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Grin coin: an interview with Daniel Lehnberg – COIN360
INTERVIEW
March 07  |  7 min read

Grin: An Interview With Daniel Lehnberg

COIN360 Editorial Team

Last week we interviewed Daniel Lehnberg, a developer for Grin coin and for the recently launched Grin wallet713, an open-source command-line wallet that has been called the easiest to use yet. Read our interview to hear Lehnberg’s opinion concerning dapps on the Grin network, how to send Grin transactions offline, why Grin’s privacy is actually essential to the coin’s fungibility, and why Grin coin is not ready for the masses yet.

1. Grin transactions are interactive, and it’s been said they require two participants to be online at the same time. But developers say, technically, this isn’t necessary. Can you explain?

It’s true, two parties do not necessarily have to be online at the same time to send or receive Grin. In order for a valid Grin transaction to be created, the Sender needs to pass some data to the Recipient, and the Recipient needs to pass some data back to the Sender; and they can send this data using any online or offline method of communication. For example via email, or using a USB-stick.

Another way would be to use Grinbox, which is a transaction protocol for Grin that gives users addresses and enables end-to-end encrypted transaction messaging that doesn’t require both users to be online at the same time. Grinbox is integrated into wallet713, an open source cryptocurrency wallet that makes this type of transacting very easy. I'm actively involved in the development of both these products.

2. Are non-interactive transactions for Grin coin coming soon? Would that come at a detriment to the network’s quality?

I would not say that it's "coming soon", but there are some research efforts underway to explore different alternatives. As to whether or not it will come at a detriment, sometimes it can become a trade-off between functionality and the simplicity of the protocol, or the privacy preserving properties. We're always open for ideas and suggestions that are well articulated and hold merit.

3. MimbleWimble protocol implements “scriptless scripts”. Does this mean smart contracts will be possible on the Grin network? How powerful would they be, what use would they have?

A certain level of scripting functionality is already possible thanks to adaptor signatures and scriptless scripts, and this enables things like atomic swaps. While this type of scripting is powerful for certain specific use cases, it doesn't come with the complexity of other smart contract languages.

4. A follow up; do you think Grin users even want smart contracts in the network? The project seems to be aimed at different objectives; not for supporting code or dapps, but just for exchanging money…

I don't think Grin's focus should be on smart contracts or dapps, but there are benefits with having programmable electronic cash. And thanks to scriptless scripts and adaptor signatures, we essentially get some of these benefits for free, without a complicated smart contracting language or adding scripting to the protocol directly.

Daniel Lehnberg, a Grin coin developer

Daniel Lehnberg, a Grin coin developer

5. Crypto walks a curious line between a desire for transparency and a desire for opacity. On the one hand, Grin is “easily auditable,” and we want the code that makes up the chain to be fully transparent. On the other hand, the whole point of Grin is to achieve anonymous transactions. In your personal experience, why do people want their cryptocurrency transactions to be anonymous? Isn’t there a danger in lack of transparency when it comes to financing certain kinds of projects?

I don't think it is up to the transaction medium itself to be transparent. I believe this responsibility falls on the individuals, companies, and other organizations that make the transactions. They have a fundamental right to privacy, while at the same time they are responsible for disclosing their activities to the authorities when requested to. And they have to face consequences if they do not. But this has nothing to do with the transaction medium used. Whether someone deals in cash, gold bars, Bitcoin, or Grin, these responsibilities remain the same.

In order for a currency to be fully fungible, one coin needs to be indistinguishable from the other. This is not possible if each coin has a unique transaction history that's preserved indefinitely - that's the complete opposite of being fungible. And this is why I believe it's important for Grin coin to be private and "not have a memory". If all coins look the same, it makes transacting easier, and this is good for economic activity.

6. You’re working on the Grin713 wallet, which one forum user called “the easiest to use”. Still, it is a command-line wallet. Is there interest on the developers’ side to make Grin more available to the non-techy masses?

Yes, I think wallet713 is by far the easiest crypto wallet to use from a practical perspective — especially when sending Grins via Grinbox, which I mentioned earlier. But it's not ready for a mainstream audience; and neither is Grin I would say. The project has only been live for 1.5 months, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done on the infrastructure side in order for the "non-techy masses" to be able to use it. We're going to be hard at work to achieve this over the coming years.

7. What are the main use-cases that you envision for Grin? Just a way to test improvements for Bitcoin, or would you like it to eventually become a common currency? “Get coffee here, we accept Grin”?

I believe Grin has the potential to become electronic cash that is open for anyone to use and hard for any authority to censor or confiscate. I see it powering electronic transactions that are suitable for these use cases: for example allowing you to send money to a political party you sympathise with without your bank or credit card company being able to track this. Or for you to pay for a beer in a pub without your medical insurance company being able to track your alcohol consumption. Or for you to be able to buy baby products without advertising companies knowing you are pregnant. Or for you to subscribe to a newspaper that is critical of your current government, without the authorities being able to find this information.

Miscellaneous questions:

1. Back in your college years you founded and presided the WAKS Poker Society. How did you get so hardcore into poker? Any lessons you learned from poker that you apply in business life?

Like many others at the time, I watched the movie "Rounders" and became fascinated by the game. And,there are plenty of lessons! Poker, as with life, is a game of incomplete information. You don't always have all the information, you have to make educated "best guesses". And adapt based on the information that other players are sharing. The challenge is not understanding whether you have a weak or a strong hand, but how strong you are in comparison to the other players at the table.

2. You wrote your thesis on "Valuing the top 50 Ethereum ERC-20 tokens using Metcalfe’s Law". In your scholarly experience, what do you think about using “laws” like Metcalfe’s or experimental cryptocurrency indicators (many are based on Metcalfe), to study crypto markets? Would you agree that indicators, for the most part, have no real predictive power? How do we use them responsibly?

It's possible that some models and indicators can have predictive powers, but the challenge is the data you have, and how representative this is of the truth. These models often make assumptions and estimations that can have adverse effects on the results. At times, the actual data can end up becoming clouded by a lot of noise, and if you are not careful you may end up drawing false conclusions.

I believe we often overestimate how much insight and knowledge we possess, and underestimate the effects of chance or randomness in our outcomes and the models we make to predict these.

3. You’re very into online gaming, having dedicated over a decade of your life to PokerStars. So blockchain-based gaming is the overlap between two of your greatest passions. Thoughts on the future (or lack, thereof) of the crypto gaming industry?

Time will tell, it's very early days still. In a lot of ways, it's similar to when gaming first came online, and the time it took for that to establish itself. Often it ended up appealing to a different audience. The traditional online gaming operators spend their time and attention where their customers are, and compete to offer a superior playing experience. Established operators are trusted by their customers. It's not clear that blockchain-based gaming offers something that is more attractive to the majority of these existing customers, or at least not in its current form. New types of gaming (like Fomo3D for example) are getting produced by this technology. And this can attract new types of customers, with different types of interests and behaviour compared to the previous ones. It's interesting to see how the space will be evolve over the coming years.

We thank Daniel for his time, and our readers for there’s. Read more about Grin coin’s history and reception here, and about its inner workings here.

Have a great rest of your week,

The Coin360 Editorial Team