AMA with Christopher

by Oct 6, 2020AMA, Community

Welcome to the latest post in our series of BAT Community-run AMAs!

The ongoing AMA series is an opportunity for our users and fans to get to know the Brave team, to chat with them directly, and to illuminate the work and contributions of our team members. (Work that, in many cases, takes place largely behind the scenes.)   

We were joined for our most recent AMA by Christopher, who is better-known in the BAT/Brave community and on Reddit as bat-chriscat, Technical Operations Coordinator at Brave. Chris marathoned for nearly 4 consecutive hours, fielding both pre-submitted and live questions from Redditors on a wide range of topics, including—but certainly not limited to!—the upcoming features he’s excited about (such as “Pay with BAT”, “on-chain” tipping etc.), his passion for analytic philosophy, the nature of morality, and his understanding of breakfast food. 

Highlights can be found below, with a link to the full AMA at the bottom of this post.

Brave_Support: Hi, Chris! 🙂 (1) How would you describe your work at Brave? What does your average work day consist of? (2) I think many users overlook the "Attention" portion of BAT. Can you talk a bit about why people's attention is so "valuable" in online/internet culture and the difference between the way Brave leverages your attention vs other companies/sites (Youtube, Google, etc)?

Chris: (1) I love it. I would say it's very educational and challenging. There are so many different things going on (software engineering, DevOps, design, machine learning, security, cryptography, blockchain, web3, etc.), so there's always much to learn. (Watch this talk of ours for a taste of some of the cool things that form part of our product.) At Brave, I'm always hearing about new technology, new concepts, and new ideas. For example, I learned about logistic regression, Naive Bayes, trusted computing, blind signatures, etc. at Brave.

My average work day consists of web development (working on websites, such as https://ads.brave.com), technical support, a couple meetings, and Photoshop/Illustrator.

(2) Attention is valuable because it's the oil of the internet; it's what keeps the Internet as we know it going. The only reason why we can watch cat videos on YouTube without a paywall is that our attention is being monetized (through advertising). Users are like little oil rigs, except they are not getting adequately rewarded for their product. (Instead, they themselves are being treated as the product.) Brave/BAT pays you for your attention, and creates a sustainable ecosystem that monetizes attention without coming at the expense of your privacy.

Axioms, like Euclid's geometric postulates, are supposed to be self-evidently true, and therefore rarely questioned. However, every so often, we realize that a certain axiom is false, or at least, isn't as necessary as we originally thought. Einstein's physics led us to jettison Euclid's fifth axiom—the parallel postulate—when it came to the physical structure of space. In the advertising space, we have what I call the "fundamental axiom of advertising". It says: In order to match ads to users' interests and target them, we must track and collect their data.

Almost everyone believes it. But Brave/BAT shows us that it is false.

Mydefaultreddit420: What upcoming feature of brave are you most excited about? What are you looking at in your picture; what is over there?

Chris: Thanks for the questions!

(1) I think I am most excited for the "Pay with BAT" (PWB) and "on-chain" tipping features. The Pay with BAT feature will really "close the loop". Advertisers are already putting BAT into the system, and users are already earning BAT. And although users can already withdraw their BAT for cash, PWB is where BAT can really shine. With PWB, users will no longer have to whip out a credit card or manage a bunch of logins/accounts across different websites when they want to bypass a paywall. BAT makes such purchases easier and lower friction. PWB Github repo.

As for "on-chain", p2p tipping, I'm excited because that's really what blockchain is about. https://twitter.com/BrendanEich/status/1275828776434151424

(2) I think I was looking at a tree branch. In fact, this picture was taken on CryptoJennie’s lawn, where you can spot many baby bunnies in the late afternoon :D.

alicenekocat: What has been the biggest challenge for seamless Web2 - Web3 integration in a browser?

Chris: I would think it's the UI/UX aspect. How do you explain Web3 features to mainstream users? How can you abstract away some of the pain points of these new technologies to make them accessible to regular people who don't know a private key from a puppy?

I think by building these features into the browser, we have a lot of flexibility. Going out and downloading an extension is already too big of an ask for most people, and it severely limits the way you can craft a user experience. With a browser, you have full, fine-grained control, so you can integrate Web3 technologies seamlessly into the browsing experience and hide the parts that don't matter to regular people.

Patatoo: What do you eat for breakfast?

Chris: I actually rarely ever eat breakfast! However, I will tell you something about my relationship with breakfast. Growing up in the West, I always thought that "breakfast" literally just meant "English breakfast" (eggs, toast and the like). I had no alternative conception of breakfast. When I was younger, I remember being given non-English breakfast food for breakfast by my mom, and my friends saying "What the heck? You're eating that for breakfast?" I always thought my family was just weird and didn't care for the social conventions around breakfast.

Later, I realized that in other cultures, breakfast food is different. In Vietnamese culture, for instance, pho is often eaten for breakfast. Yes, the pho that everyone loves. So, when I ate pho for breakfast in front of my friends, I realized I wasn't actually being weird, and my family wasn't actually flouting cosmic breakfast laws.

In modern Vietnamese culture, we also have "banh mi trung op la", which is essentially a baguette with sunny-side up eggs and soy sauce. I thought that was Vietnam's take on "legitimate" breakfast food, because it least approximated English eggs and toast. (Trung op la was created during the French colonization of Vietnam.) Realizing that it was okay not to have English breakfast was definitely a big realization regarding my identity.

Wurld202: Can you ELI5 [“explain to me like I’m 5”] the plans for THEMIS which is in the research stage? Particularly interested in estimated staking requirements and a ballpark guess at what % of the supply would be locked in a fully functioning platform few years out.

Chris: If I had to ELI5, I would say this: THEMIS is a way of moving the ad system on-chain in order to decentralize it. Part of our THEMIS paper involved a discussion of side-chains, and staking was introduced in that context. (You can imagine having to stake a certain amount of BAT in order to become a validator in the side-chain.)

Beyond that, there haven't been any specific details about exact staking %s, and so on. Those are details that would be filled out much later. THEMIS represents the first steps in sketching out a general picture of how a decentralized and private ad system would work.

BENshakalaka: What would it take for the BAT tipping icon to be added to social media platforms' native apps? For example, Twitter on mobile. I assume this would be a huge undertaking to accomplish, but hey, we like to dream here, right?! Thanks, Chris!

Chris: For a native app, it would take integrations on their side. As BAT becomes more and more pervasive, however, this becomes more and more of a realistic possibility. (Recall: BAT stands for Basic Attention Token rather than Brave Attention Token. "Basic" is much more neutral a term than "Brave", which positions it in such a way that it can be adopted by many other apps.) Once BAT is pervasive and widely-adopted, the only thing left would be to provide developers with an easy way to integrate BAT tipping into their apps. That would be the BAT SDK.

That said, even without the SDK, I think it could be integrated. For example, the BAT token contract is public, so anyone can integrate on-chain BAT tips into their apps right now if they really wanted to!

Guy_on_the_Web: Brave is growing very fast and already boasts close to 20 million users, however I do wonder about Brave's runway. In September, advertisers bought 1.45 million BAT. At $0.25 per BAT, and a cut per ad of 30% for Brave, that's about $109 000. Last I checked Brave had around 70 employees, which means the revenue from ads would not be close to sufficient (for now). Can you share some insight about Brave's path to financial sustainability? Thanks a lot, Chris!

Chris: We have additional sources of revenue apart from Brave Ads as well! (The ad platform is doing very well, in any case.) For example, in Brave Rewards, there's currently a 5% fee on tipping. We have search partnerships, crypto widgets, premium features like the Brave Firewall + VPN, and so on. The team is always thinking of new ways to innovate in sustainable and privacy-respecting ways.

WURLD202: Thanks Chris and Jennie for organizing. 🙂

As we head into the holiday season and year end, does Brave have any big plans to take advantage of historically high ad spend in the quarter? Will publisher ads be ready by then? Given COVID-19 and global economy it'll probably put a damper on things but I’m curious to hear your thoughts regardless.

Chris: One feature, which we're still actively developing and was born out of the pandemic, is Brave Together, our video conferencing feature. There may be big opportunities here.

I had a recent answer about publisher ads here.

That said, our Ads Sales team is certainly aware of the increase in ad spend near the holidays, and I'm sure they will seize the opportunity.

DappsBoi: What drives your passion in philosophy? Like what drives you to keep reading/learning once you have learned most of the famous schools of thought? Are you looking for new profound ideas on how humans should ideally live or more on the "meaning of life" (spiritual) or more on the argumentative aspect of it (fallacies), or you tell me 😛

Chris: I think I'm most interested in "how humans should ideally live" and the "argumentative aspect", as you put it. I'm most interested in topics that have a bearing on what we ought to do, as opposed to more descriptive areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics. That said, some metaphysical questions undoubtedly have ethical implications: e.g., what is the nature of personal identity over time, what is free will?

I think what sustains my passion for philosophy is how it constantly challenges my presuppositions, and heightens my awareness of them. There's a thrill to it: an excitement that you're about to be enlightened or awoken from a "dogmatic slumber", as Kant said, mixed with a "lurking or looming fear" that your opponent was right all along, in G.A. Cohen's words. There's almost no belief that is too sacred to be questioned philosophically, and I find it exciting to hear arguments and considerations for views I disagree with or have never thought deeply about.

Philosophical questions figure in everyone's lives at some point or another, so they resonate with people, and are great conversation starters. I think if everyone were a little more reflective, the world would be a better place. If I can help guide people toward that ideal by learning and sharing, then that makes me happy.

ToddyMooMoo: Hey Chris, nice to meet you and beautiful photo 😃.

Q1. Does Brave plan on hiring people from the oceania regions (New Zealand/Aus)? It would be great if Brave expanded its employment to Oce.

Q2. Will the new Brave VPN implement some sort of free version (not-trial) similar to the free version of ProtonVPN where their free version is pretty much free and unlimited usage with the downside of speeds being reduced and limited country servers.

Q3. Favourite foods and quotes? 🤪

Chris:

Q1. Yup! We have folks working for Brave in Australia :).

Q2. We are currently working with GuardianVPN for the BraveVPN + Firewall on iOS, and it will depend if they'd be able to offer a free tier. At this time, the BraveVPN + Firewall is positioned as a premium product, so I am unsure there will be a free version in the near future. However, we are set on allowing users to pay for the VPN with their BAT. So, if you use Brave Ads and then pay for the VPN with your BAT, it's essentially free!

Q3. I like Vietnamese, Japanese and Indian cuisine the most, I think! A quote or two off the top of my head:

"What if the kids at Columbine were here today, what would you say to them? / 'I wouldn't say a single word to them. I'd listen to what they had to say. And that's what no one did.'" —Marilyn Manson

"When God wants to test you, He sends a person of good character who shares none of your opinions. When God wants to punish you, He sends a person of bad character who shares all of your opinions.” —Aaron Haspel

I have a bunch of other ones, too, but they're less evocative!

fruitspunch-samuraiG: How do you see the BAT project in the next few years? Do you think it will be widely adopted soon?

Chris: Based on our user growth curve, I think Brave (and therefore BAT) will become widely adopted. Everything is pointing in our favor, and I think Brendan, our CEO, was so remarkably prescient in conceiving of BAT and Brave.

Privacy is the new hot topic. Regular people are starting to care about privacy (see the Social Dilemma movie, for example), and governments are too. The social, political and regulatory environment looks great for BAT and Brave. Indeed, not even 10 years ago, caring about privacy was only for those who wore tinfoil hats, and would occasionally get you laughed at at family BBQs!

Dat_is_wat_zij_zei: Fascinating bio! So is morality objective or subjective in your view and why is it so?

Chris: It is probably objective.

A majority of professional philosophers believe morality is objective, per the PhilPapers survey. About a quarter think it isn't objective. A new survey will be coming out in the next 1-2 years, and we'll see whether professional opinion has changed. I think it will, except even more strongly in favor of moral realism (objectivity).

Many people worry that if morality is objective, then that licenses us to impose our way of life on other people. Note, however, that "We should not impose our views on others" is itself a moral claim, so the objection would only have any force if moral realism was true. In any case, it could just be objectively true that "We should not impose our views on others."

In your view and why is it so?

I can answer follow up questions, but I think one of the most compelling considerations is this: If you already accept that there are certain epistemic facts (objective norms of rationality, logic, etc.: e.g., you ought to apportion your beliefs according to the evidence; you shouldn't hold contradicting beliefs; if you believe that P implies Q, and believe that P, then you ought to believe that Q, etc.), then nothing about the idea of moral norms should strike you as particularly unbelievable.

For an introduction to metaethics, I strongly recommend Michael Huemer's Ethical Intuitionism (2005)!

Read the full AMA here.

See our recent guest AMA with Chirayu Patel (COO) & Constantin Jacob (Software Developer) from Guardian, makers of Guardian App, the technology powering the new Brave Firewall + VPN for iOS, here

Follow the BAT Community’s Updates here: https://www.reddit.com/r/BATProject/

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