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John McAfee On Blockchains




In conversation with ETHNews, John McAfee covers a myriad of topics concerning blockchain technology, security, privacy, venture capital, and more.

In an exclusive conversation with ETHNews, John McAfee discussed a number of subjects that relate to his big plans for the world, including blockchain technology. He confessed that, initially, his friends became intolerant of his lack of blockchain awareness and forced him to learn about it. As he read up on Satoshi’s whitepaper, he began to make connections and see the value of the blockchain in the world of security.

It's no news to the world that McAfee and security are synonymous with one another. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the computing industry unfamiliar with his iconic household name. To that end, McAfee's sights have shifted to problems of scalability, privacy, and ethics.

On mining, he said, "I'm doing it for a bunch of reasons. Not to mine bitcoins, because we know that's a dead end, eventually. Ultimately, the transactions processing will be the backbone of the entire Bitcoin network." McAfee went on to say that he thinks Rootstock, which will operate atop the Bitcoin network, will solve scalability issues by a factor of hundreds. One of McAfee’s companies, MGT, has also branched into mining on the Ethereum network, having recently invested in 60 mining rigs designated for raking in Ether.

Consumer rights are at the forefront of McAfee's goals, an issue complicated by crafty protocols that some corporations set in motion to diminish privacy and security. He points to issues that revolve around the flexibility that software switches provide to developers and, unfortunately, hackers who exploit the switches for malicious ends like phone hijacking. Hackers can make a phone appear to be shut off, but the device is still listening, watching, and monitoring network connections; a user's nightmare. Companies that put these phones into the hands of the consumers they track operate on a scale where the profit from advertising disincentivizes them from acting in the public's best interest.

"I'm not putting up with it anymore," said McAfee, who thinks hard switches are the answer. "I don't care how clever a hacker's software is, you cannot make an electron jump a bridge," he said. "It simply cannot happen with software." With that fix in mind, MGT developed the Privacy Phone which utilizes such switches.

Hard switches eliminate the viability of 'stingrays' which McAfee described as "the biggest scourge to American privacy since the invention of the microphone ... because when they turn one on it captures every conversation indiscriminately within a half-mile radius." He calls the practice unconscionable, and explained that major manufacturers won't disable stingrays through hardware fixes because they profit from the Orwellian access to consumer data.

McAfee has been busy developing ideas overseas and told ETHNews that his investment venture McAfeeXL, is focused on setting roots in China. He said, unlike America:

"China is actually trying to embrace and encourage emerging technologies, entrepreneurs, [and] creativity. In America what are they encouraging? Fill out these 10,000 forms ... Please. I could not start McAfee today if I had to start it over because the bureaucracy of our administration would kill me before I could even get a product out."

The goal of McAfeeXL will be to engage investors who want to be involved in the process of selecting which emerging technologies to invest in. Inundated by research, innovations, and new ideas, McAfee divulged that he receives hundreds of whitepapers a week – 99 percent of which he said are trash.

"If we had a couple hundred thousand people with AI tools that could go through these things [whitepapers], imagine the power of selecting those technologies with the greatest chance both of success and of helping improve the world," said Mcafee. "That's what I'm after."

He described how venture capital firms make use of analysts to place a variety of bets on multitudes of companies, but that many of those companies fail. Millions of dollars are often put towards projects which never culminate in anything for society. The select few companies that succeed and pay dividends to investors are the minority, but the success they achieve often covers the loss investors made on failed ventures and it allows the cycle to continue, needlessly.

Development is underway for the tokenizing of what he calls the McAfee Coin, which will become a funding vehicle on which McAfeeXL will operate, as well as a unit for interacting within the network. Initially, McAfee Coin will be based on Ethereum, however McAfee alluded that it could migrate to a network that could best scale to meet the coin’s needs.

More details on the coin will be announced in the future. For now, McAfee told ETHNews he wants the McAfee Coin to be what he described as "the growth fertilizer of the new age." To McAfee, the coin can be the thing that allows humanity to choose what technology it develops, instead of a corporate backed interest.

McAfee also spoke about energy management with blockchain technology that can integrate with distributed off-grid electrical systems. He said, "There are ways to share that [energy] and store it among other ecologically sound electrical producers."

McAfee hinted at specific innovations he and others are cultivating with smart grids backed by blockchain technology, and how tokenizing electrons as a means of tracking may give rise to a decentralized energy utility, capable of being owned by network participants. Certain energy use-cases would result in particular types of electron-based tokens that could be used to power various devices. Executable distributed code contracts lend themselves to the governance of this system, encoded with the protocols that devices will utilize on the grid.

McAfee told ETHNews that the ideas he’s shaping into reality are the manifestation of his life’s work. 

"I have been waiting my entire life for a technology that I can use to achieve this goal, because we cannot survive in a world where the rich and the powerful choose for us our choices and our options in life. We must be able to choose them ourselves. 

McAfee points to the community that developed blockchain technology to what it is today, giving it credit for delivering to him “a platform that I can implement my ultimate dream, and I promise you; if this succeeds we will have a better world in 25 years. One which we will all gladly and happily pass to our children."

Jeremy Nation

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine.

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