Robert Thomas Greenfield IV is a software engineer at Cisco. He is also a Certified Bitcoin Professional and the Blockchain Curriculum Lead at StreetCode Academy. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS in Industrial Engineering and is a director at the African American Community Services Agency. We are both members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Visit his website at robtg4.co.
Terrance Jackson: Bitcoin which is a cryptocurrency or digital currency based on blockchain technology. It has tripled its value since the beginning of the year. What exactly are bitcoins and blockchains?
Robert Greenfield IV: “Bitcoin” is the blockchain environment and broader development community that supports the transactions of “bitcoin” or “BTC,” which is the digital currency that introduced Blockchain technology to the world and solved the problem of “double spending,” or copying digital money. The terminology is commonly mixed up in broader conversations around speculative investment and technology.
Blockchains are broken down into two parts: (1) The “Block,” which is a group of confirmed transactions that are publicly available to be seen by anyone (although public addresses are hashed); (2) The “Chain,” which is a chronological array of “Blocks.”
Other computers or “nodes” process many complicated equations/maths to group transactions together into a “Block” and then that node tries to find a random number chosen by the network called a “nonce.” The first node to find the “nonce” after grouping its chosen set of transactions get to submit their block to the chain first.
In many, common day transactions, there exists definite finality – meaning we know when the transaction is done and it has been confirmed in some obvious way (by you having more or less money and a receipt). But with Blockchain, that definite finality is traded for decentralized consensus – so any cryptocurrency transaction to date has probabilistic finality.
More simply put, the more confirmations that that transaction has from other nodes on the network, the more “sure” everyone is that it actually completed. Of course, Bitcoin’s Blockchain is more geared toward financial transactions – this is where Ethereum and Bitcoin differ. Ethereum brought a more generalized blockchain usage to the world.
TJ: In one of your blog post about cryptocurrency trading, you write:
“DO NOT COME INTO THIS WITH A STOCK MARKET MINDSET.” Investing in cryptocurrency, even now, is still a very early, speculative, and fast evolving game. Mainstream adoption is easily 5-10 years into the future.
Any additional advise for people interested in investing in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum?
RG4: Read the white papers of the currencies you invest in – as some have amazing underlying technology, and others are purposeless.
Read the Bitcoin white paper – to understand blockchain you must understand the environment it came from (the why and who of the first blockchain).
Hold your assets – don’t just jump into day trading all willy nilly – you might lose a lot of money, but strategic holding leads to gains (usually).
Don’t hold your coins on an online exchange – at the least, put it into a client wallet – better yet –put it into a hard wallet.
TJ: You are Certified Bitcoin Professional. What does that mean and how does one become a Certified Bitcon Professional?
RG4: A Certified Bitcoin Professional is knowledgeable about the Bitcoin blockchain, Bitcoin transactions, and how the Bitcoin network operates. CBPs are able to apply Bitcoin technology to their professional area of expertise and understand privacy aspects, double-spending, and other issues that relate to the currency.
You gain this certification by taking an exam that tests your knowledge in the area every 2 years. The CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium is a non-profit organization that provides certifications to professionals who perform cryptocurrency-related services. Recipients of each respective certificate will have demonstrated comprehensive knowledge in various disciplines ranging from basic cryptography to low-level cryptocurrency development. It’s board of directors include the creator of Ethereum, and other core leaders within the cryptocurrency and blockchain community who developed all that we have today.
TJ: You also work at Cisco. What do you do at Cisco and how does that relate to blockchain technology?
RG4: I work as a Software Engineer at Cisco Systems and serve as the Career Development Pillar Lead for San Jose’s Connected Black Professionals ERO (employee resource organization). With regards to my work around Blockchain technology at Cisco, I prefer not to comment without the consent of Cisco – all communications being expressed in this interview are my own thoughts.
TJ: There is an article on Medium that speculates:
What if access to services, such as Uber, Spotify, and AirBnB, came baked into the network itself, like email or a Web page, protocol-to-protocol rather than company-to-company?
Is Cisco working on the idea of creating networks with “baked in” blockchain technology?
RG4: Can’t comment on this unfortunately.
TJ: What is Cisco currently doing to increase the number of African-American and Hispanic coders in blockchain technology?
RG4: Can’t comment on this unfortunately. What I can say is that I am personally developing the first Blockchain Curriculum for student of color through StreetCode academy. The program is free to anyone who can attend, and goes over the basics of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and building smart contracts on Ethereum’s blockchain. It empowers our community to ideate off off what exists around Blockchain so that they may develop a wealth of ideas that extend far beyond the low hanging fruit solutions being talked about. I hope to bring this to Black Girls Code as well.