The founder of the now-defunct dark web marketplace, Silk Road, risked his freedom to speak with Bitcoiners at the ongoing Bitcoin conference in Miami, Florida.
The interview was special, as it was the first time that Ross Ulbricht has granted since he was arrested by authorities in 2013 for operating Silk Road, an online marketplace that facilitated the sale of narcotics and other illegal materials.
Ulbricht admits that he was warned not to speak at the Bitcoin event as it would “ruin what little chances [he] have with the courts.” However, he risked the chance to spend time with a community that he is fully a part of.
He narrated what it was like during Bitcoin’s early days and how excited he was in believing that “with Bitcoin, [he] can try to do something that makes a difference.”
“I was very very excited then, but I saw what Bitcoin could do for freedom and equality. But I didn’t take the time to fully understand it. I didn’t take time to understand the principles it’s based on, things like immutability, consensus, and decentralization.”
Ross Ulbricht said he had so many big dreams about Bitcoin and is happy that Bitcoiners are making “those dreams a reality.”
“You’re doing what I didn’t have the patience for. For the last eight years now in prison, over and over, I’ve been so impressed with how far we’ve come.”
Speaking on what his mistake was, Ross Ulbricht admitted he was impatient and pushed out his first idea, which was Silk Road, as a 26-years-old, which is more than a decade now. He called it an anonymous market as “it used Tor and Bitcoin to protect people’s privacy.”
At a time I thought, if Bitcoin makes payments anonymous and private, then what are we waiting for? Why are we sitting around and talking about it? Let’s put it into action. That’s impulsive. That’s a 26-years-old who thinks he wants to save the world before someone beats him to it.
He further added,
I had no idea that Silk Road would work. But now we all know it caught on, Silk Road caught on and it was used to sell drugs and now I’m in prison I was given two life sentences (without parole) plus forty years. I’m a non-violent first-time offender, but if nothing changes I’ll spend the next few decades in this cage, then sometime later this century, I will grow old and die. I will finally leave prison, but I’ll be in a body bag.”
Ross Ulbricht: I’m sorry
Ulbricht said he received a letter from someone who believes that Bitcoin won’t be where it is today if not for Silk Road. But Ulbricht said he doesn’t quite agree. For better or worse, he admitted that Silk Road is now part of Bitcoin’s history and proceeded to tender an apology for his mistake.
I worried that by putting Silk Road online, I made things harder for us (Bitcoiners). I still wouldn’t know how things would have turned out differently. I just wanna say, To the extent that I made things harder for us, “I’m sorry.” To the extent that my actions led to drug abuse and addiction, “I’m sorry.”
I was trying to do something good, I was trying to help us move toward a freer and more equitable world.”
Ross Ulbricht is still serving his jail term, with the FreeRoss campaign attempting to get Presidential Pardon on his behalf proving abortive so far.