Blockchain is an emerging industry and one of the benefits of participating at this stage is that key figures in its future are more accessible. We are able to pull back the curtain on the mysteries of new projects and pick the brains of those that are building the future. In today’s interview I had the pleasure of discussing Atheneum, a project that I am obviously passionate about, with Christopher Black, Atheneum’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). He was generous with his limited time and was able to share his take on how Atheneum fits into the future of blockchain and more broadly, education.
Before I got to know his vision for Atheneum and its tech, I wanted to understand what drew him to Ember Coin — Atheneum’s predecessor. Why did he choose to add a massive undertaking to his already full schedule? Especially considering he already owns and operates a successful company, GoSports.com, as CEO and CTO.
When did you first hear about Ember Coin and when did you begin to actually contribute to the project?
“In 2017. I had stumbled upon Ember by chance having spotted an arbitrage opportunity. I flipped it rapidly then started staking the remainder. Honestly, I had pretty much written the project off entirely when I saw the 7200% staking [reward] since, as everyone knows, hyper-inflationary models are doomed to fail. Then the original devs pretty much exit-scammed and that was that… or so I thought.”
Christopher’s investment opportunity turned into much more than that when he began to delve into the project further.
“ I started getting interested when I saw there was a large and active community that wanted to take the project back and fix some issues with EMB. A few members stepped up, did a few fixes, brought the staking down to 720% (still high but a step in the right direction) with plans to reduce to 7.20%. Still no use case but better than an exponentially self-replicating [junkcoin]. Once I saw a few people step up, talk about swapping and changing consensus mechanisms I started to get more interested. I started contributing as a supporting member with configuration help, scripts and a pricebot.”
So, was it pretty smooth sailing once you joined the team?
“Fast-forward a few months and it looked like the project was going to be abandoned yet again but before it even had time to hit the ground. Marshall [Clark — a community member at the time and present CEO] and a few others stepped in, picked it up and started building a team. That’s when I got much more involved. The idea of Atheneum — an education based marketplace and evaluation system — was born.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, the core members that would get this off the ground all had backgrounds in education atop the other tools they would bring to the table so we literally hit the ground running and have never looked back.”
Atheneum is a bright spot in terms of what open-source technology can be. While some bad actors may choose to use a blockchain project for personal gain, its open-source nature allows communities to pick themselves up and start fresh. Such is the case with Atheneum. Christopher and the rest of the Atheneum community were able to use the previous shortcomings of the project to actually propel the Atheneum iteration forward. Christopher seems quite optimistic about the future of the education-centric blockchain project.
What do you think makes Atheneum unique in a crowded crypto market?
“Several things actually. Yes there are marketplaces and repos that are being designed in other crypto projects but the success of any project is dependent on its necessity. I can tell you with absolute certainty that Atheneum is necessary. Teachers are underpaid and unappreciated pillars of society that often have fountains of knowledge without any proper outlet.
Whether it’s trying to get published by one of the “boy’s club” publishing houses or not having the technical skills to create an interactive online course or even having an avenue to increase their revenue while employed or in retirement — something many teachers seek. Atheneum will be that outlet using blockchain throughout for the Governance on vetting content to the economy and marketplace right up to recording certification and performance.”
Although Christopher is quite bullish on the future of Atheneum, any executive worth his or her salt must be able to identify challenges in the road ahead, something that Atheneum’s CTO doesn’t seem to shy away from.
What are the biggest challenges that you see ahead for Atheneum?
“Simply put, apart from the obvious fiat-to-crypto barrier, we need to make it so the tech is so easy to use that it would be plain dumb not to! Our customer base will be educators, retirees, students of all tropes and eventually, schools. The learning Atheneum is offering shouldn’t include using an overly-complicated system. This is always the hardest part in any software design as well as predicting evolutionary needs to make it future-proof.”
The insights that Christopher makes about the future of Atheneum share similarities to that of the internet. Early adopters of the internet had to use systems that were less efficient and would pale in comparison to today’s standards. Innovation, infrastructure and utility were all necessary in order for the internet to be seamlessly accessed by the average individual. Christopher’s professional experience and technological aptitude has equipped him to lead the development team of Atheneum through this process and into a future where students can simply and conveniently interact with instructors to learn virtually anything — possibly without even realizing that they are interacting with the blockchain.
Please check back soon for Part 2 of my interview with the Christopher Black where he dives deeper into governance by masternodes, future upgrades to Atheneum’s wallet and more.