Hello Olivier, please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what is it that you do at Aragon Black?
Well Hi! I’m Tech Lead at Aragon Black and before at Pando Network. I have a very winding path until today as I went through a first Master degree in Computer Sciences. But after graduating, I started receiving job offers like super depressing... in defense and security... I clearly freaked out because I really had fear to become someone I would barely look in the mirror when I would be old. So I left! And a passed a Ph.D in philosophy. My thesis was about web-based decentralized organizations. I became professor at university. In 2016, I began to follow more closely what was happening in the ecosystem. With Nolwenn, Alex and Thibault, we started discussing decentralized VCS for book industry and worked for a year on building a project (named Wespr at that time). The idea of Pando was born!
Do you remember the very first time you heard about blockchain and what were your thoughts about it?
Well. I first heard about blockchain cause I needed Bitcoins to purchase some stuff on Dark Markets [classy …]. At that time I thought it was just one more financial technology and I didn’t pay that much attention. Though, thanks to my research [as was a Ph.D. student] I kept an eye on it. And started getting really interested when I heard about Ethereum and the whole DAO story. That’s when I realized that blockchain technologies could be about way more than financial transfers and really started diving into it.
Would you say there is a real political significance in what you do with Aragon Black? Do you feel it’s important for you personally?
I remember what Luis said at the end of Aracon last january. It really stroked me: “today's world is nothing but an experience of void.” It happens that I have some sort of a political background and that this background is the reason why I came to blockchain in the first place. I got fed up of losing all the political fights I have been part of. In most countries [including mine: France] when you’re trying to achieve something politically meaningful, you always end up fighting the cops [because the establishment or whatever you wanna call it won’t let it happen]. And, unless exceptional circumstances, you can’t win a fight over today’s cops: they are heavily weaponned, they have drones, they can spy on all your communications and they have the law for them. I see blockchain technologies as a way to create autonomous zones where the cops can’t beat you because you are the one choosing the weapons and the battlefield landscape. In there you can experiment with new ways to engineer « economics» [with the crazy hope to tweak it up to a point where it’s not even « economics » anymore] and new ways to organize. I don’t think these « cyber autonomous zones » are self-sufficient or to be opposed to more traditional and located / spatial autonomous zones. I see them as a way to scale located / spatial autonomous zones and provide more granularity in the way we explore what is closed and what is far, what is intimate and what is abstract, what is a friend and what is an enemy. Though, I know the crypto-landscape can also fail to achieve this dream and just turn into another pointless financial technology. If this happens, I will probably just end up as an hermit, lost somewhere in a forest raising sheeps like James C. Scott.
Is that a real plan?
Yes, it is actually. Though I have to find a forest with wifi obviously! I try to be confident that the tools we are building can soon become a serious alternative to state and / or market organized world. My dream is to free up time in the coming years to build an independent home with Nolwenn and my buddies. Get a few chickens [though I would not be very good at killing them], brew my own beer, write… Yeah, that's definitely a plan for me.
Fork is a big issue in the Pando Network vision, let’s imagine we could roll back time for an instant, at the moment when “The DAO” crashed, were you a pro-fork person or a non-fork person?
I would have been a non-fork person. I Iike the idea of the blockchain being immutable whatever it costs. This is a big deal when you’re a smart contracts developer: whatever mistake you make, you won’t be able to fix it just by pushing a patch to your master branch :) It really shifts the way you experience what you’re doing and how you’re doing it: it re-introduces time, slowliness, immutability, autonomy in your crafts. You know when you deploy a contract that it stops being a pure puppet controller by your mind, and starts living its own life. Lots of people think it’s a limitation but I actually think the opposite: it forces you to think it through, take your time, and design things for aeternity [kind of].
Collaboration is a very big issue in your project, so let’s talk a bit more about your team. How did you guys meet?
I first met Alexandre, and then Thibault at university. Alexandre was actually one of my student but I loved his spirit and he became a close friend. Thibaut was a literature student. I met Nolwenn some time later. I mean “met”, I saw her passing by in the street ^^ that’s another story! Still, one thing led to another, we became first and foremost a group of friends, whose main topic of discussion was "so, how do we change the world? How do we make a difference".
In your opinion, what is it that keeps your team motivated towards the same vision?
We have many friends who fight for freedom in their own way still today, without blockchain. Political friends with whom we share opinions and actions to be attempted. It is important for us not to forget where we come from. So I guess that's how we have been expanding our team, with Cem, Dani and all the others. These are above all significant encounters. Political and ideological discourses that resonate ones with the others. We'd look pretty embarrassed today if we had to conduct job interviews... those would probably be based on a few weird criterias :)
What is your personal and human contribution to your team?
I guess it is « wiseness ». I’m a very pragmatic person, so members of the team often come to me to ask for my opinion, because they know I will really take time to think about it.
Conversely, what is the weird/annoying thing that you do, and that your team could or has noticed about you?
Well: I’m a bit of a bear sort of person ! So I need my space and time. I’m often the « old one » asking to get home early to get a nape. I’m not the « party » type of guy anymore. I used to but probably got too much of it so now my body needs time to regenerate :) I’ve also always had issue with mondane interactions. So let's say team building is not my specialty. Nor networking at conferences :)
Let’s talk a bit more about you. Beside Pando and Aragon Black, what are your hobbies/interests?
I have my pilot's license and it has been a passion for a very long time. Unfortunately today it is a hobby that is expensive and not very green! I intend to take my ULM certificate next year. I miss flying so much. Otherwise, I play a lot of guitar. I do music sessions to relax: it helps to keep a cool head! Especially when it comes to finding a bug left by my little rats when they run on my keyboard ;)
If you had to choose an author that could be your leitmotiv author, which one would it be and why?
Michel Foucault without a doubt. It has had a tremendous impact on my entire academic career and even today in our sector. I review it frequently, it helps me stay on track.
Can you give us a quote that has inspired you in many ways so far!?
It's a quote from the Lost Interview of Foucault, when he says "I don't say things because I mean them, I rather say them in a self-destruction way, to no longer think them, to be sure that from now on, outside of me, they will live a life or die a death where I wouldn't have to recognize myself." I'm quite convinced that if Foucault was still alive, he would probably be passionate about blockchain!
Let’s end with this, if you had to create “The” playlist of your journey within the blockchain ecosystem, what would you choose for your opening song?
I'm lucky to be the first to answer this question, because I'm going to beat Nolwenn, Alex and Thibault and they'll have to find something else! I'll answer Blizzard of Fauve. The lyrics have clearly been with us over the past few years. And Fauve in general. We should offer translations to the community one of these days. I would say that to understand our vision at Aragon Black, you just have to settle down a little, surround yourself with some crazy friends, and listen to Fauve :)