their work. So if the mining pool finds a block then that’s great for them, they can continue paying miners for their ongoing work, but if they don't find a block for an extended period of time, then they could be burning through their savings quite quickly. So miners act much like AWS data centres, charging for their compute time and pools take on all the risk of finding blocks. This is why a pool cannot function like this unless they have a certain amount of hashing power. If they cannot get at least one block in 4464 blocks (ie a month) then they most likely won’t get one at all (probabilistically speaking). It’s all about probability, and this is why it also matters to miners, as a miner will not join a pool that’s below that threshold.

What’s the proposed solution?

Ocean pool seeks to make miners ‘miners’ again, by making them mine blocks themselves, and receive the reward from their efforts directly. To remove the centralised element of mining pools just ‘renting’ compute from miners. Allow the miners to choose themselves what to mine, which transactions to include in a block and which not to. If one miner wants to censor a particular transaction, then the other 1000’s wont. But there is another problem. How do you divide up the reward? If you divide it equally to all miners, some miners are joined recently while others mined for a while. If you give everyone their share of the reward equally, some will get more or less than they deserve, or you may end up with some miners getting small amounts of ‘Satoshi’s’ as their reward, making it extremely inefficient putting 1000’s of transactions in the coinbase, flooding the UTXO set with this ‘dust’. So the proposed solution is:

  1. Spread out the payments over 8 days, or 8 days worth of work (it was something like 670,000EH/s I think at the time of the conversation), and in those 8 days, you get a piece of what is found.
  2. Each miner sets their threshold of ‘proofs’ which is what they are looking for, to determine their worth. This issue of a ‘proof’ was a new concept to me and was part of why the conversation took a while, lol. I’ll explain shortly.
  3. Make a marketplace where these ‘proofs’ can be bought and sold, therefore allowing the ‘dust’ to be consolidated.
  4. Once these proofs are made, the miner can exit immediately if they so choose to, through that sale, covering their immediate costs (or whatever).
  5. Facilitate non-miners to get mining rewards through this market.

There’s a lot to take in there, but let me first explain for the ‘non-miners’ to understand what a ‘proof’ is.In order for a block to be valid, the hash of the block must look a certain way. It must have a certain number of 0’s at the start.

As you can see from this block here, it has 19 zeros at the beginning. This was what was necessary to get a valid block. But what about if you get 18 zeros? 15 zeros? 10 zeros? Based on the difficulty of the network, the fact you have a hash with 15 zeros is still ‘proof’ of work done because you can determine, probabilistically, how much work was required to get that hash. It’s a ‘proof’, and as a miner you can choose what kinds of proof you will be looking for. 

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If  you choose to look for hash with 10 zeros, you are more likely to find those than if you looked for 15 zeros, and therefore 15 is worth more than 10.

So as a miner, you will be collecting 100’s and 1000’s of these ‘proofs’ which will be used for you to claim your reward from the coins mined. These proofs will give one a share of the coins mined 8 days after they are made to prevent someone gaming the process by mining at a given epoch and switching to a different mining pool at other times. During these 8 days, the ‘proofs’ value decreases as it will generate less Bitcoin as you approach the 8th day. What this also means is that once a ‘proof’ is generated, it will give a constant stream of Bitcoin for that 8 day period, even if the miner stops mining, as the reward is spread out over that duration.

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But is it Halal?

The point is, these ‘proofs’ will be ‘sellable’, and Luke wanted to know if it was halal. As you can see from the above, this is a very complex setup that requires a lot of understanding of the motives, processes, problems that are trying to be solved and most importantly, how the current system works. The conclusion was that these ‘proofs’ behave like ‘produce’. Like ‘fruit’ (or anything one produces that has a shelf life). I even said, as his company is called ‘Ocean’ maybe brand the various levels according to sea life. So small proofs are shrimp, and large ones whales? 😂. They behave like produce that are taken to market to be sold. The more fresh they are, the more they sell for, until they are ‘stale’ and can no longer be consumed. The breakthrough in my understanding was in the idea that each proof have different qualities and value, and they aren’t all the same, and these qualities degrade.

This was an extremely stimulating discussion, gave me a deeper insight into how mining works and was fascinating how a Muslim and Catholic came together to figure out an islamic ruling through discovery of the correct framing. This procedure functions better than the current method, as the current method places the larger burden on the pool operator, and also gives the pool operator a more significant influence over the network, making it less censorship resistant. This new method works better for miners, for the network and for the whole of mankind. As we said before, ‘Capitalistic Collectivism’. Make money in a more fair manner that benefits ones self and the collective.

Meeting Carlos Reuven with Robert Luft

After that amazing conversation, we were joined by two other individuals, one who works with Luke, and another miner who has been using the heat from  mining in really interesting ways (His company is https://www.greentech.technology/). He explained that he's been using the heat from mining machines to heat greenhouses (like here: https://x.com/documentingbtc/status/1758839563051475314). He said that the costs that they would have to pay to heat their greenhouses is exactly the same cost they would spend to mine Bitcoin, making the cost to mine Bitcoin near zero. Another fascinating use case of Bitcoin mining.

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This has implications way beyond just stranded energy in rural villages, this is now saving on heating costs. You’re mining Bitcoin and getting free heat or heating your greenhouse and getting free Bitcoin. I asked if this could be used in residential flats, and he said that’s the next project. They started with the hardest task first, which was greenhouses, as there requires managing the heat within a strict range, but with residential it can be more relaxed. So once they’ve nailed greenhouses, then next it’s easier projects. But as we were discussing prospects of the heating, he pointed me to…

Meeting Alex of Heatbit

This was an amazing meet. He had an actual heater that was a miner. This was the first of many heaters like this to surface and he has some amazing ideas. Here is the video of a short 3min interview of the creator and what it can do. Amazing stuff. Link

Day 2

Arab Hospitality

The second day of the Bitcoin Oasis event took place on a boat, but before that I attended Jumuah and then went to my friend’s family home for Jumu’ah meal with his family. It was an amazing experience, and was exactly what you would expect, based on the famous ‘Arab Hospitality’. I was welcomed into his home, and offered to sit and eat lunch with the whole family, delicious, traditional Arab dishes  and was happily entertained before bidding farewell and making my way to the Bitcoin Boat.

Oh Allaah, give food to those who have fed me and drink to those who gave me drink.

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Bitcoin Boating Accident

After almost missing the boat entirely, I managed to get on board. I had no idea how this would play out but it was a great experience and got to participate in some amazing conversations.

Meeting a Prince

I met the prince of Serbia who was very down to earth, approachable and we spoke for at least half an hour. We spoke about his heritage, about fiat, the problems of society and why. Interesting enough, when I spoke about how countries in the Middle East wish to progress while maintaining their culture, which he totally understood considering he felt the same about his country of Serbia. He felt that Serbia, as with other nations, have almost lost their identity, replaced it with western ideas and his mission is to revive traditional values. It was an interesting conversation as it demonstrated that we both are similar in many ways, probably more than one would assume. He gave me a brief history of the Serbian people, and it was clear that he was very proud of his people. It was an interesting glimpse into the viewpoints of a monarch.

Meeting Middle Eastern Bitcoiners

During this boat ride, after losing all our Bitcoin in a boating accident, I managed to meet up with some of the middle eastern bitcoiners, one of them is the CEO of https://www.demaenergy.com.sa/. I got to understanding what types of challenges are Bitcoiners there are in that region in gaining Bitcoin adoption and overall acceptance. From what they were telling me, Bitcoin adoption at the government level is slow, but Bahrain, UAE and Oman are leading the charge. Oman has begun to mine Bitcoin, investing up to $1.1 billion into building data centres and Bitcoin mining infrustructure, and Abu Dhabi is now using Nuclear power from their newest nuclear power plant to mine Bitcoin. UAE is positioning itself as the ‘crypto hub’ where these ‘crypto startups’ establish themselves. This is huge news for the region, except that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hasn’t been as proactive. Apparently there have been many attempts to encourage them to not miss the boat on this one, but they seem to be more focused and aimed at ‘web 3’ projects, not so much the boring old ‘BTC’. The only avenue which has potentially got a lot of attention is mining and how that can be used to subsidise power consumption. There was a research project that was done where it was proposed that each and every Masjid (Mosque) could be fitted with solar panels, with the aim that it would pay for the energy use by the buildings. What they found was that they used a lot of electricity during the times for salaah (prayer) but once that was over, the power consumption dropped to near zero. With mining, that would make it more sustainable and financially viable, justifying the initial installation. Who knows, maybe one day every masjid will be powered by solar panels, with the Imaam and Muadhin (those who call to prayer) having their wages paid for by the Bitcoin generated during non-salaah times. And using the ideas taken from the above greenhouse, we could even have those miners heat the masjid in colder climates. That would be a crazy idea!!

Fiqh Discussion with Allen

The final part of day, and just like how yesterday ended with Luke, I had a VERY insightful conversation with Allen Farrington. So I spotted him, and moved in for a question about something he said in his presentation earlier on about the Bitcoin cycles. The idea was, as we all know, that Bitcoin has these 4 year cycles which just happen to tie into the Bitcoin halving cycles. I wanted to present an idea that has been in my head for a while now that maybe it’s just a coincidence that it coincides with the halving. Maybe it’s something else entirely. I wondered this from as far back as 2020, as Litecoin also has 4 year halving cycles, yet it has no meaningful move in it’s price in relation to it. So I asked him if he thinks it’s possible that it’s actually more correlated to the USA election cycle, which is also every 4 years?  I presented my ‘charts’ showing that the market top literally happens every 12 months after an election, a market bottom is always 18 months after and then 22 months of accumulation always, every single time. If you plot the halving, it drifts further and further away from the market top. One can never 100% predict these things, but we can speculate.

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The conversation naturally progressed to something more meaningful, which was lightning and how to build a more halal system. Allen has a project that he also wanted to make sure was halal, much like Luke. The idea is simple:

  1. We take capital from investors in Bitcoin.
  2. That capital is ‘leased’ to companies who want outbound lightning ⚡️ liquidity.
  3. They pay for that ‘lease’ in a % of the revenue for that channel.
  4. They do not have permission to ‘sell’ the Bitcoin, or use it in any way shape or form, nor can they use it to buy or sell things. It is purely used in order to  have lightning channels without deploying their own capital.
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My first reaction was “how can you lease money without it basically being ‘Ribaa’/‘interest’?” And this was a very interesting concept that I had not previously thought about. Could it be using the Bitcoin, as a tool for commerce, not as money? The analogy which came to mind after discussing it at some length, is like if you have golden decorations that you use for wedding events. You have a golden candle holder, a golden food tray, a golden incense burner, jewellery for the bride and so on. So you hire out these furniture items, not that they are money, but that they are decorative items. You don’t have permission to sell it, exchange it for any goods or services, it is a simple lease to use it as furniture. Likewise, what is proposed here is to use it like a tool, where the profits generated from that tool is shared between both parties. A similar example of this, as found in the books of Islamic jurisprudence, is where someone gives their camel (or car) to someone to use it to provide services, like taking people around. From this activity and use of the item they split the revenue.

What was fascinating about this is I could see how new ways of using Bitcoin were emerging. In this scenario the properties of lightning channels, and the need for liquidity is being used as the basis of a business partnership. This further damages the false idea that ‘Bitcoin is nothing’ or ‘has no use case’, as it most definitely has established properties that can be used to add value for people. I’ve long advocated that Bitcoin doesn’t have physical properties, but it does have properties, no different than Gold and Silver. Yes, it’s properties are not rooted in quantum mechanics, with the number of atoms and the spin of electrons, but it does have properties that exist as part of it’s consensus driven existence. The more it ossifies, the more established and firm they are. This, I believe, is the beginning of something special, which is what I advocated for in my presentation the day before. If you place upon yourself certain moral constraints, much like Bitcoin has technical constraints, you will be forced to think about different ways of engaging in commerce. We need to stop trying to emulate old systems, but start by thinking about new ones using our new tools.

We spoke about a few other issues related to various different models one could explore in using Bitcoin in a more ethical and halal manner, but overall it was an amazing and insightful conversation.

Day 3

Satoshi’s Round Table meets Bitcoin Oasis

The Bitcoin Oasis event officially finished on the second day, but on the third day there was a ‘Bitcoiner get-together’. There were people who also attended from the Satoshi’s Round table, like the Round Table organiser, Bruce Fenton. There were talks, food, general networking and socialising. I found myself at a table where we had some amazing conversations on multiple things. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Bruce Fenton, along with Aleksandar Svetski don’t like government regulations, lol.
  • Aleksandar gave me a copy of his book called ‘the uncommunist manifesto’ which he describes as “the antidote to nihilism, despair and chaos” which is a counter proposal to the communist manifesto. It seeks to describe the free market, economic and political principles into an easier format to digest. He also has another book called “The Bushido of Bitcoin” where he highlights, what he believes, are the 10 virtues for a successful nation. I haven’t read the book yet, so I couldn’t list them here, but from what he mentioned, he looked at what a ‘successful nations’ would look like from a Japanese perspective (hence the Bushido) with added context from his Macedonian / European heritage. He speaks of characteristics he felt was key to their success. For further context and details refer to https://youtu.be/Ek3A0ob4tO4.
  • Had a mini-discussion about ‘the patriarchy’ and upset someone in the process, lol (sorry, wasn’t intended). The key highlight of the point I put forward was, leadership and authority does not equal ‘oppression’. Parents have authority over their children, CEO’s of companies have authority over their staff and government have authority over their citizens but that doesn’t necessitate or equal oppression or oppressive behaviour. In fact, it only signifies responsibility they have over those under their authority, as the prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “All of you are Shepard's, and all of you are responsible for your flock”.
  • Fiat is the cause of a lot of problems…lol. What’s new.
  • According to some Christians, the Bible tells them not to talk to me 😬. That’s technically a quote from someone who attended.
  • I learnt that Catholics say that Jesus didn’t come to deliver the ‘Bible’ but ‘the church’. The institution of the ‘Church’ is what has divine guidance, not the ‘book’ itself. This was an interesting perspective for me. I was raised a Christian, but this was new to me (although I was never a catholic). From a Muslim perspective we have a strong culture of “Due to previous revelations being corrupted and manipulated, don’t trust, verify”. As a Muslim, we are taught that what was given to us was revelation and what we return to in all disputes is that revelation. We don’t take anyone as infallible and sacred except the prophet, and with that we follow. So the idea of following an institution that decides what is revelation or not is a totally different approach. I hope I’m not butchering what I learned, but this is how it sounded.
  • None of us have Bitcoin while advocating for it. We’ve all either had it and spent it, lost it in boating accidents or been hacked. Sad state of affairs.
  • Oyster tastes salty (yes, its the first time I’ve  had it).
  • Michael Saylor decided to show up unannounced. Well, his doppelgänger did, and he was every bit as epic as the original.
  • America is Woke and going Broke.
  • We live in a world of institutionalised government supported and sometimes funded gaslighting. What else is it when what we’ve known since the dawn of Man is now dubious 🤨?
  • Bitcoin fixes a whole lot, but not everything.
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Summary

Both events were really well executed. Anyone who attended either of them and left without gaining something really useful must seriously be doing something wrong. The conversations that we had were the type where industries are made, the connections formed that were life altering, and the people were all very friendly and inviting. 10/10 for both of them!!