In celebration of the 50th anniversary of NASA astronauts landing on the moon, Newsweek is spotlighting pioneers in science and technology, highlighting their very own moonshots and how they hope to change the world.
After working at IBM for almost a decade and cofounding the Launch School, an online software enterprise, Kevin Wang may have undertaken his most ambitious project to date with Nervos, a blockchain network poised to transform the financial services industry.
Blockchain technology is a decentralized method of sending data that is fundamentally secure; each “block” of data is verified by a network of computers around the globe, assigned a unique identifier—or a “hash”—and added to the rest of the “blockchain.”
As co-founder and researcher of token economics for Nervos, Wang is one of the leading minds behind the drive to a global blockchain revolution.
What is your moonshot?
To build the infrastructure that makes the financial industry transparent, where anybody in the world can have access to financial services, and everyone can validate transactions themselves. Nervos is meant to be the infrastructure for the decentralized economy.
What do you mean by “infrastructure of the decentralized economy?”
If you think about “internet,” it’s the infrastructure of messaging or content. But we really don’t have a similar digital infrastructure for things of value—or economy. This is what we’re trying to build. We want to transform not just money, but all types of assets and transactions.
How did you get started with your company, Nervos?
I think for a lot of people within the industry, the advent of Bitcoin was very enlightening and an example of what we can accomplish with blockchain technology. Three friends and I started Nervos Network at the beginning of 2018. Now we’re launching a test ground for this technology—the Testnet. We’re almost ready to launch the real network—the Mainnet—by the end of this year.
Were you surprised with the reception that Nervos has gotten so far? You received $28 million in funding?
Any type of new structure of this scale takes a lot of engineering, a lot of investment. We’re grateful that we have great investors, but we also have to strike a balance in terms of supporting the interest of the public good and really become the neutral borderless, public and permissionless infrastructure for tomorrow’s economy.
Nervos is based out of China?
We’re really a global team. We have a lot of developers in China, but also in Japan, Europe and in the U.S. But we do have a big team in China.
Can you talk more about the technical aspects of Nervos?
I’ll start with Bitcoin, because people probably have a better idea about what that is. Bitcoin is this open, permissionless, borderless, censorship-resistant network that powers a peer-to-peer payment network. Nervos is taking that one step further. It will house all real-world financial services.
Other ventures in blockchain have to make trade-offs along this continuum: scalability versus decentralization. We’re trying to reconcile all the trade-offs. We use a layered approach. Our base layer makes no compromises in terms of decentralization, so it can be the anchor of trust for the entire ecosystem. Then we use a second layer for scalability.
Is that the main difference between Nervos and other blockchain companies, the different layers?
Yes, and we are one of the only blockchain companies that is doing a multi-asset store of value, too. Bitcoin is a store of value, but it only stores one asset—the BCT token itself. This limits how it can be used. We want our platform to support multiple assets, and we believe that’s the most important property.
It doesn’t use Bitcoin tokens, right?
Right, it’s a brand-new network. We have our own [more versatile] tokens, which can be used to represent different kinds of assets without building a new blockchain from scratch.
What’s behind the name?
Nervos means “Nerves of Society.” We believe blockchain has the potential to completely transform our society. After millions of years of evolution, we’ve come a long way from living in isolated villages to working together with complete strangers on the blockchain—like the nervous system of a living organism.
And if you’re a fan of Japanese anime, you would probably get the hidden meaning of Nervos: it’s related to a world-protecting organization, like Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D.
In your wildest dreams, what does the world look like with Nervos’ adoption?
Everything is going to be open, permissionless and borderless. There won’t be countries or jurisdictions. The mainstream adoption of blockchain technology will not see place its trust in any centralized parties, governments or institutions. Its infrastructure will power a more virtualized, digital world. Nervos wants to be the infrastructure of that world, to provide the transactions.
How close is Nervos to “success”?
We’re still very, very early. Blockchain is a “once in a century” technology. It’s not just changing “productivity,” like personal computers, or even the internet. It will fundamentally change how humans collaborate, how we organize and work together. I may not see the success of this technology in my lifetime, but it has so much more potential to grow and change the world in such fundamental ways that I cannot fathom.
It seems like Nervos is really revolutionizing the way systems work. Is that fair to say?
That’s really why we’re in this. I feel very grateful to have this opportunity because not everybody in their lifetime can be a part of—what I believe is—revolution. We just want to be doing worthy experiments and make contributions to this whole movement.