“I’m a programmer by trade.” This is how Santiago Siri defines himself during our interview. “I’ve always been linked to systems and felt a calling to try to understand how they can help build something positive for society.”
For some time now, Santiago Siri has been disseminating notions related to programming, a language as dominant as it is unknown to most people on the globe. His attempts to integrate the digital world with various forms of activism led him to co-found the Partido de la Red in 2012 in Argentina, the first digital democracy political party.
Online, he was the programmer of the protocol which built Universal Basic Income (UBI) on Ethereum and was the director of Proof of Humanity, a project to verify people’s identity in the cryptocurrency universe.
Tackling a wide range of subjects, including crypto, his popular La Última Frontera podcast breaks down tech for Spanish speakers.
You talk of crypto, trap music and La Scaloneta [the nickname for Argentina’s World Cup winning football team under national team coach Lionel Scaloni) as a holy trinity for generational leadership. Why?
It’s a trinity comprising technology, music and sport: three fantastic instruments where precisely the new generations are standing out, and where Argentina is a world leader.
Technological capacity, export music, as for La Scaloneta I would say it’s a matter of religion, the reincarnation of the Messiah, and everything involving football in our folklore, which I believe greatly helps self-esteem and to make us believe in ourselves.
It’s the chant of a new generation, crypto, trap and La Scaloneta, a holy trinity to save our Homeland.
I’ll ask you about two digital leaders who are very different in their ways, roles, and, of course, fortunes. The first one is Ibai, who went from streamer to businessman…
I find Ibai a great communicator who has sort of led Hispanic-American communication. This idea of making a new generation see that their interest in video games, with digital competence, memes, that whole culture, all that matters. I think he was one of the first to make all that mainstream, something that really carries more weight, even than traditional radio and television presenters.
The other digital leader is Elon Musk.
I really think he’s someone who always thinks big. The feat of trying to build a space company to take humanity to a new planet, or making an automaker which believes in Artificial Intelligence, sustainability and the use of electricity are worthy of plenty of admiration.
In my opinion, he’s someone with an extraordinary capacity for execution and vision, unique in history. And I believe that even with Twitter, it’s another of his great bids in this whole process to transform it into X, and to make this Internet site truly a place for free speech.
Generally, I’m a big fan of entrepreneurs and especially people who raise the bar of what is possible in modern life.
If money is a system, what is it today?
All institutions are systems and are structured as an organisation with interactive elements. What’s more, any institution is a kind of game; and money is one where you keep score. It’s also the way we have to coordinate value, capital and the free exchange of goods in an extremely efficient way. And I think it has different elements, but it’s about having support, which can be material like gold or some type of asset, or trust in a government coercing and conditioning the demand for their money.
This, for instance, happens with petrodollars. But yes, money’s definitely a system, and over the last few years with innovations such as Bitcoin or Ethereum it has even become a programmable system with a big wave of financial innovation, with systems of all types which help give money all kinds of features which help it work more efficiently in society.
During the height of cryptocurrencies, there was talk of a very important paradigm shift. Where are they today, in your opinion?
I think it’s still early days. We’ve seen how Bitcoin has gained value for over 10 years and has been an alternative to save value in the long run. It also has an increasing number of supporters worldwide, given its feature that it can’t be seized. That gives people sovereignty, and at the same time it has clear rules nobody can change, such as the idea that they are 21 million.
I believe we’re starting to find the way to build institutional alternatives through networks, based purely on code, bits, which are trans-national, resist censorship, [and] can be used anywhere in the world, irrespective of the government. In that sense, they have great potential to give more power and capacity to whoever uses it.
What do you think about the very recent debate about the use of Artificial Intelligence?
Undoubtedly this has been the year of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a new type of biological computing, trying to imitate the operation of the human mind by using neural networks, and which has made us see for the first time, that with technologies such as ChatGPT that we can talk to machines. That enables us to rethink a lot of aspects of how we build and think about digital systems. And it has repercussions which crosscuts all attributes of information technology. We have to pay a lot of attention to it.
What is the progress and what are the repercussions of the extensive use of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace?
It will redefine and reconsider a lot of matters that have to do with the workplace. As a programmer, for the first time, I’m seriously threatened by the progress of such a technology as Artificial Intelligence because it programmes better than most programmers, and it also writes music, articles and interprets contracts. There is virtually no work sector unaffected by the use of AI. And thus I believe many things will have to be reconsidered.
I also think we’ll have to pay attention to ideas such as Universal Basic Income (UBI). It’s important to think of projects where AI helps subsidise or finance a Universal Basic Income, since many people will lose their jobs, or they will have to be transferred.
I believe its impact on our everyday personal and work life will be so great, as was the impact of the Internet or now by cryptocurrencies.
* Translated from an article originally published by Perfil.
by Pierre Froidevaux