Speaker Spotlight: Google’s Jonas Meyer
The Nowhere Developers Conference will feature two types of speaking engagements:
Featured speakers: these industry-leading speakers will lead conference-wide talks.
Expert breakout sessions: these sessions will be led by experts in specific areas, allowing for smaller group discussions.
We’re excited to announce one of our featured speakers: Jonas Meyer, Technical Program Manager at Google!
Bio: Jonas Meyer earned an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Dartmouth College. He worked for a series of early stage venture capital funded startups in Silicon Valley, and prior to that spent several years with his own web development and consulting firm. He now works as a Technical Program Manager at Google, helping to coordinate security and management for several hundred thousand desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets. Jonas fancies himself an amateur futurist, focused on the intersection of new technologies, microeconomics, and humanity. He became interested in cryptocurrency in late 2010, and has been a close observer of the space since 2012.
As a featured speaker, Jonas will be your shepherd for delving into the technology behind public blockchains like Bitcoin.
Topic: Understanding Cryptocurrencies
The Breakdown: In this technically oriented talk, the basics of Nakamoto Consensus (the technology behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other public blockchains) are covered. Proof of Work and Proof of stake are explained, and some of the differences between well known cryptocurrencies are covered. By the end of the talk, you will understand the definitions and capabilities of colored coins, decentralized autonomous corporations/organizations, and smart contracts. This talk does not cover cryptocurrency as an investment. An undergraduate level of Computer Science is assumed.
We asked Jonas a few questions to get to know him a little better.
Disclaimer from Jonas: These thoughts are my own, and do not represent Google, or my work there.
How did you get into programming?
When I was in middle school, my father brought home an old Apple IIe, which I “fixed” by rearranging the add-on cards until it would boot. I taught myself Basic using the manual that came with it. Later that year, I started playing with HyperCard on the Mac. I couldn’t figure out why someone would use functions when you could just stuff code into a string and then execute the string. (My first programming instructors were horrified!) Of course, without functions, it took me about 2 years to build a game in my spare time that any average coder could knock out in an afternoon.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
In retrospect, I probably could have been diagnosed as on the Autism spectrum as a boy. I was one of the lucky folks who “grew out of it,” although of course, that wasn’t my experience at all. I couldn’t figure out why there were so many complicated rules for social interaction. Although, I eventually managed to reverse engineer most of them.
What is your least favorite language?
Assembly. I think most coders fall on a spectrum from really enjoying code that is “clever” vs. enjoying code that is “beautiful.” Clever code is non-obvious, performant, and astounds you with how brilliantly efficiently it is written. Beautiful code is easy to understand at a glance and fits in with a larger aesthetic that makes it easy to modify, debug, and maintain. It’s also often abysmally slow. I’ve always fallen more to the “beautiful” side of the spectrum, and my favorite language is Ruby for that reason. As a project manager, however, I really only get to code on hobby projects.
Musk or Bezos?
It strikes me that Musk is more interested in improving the world than in power and money, so I’d go with him. I’ve heard rumors he’s a terrible person to work for, however. Apparently, he believes that whatever he’s working on is the most important thing in the world, and is willing to sacrifice his personal life to accomplish it. I’ve heard he expects the same from his employees. To be fair, some of the problems he’s working on might really be that important.
Definitely Ethereum. It has almost as much momentum as Bitcoin but incorporates many design improvements with the benefit of hindsight. It’s also a community that is interested in making large improvements that could revolutionize the space, if they turn out to be viable. (e.g. a game-theoretically compatible implementation of Proof of Stake, or sharding). Frankly, if these changes don’t work out, the space will probably never be able to scale without the use of banks or bank-like entities, so I see Ethereum as moving the entire cryptocurrency space forward.
Who is your favorite character on Silicon Valley?
The show is endlessly entertaining to watch, but most of the characters strike me as terrible people. Thinking back to my startup days, I sometimes wonder if the show is trying to be funny, or just accurate. (Of course, it’s both!)
What is a technology you’re interested in learning more about?
I’m an intellectual pack-rat. Frankly, I’ve never met a technology I didn’t have at least a passing interest in, and I’m one of those weirdos who reads Wikipedia for fun. I spend at least a couple hours every day reading blogs, news, and primary sources on science, technology, and economics. I’d love to learn more about machine learning and biotech, respectively, because I see them both as being tremendously transformative in the coming decades. Machine learning, in particular, is one of those “general inventions,” like electricity or gearing, that has nearly endless applications. Biotech is interesting because it offers the potential to completely change the rules by which society operates, but it also seems to advance much more slowly than the world of computing and Moore’s law.
Did you ever own a Motorola RAZR flip phone?
I was never that cool. I did have an HTC G1 (the first Android phone).