I know I’ve been quiet for a while now, working on other things. But when I got a chance to catch up with Max Freeman – one of the people working on a new crypto currency project called Epic Cash – it was too good an opportunity to miss and thought I’d share his insights.
Max, many thanks for doing this. I’m really interested in what you are trying to do with Epic Cash and I know quite a few of my friends are too. First, can I get a bit of background?
Me: When did you first start your interest in Crypto Currencies and what attracted you then?
Max: I have been into crypto since January 17. I was very much into physical precious metals because I believed in their ability to store value over time. I was initially highly skeptical of Bitcoin but as it went from 1 cent to 10 cents to $1 to $10, to $100, to $1000 I finally said ” I guess next stop is $10k” and it was.
I very much identify with the original Cypherpunk ethos, and while I too love a Lambo as much as the next guy, I’m here because I believe in the ideas behind this new money experiment. I believe this way of organizing our financial lives will yield an improvement in net human well being and happiness, as it has for so many already. I invest in crypto with a dual bottom line approach, which respects not only the financial return considerations, but also the impact that has on the world around me. I built my small business for two decades and was doing pretty well before crypto, so I can’t comment on anyone else’s circumstances, but for me, not having to slave away for the man anymore enabled me to do dramatically more things that are meaningful vs. just accumulating another buck.
People on our team bought into dozens of ico’s and many have a background in early stage fintech finance, so it would have been natural to structure this as the next hot splashy ico, but we didn’t want to do that. By staying true to Satoshi’s roots and creating P2P electronic cash, getting back as close as we can to 1 CPU 1 vote, that’s the type of money system we want to use.
Me: What are the goals for Epic Cash? It seems like you are trying to create a payment mechanism.
Max: Yes. Epic is exactly like Bitcoin in terms of having a public open blockchain with 21 million coins of capacity. It’s 100% free open source code, community created and maintained. You send transactions over the blockchain publicly via nodes. Wallet apps connect you with the network. Anyone can build a wallet, a miner, a pool, or any service at all, our network is completely open access without restriction or limitation, just like Bitcoin. We are waiting for someone to create Epic Cash Cash, that would be funny ?
Unlike Bitcoin, however, Epic offers always-on privacy for users, we have Confidential Transactions as a standard feature. All transactions in a block are chopped up into tiny pieces and mixed together, making it impossible to observe your money movements. We use Dandelion++ to bounce the transactions around the nodes randomly, so as to prevent deanonymization that way. There are no addresses or account numbers, you can’t watch the money flows like you can in say Ethereum or Bitcoin. There is no need for Tor. People can tell that you are using Epic vs not using it, but beyond that you can’t determine anything at all. Pennies or millions, it all looks the same. Only the sender and receiver can know the transaction details. Further, the data is actually mostly discarded in the block. Only a tiny kernel proving the transaction occurred remains as a permanent record, which makes it very space efficient. The Bitcoin Blockchain is 200gb and growing. If that transaction history were represented on the Epic Blockchain, it would be only 20gb. Compressing the data means that we could be close to having full nodes on phones.
Speaking of nodes however, that’s also a great feature of mimblewimble: you don’t need a full blockchain synch, you can work with a partial download. You just download the blocks you need, in essence. Mimblewimble is like PNG compression for crypto.
Epic Cash supply begins at zero, and there is no premine. There is no ICO, all coins are mined into existence via proof of work. Anyone can mine on the CPU using RandomX, or AMD/Nvidia GPU using ProgPow. Cuckatoo31+ ASIC gear for grin will also work.
Me: Why do you see privacy as such as important factor with a currency such as this? Or is the belief in privacy wider than just the currency?
Max: Narrowly, privacy at the base layer delivers fungibility, and that’s what we really need to take cryptocurrency beyond the store of value use case and ultimately through medium of exchange on to unit of account. Bitcoin is not fungible, you have to be careful not to buy tainted coins from say a hack or darknet market. Chainalysis tools are extremely sophisticated and easy to use, and they’re widely available beyond government agencies, corporate espionage and so forth. By doing business in Bitcoin, you really are screaming to the world. Existing systems Monero and Zcash do deliver good privacy, but there are some tradeoffs because those systems don’t have mimblewimble. Epic delivers the same solid privacy features in a scalable, high throughput, ecologically friendlier structure, while crucially retaining proof of work. Litecoin is valued at the better part of $10 billion with a plan to integrate mimblewimble at some point in the future. We deliver that today, and you don’t need to spend $10 billion to get a piece. Plus litecoin, you need expensive ASIC gear, whereas ours is mineable by literally everyone.
We believe that free speech is the cornerstone of all of our other rights. Money is a message with meaning. When you pay for something, there are many other ripple effects that come from that. You are choosing to support a system of values by choosing to use a particular form of money over another. If you use Epic, you’re saying that everyone should have the exact same chance to thrive in the economic system, not just those fortunate enough to be close to the free money spigot of fiat privilege. Inflation is not necessary and our economy has done better when we had hard money as the backing.
Physical metals such as gold and silver still have an important role to play in the modern monetary system, but their time is pretty clearly past. We created Epic to achieve a few aims:
Preserve everything about Bitcoin that works well, especially the game theory around proof of work.
Enable mining on consumer commodity devices, as Bitcoin is now only a rich man’s game.
Turn the clock back and provide people an opportunity to get in early to Epic, whereas they may have been late to Bitcoin. With the same long term supply curve as Bitcoin, it should perform similarly. One Bitcoin is $10k, one Epic is going to be a lot closer to zero than 10k, so the reward potential on a similar supply is greater, all else being equal.
Everyday usability. We are working really hard to make Epic actually usable in normal commerce, particularly to replace paper cash in emerging markets. If we make it more profitable for merchants to do business in Epic than alternative payment or currency systems, then they will. We are excited to create open source tools that integrate Epic as a medium of exchange and especially unit of account in people’s businesses.
Me: Looking at the site it seems this is a fork of Grin. What has been added to Epic Cash to make it different? Why a fork and not a build from the ground up?
Max: Time to market. The talented engineers of grin built a great Rust code base that did most of what we wanted right out of the box so that made things easy. By doing it this way, we put those resources into other areas. We will only be using their code for a short while, we are already hard at work on our next version, which will enable even more people to participate in helping us create what’s to come. Rust is a great language that young people are learning. Bitcoin, Litecoin, EOS, these systems are C++, which I learned back in college 20 years ago. Rust means that every student from Cincinnati to Chittagong, Dhaka to Dakar can get involved with our code base.
Aside from the biggest change of moving the inflation from infinite, one per second forever as in grin to something very close to Bitcoin with 21 million max supply, we went from a twin proof of work structure based only on cuckoo cycles, to a more generic one that can accommodate as many algorithms as we like. We deliver three at launch, with the next one coming being SHA3 Keccak, which will enable mining on $1 tiny devices, perhaps in embedded applications such as wind, solar, natural gas. There’s a lot of opportunity in wasted cpu cycles, we want to capture as much net energy into the system as possible, since that’s what makes the magic work.
We modified the allocation of mining rewards quite a bit. Grin is moving to 100% asic over two years. We preserve opportunity for cpu and gpu miners for many more years, ultimately transitioning to a blend of asic and fpga types some years from now. We want to work with, rather than against, the very talented chip design industry. At launch, 98% of block rewards go to cpu and gpu miners. 60% to CPU since everyone has one, 38% to GPU since there are millions of those out there.
Me: Do you see it becoming more than a currency? A smart contract platform maybe?
Max: Yes, we are actually researching that. Mimblewimble does provide for scriptless scripts functionality, so we’re talking to some extremely smart guys to help us figure out how to best do that. In the meantime however, we’re working on connecting Epic to other chains such as Cardano, EOS, Ethereum, NEO, and Tron. Our stablecoin EUSD will run on those platforms, more on that soon.
Me: Seeing as Epic is designed as a general currency, how do you think the introduction of Libra will impact on Epic? And even the wider crypto sphere?
Max: Facebook has put its brand equity on the line in support of cryptocurrency. That can only further boost the momentum that we’re seeing as people who are skeptical of Bitcoin reconsider their position now that Facebook is behind it.
They are also engaging with regulators to hash out important issues. Both Epic Cash and Libra provide users with powerful alternative solutions to legacy banks. We differ in approach but agree that change is needed. As a community focused on privacy, our users more than most appreciate the fine print in the terms of service. Facebook crypto is censorable money that leaves a massive leaky data trail for all to see. Epic Cash has data sovereignty as a cornerstone of why we exist. It doesn’t matter who is spying or why, we believe that people’s money should be perfectly private as a basic human right. You can opt in to transparency in your spending and that’s very valuable for many situations. However, censorable money is not truly money. Epic Cash is inviolate, nobody can prevent you from accessing your spending power immediately. Bank transfers still take three days in 2019, which is ridiculous. So much of the anti-fraud stuff and “for your security” stuff is really about maximizing the float. Our over leveraged financial institutions are so stretched that they must resort to predatory nickel and dime techniques, or even outright theft and fraud. We don’t need trusted intermediaries such as banks anymore and both Epic Cash and Libra are working hard to bring the benefits of decentralized Blockchain currency to billions of people.
Me: Has the team been developing applications other than the blockchain itself?
Max: No, we’re very focused on the chain itself. We want to leave the commercial opportunities to the marketplace. We are helping some independent entrepreneurs set up pools, exchange functionality, a bracelet or ring wallet setup, phone, messenger, point of sale terminals, and so on. We believe an ecosystem approach where individual small businesses cooperate is going to be stronger long term than if we established a central organization to try to do all these things.
Me: I see that Epic Cash is going live in August. What has been done to encourage adoption quickly?
Max: Our community is our greatest asset. We are planting trees with our “P2P reforestation with Epic” program – 100 just went in to a hillside in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
We have our lawyer Jason Seibert flying a giant QR code on the carbon fiber sail of his Shock 40 racing boat that’s currently approaching Hawaii as we speak.
We are translating our whitepaper into over 100 languages. We are putting QR codes on a few supercars in Las Vegas, when tourists take pictures on the strip, their camera phones will show a link to download the wallet and get a small amount of currency free to start.
Me: As there is no pre-mine or ICO, how do you expect to make money out of this yourself?
Max: I was just in Hong Kong meeting with a GPU trader who exports the used cards out of huge Chinese farms. I plan to buy a ton of them and get them hashing for Epic. I’m also working on an exchange called EDEX where almost any coin or token will be tradable against Epic. Then there’s the EUSD stablecoin system. I’ve been following the progress of this chain for about two years now, so in that time I’ve had time to prepare for building businesses around the next big thing. This is another way I personally plan to profit by the way, I’m investing in some of these startups to provide services for our users. We are working with someone right now to introduce LocalEpic, a service like Localbitcoins.com where people can do p2p exchange trustlessly with escrow.
Me: This is a big project, how much has been invested to get it to this stage?
Max: It has been an entirely volunteer effort. We did this without raising a single dollar of investment capital. That was crucial because otherwise, it could be deemed a security under Howey and similar laws. The importance of that is highlighted by recent moves such as Binance and Bittrex to take steps against unregistered ico security tokens and ring fence US clients. We were extremely careful to color within the lines and respect regulators here.
Me: Where do you see Epic Cash taking off first?
Max: Emerging markets. Bitcoin was used by approximately 1 million people last month, and that number has been kinda stalled. We are working on viral distribution concepts that get our currency into as many hands as possible, with a target of 10 million users as our first goal. If we create utility for users, we can attain ubiquity. That would be a spectacular amount of value creation and drive a new bull cycle for other assets such as Bitcoin.
Me: How do people get hold of Epic Cash once it’s available?
Max: The best way is to mine. Just download the miner and use the equipment you already have to get whatever share of the block rewards you can. They’re 16 per one minute block in the beginning, so that’s pretty juicy. Be sure to go through a good pool, as it will be difficult to find a block by yourself before too long. Grin and beam had over a million GPU’s hashing inside a week, so we expect a similar scenario.
Alternatively, you will be able to buy it on any exchange that offers it. We’re currently talking with a couple dozen, so trading should be widely available.
Me: What has been the hardest aspect in developing the project?
Max: Not enough hours in the day. It’s a lot of fun and everyone is very passionate, so it would either be that or the fact that my wife never sees me, and when she does, I have my nose in the phone always (like now!).
Me: Finally, what are you reading and listening to at the moment?
Max: I love learning about all kinds of topics, lately I’ve been on a Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson kick about ancient megalithic architecture and sacred geometry subjects. I’m reading America Before and I watch every YouTube interview these two guys put out, there are a couple great ones on Joe Rogan. I also love James Corbett and other independent media creators. Brave voices are standing up to protect what’s left of our trampled rights and those are the people I choose to listen to. I was just at Anarcho Vegas, I met one of my personal heroes G. Edward Griffin, whose book Creature from Jekyll Island I’ve read 3 times now.
Thanks for having me on Russell, be sure to flip your rig over to Epic soon!
Disclosure: No payment has been received for this article. I may buy or mine Epic and am following the project closely.
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© copyright 2019 Russell Weetch