Nillion Gives Crypto & Data Security a Human Upgrade

Conrad Whelan

Nillion expands beyond blockchain to revolutionize decentralized computing.

Dave Asprey partners with Nillion as an advisor and investor.


In this Episode of The Human Upgrade™...

… you’ll learn about the frontier of web3 and privacy and what happens to your private data (both on blockchains and in general). You’ll also find out how and why the future moves away from transactions (blockchain) and into computations (multi-party computation). 

Think about where you store your identity and your deepest digital secrets. The current solutions aren’t great — in web2, the Big Tech ‘old guard’ has been quietly storing and monetizing your data for over a decade, and in web3, blockchains aren’t designed to handle private data. A new algorithm, Nillion, inspired Conrad Whelan (the Founding Engineer of Uber) to come out of early retirement and do something about this. 

 This conversation looks at the data you unassumingly give away freely, and how it’s captured, held and used/computed on without your consent by large companies and other parties. Conrad believes in a future where your sensitive data and digital secrets can be fully controlled by you (and you alone) using web3 technology. This means you’d be the final gatekeeper of your data with the power to authenticate, authorize and use it as you see fit.

Conrad’s building that future as Nillion’s Founding Chief Technology Officer.

His background includes electrical and computer engineering. He worked in the fields of computational electromagnetics before joining Uber as Founding Engineer. He’s developed, tested, deployed and architected software projects at all levels of the software stack as both an engineer and an engineering manager. 

In 2016, he retired to focus his efforts on philanthropy and personal passion projects while keeping an eye on the tech world. The promise and potential global impact of Nillion enticed him out of retirement and into the company’s CTO role. 

Conrad says, “When I read the [Nillion] paper, I began to think about, ‘Well, this is a different type of decentralized network with a different functional story as you add more nodes to it.’ Maybe in the future, there’s going to be a bunch of these decentralized networks? Some will be blockchains. Some could be NMC [Nillion’s core technology]. Some could be other networks that haven’t been discovered yet. I put that together when I was reading the paper.”

"When I think about data that needs to be private, that's almost always going to be human. It's a very human-centered aspect of our system that I think is really good.”

Conrad Whelan / CTO, Nillion

“There’s definitely a certain level of privacy that is incredibly important,” Conrad emphasizes. “It is a human right. Especially in this day and age. With the tech companies out there and the advertising driven world that we have. That data clearly has value. The other side of it is I think people deserve their privacy. But I also think getting some of that value back is part of the important evolution that’s going on here.”

What Conrad is building at Nillion aims to:

  • render both computational encryption and centralized storage of private data obsolete;
  • fundamentally change the way private data is stored and processed;
  • offer alternative non-blockchain ways of using decentralized nodes;
  • serve as a ‘Meta Layer’ that provides new and additional functionality to existing blockchains; and
  • enable a host of new real-world applications on its native public network (the Nillion Network).

 Whatever your level of tech understanding, this discussion offers critical insights about the next big move in decentralized computing and data privacy.

Enjoy the show!

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  • What is a founding engineer of Uber doing retired in Amsterdam? It sounds like a hell of a story. – 2:40
  • I’m an engineer. So, efficiency is my thing. I just saw it as very inefficient architecture. But with NMC, I saw something different.  – 6:20
  • So basically, you and I could do a computation together. My data’s never left my iMac, your data’s never left your iMac, and all we do is we see the results. It’s very interesting.  – 12:46
  • The computation that then happens, it’s called Nil Message Compute. That’s where NMC comes from.  – 16:04
  • I don’t know if I would call myself mystical, but there is a magic in mathematics and there is a magic in numbers that is impossible to catch.  – 20:22
  • We’re building these technologies and thinking it’s bringing us together more, but it’s actually helping us stay apart and argue more and be separated more.  – 25:01
  • Tell me about how Harry Potter is involved with Nillion.  – 29:15
  • I think it’s really tough when you’re a company that’s growing as fast as Uber is and scaling the team out as fast. – 33:50
  • A momentum-based approach versus a velocity-based approach might be how I would be approaching this one differently. – 42:29
  • These types of projects, they’re super exciting places to learn. I think decentralized architectures are probably going to be the future. As inefficient as they are,  – 44:55
  • It’s like when I said culture might be pushing technology, I think the decentralized story is a very compelling thing for that reason.  – 45:58

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