The anonymous developer who created a Bitcoin bridge

By Aleksandra Wilson
5 min read July 15, 2021

Bolivia’s Central Bank outlawed the use of bitcoin in 2014. It was the first in a series of events that led one crypto developer underground, where he’s been avoiding authorities by using the moniker Berzeck, which he picked up in elementary school.

“Berzeck” constructed and presented the Nerve Network, which builds a bridge to the Bitcoin blockchain, as a principal developer of NULS, a blockchain solutions platform for businesses, in March.That’s significant because it’s an interoperable platform, similar to Polkadot, that can help non-tech organizations use blockchain technology. Though NULS isn’t a household name in the United States, it has a sizable following in Europe, Asia, and South America, and it recently received its first North American listing with BitMart.

Now, as NULS prepares to take the next step in its evolution and allow Bitcoin staking on Nerve next month, a change in Bolivian political authorities has permitted Berzeck to market the enterprise under his true name, Mario Blacutt.

Evo Morales, the political activist who became president of South America’s poorest country in 2006, existed before Nerve, NULS, or even Bitcoin. Morales was a socialist, a coca farmer, and a supporter of Bolivia’s indigenous community, of which he was a part.

Morales rose to popularity on an anti-imperialist, populist platform, and was considered as a threat to established institutions and interests. However, as Blacutt told Decrypt in a recent interview, the Morales regime was also dogmatically seeking control that decentralized technology cannot deliver. As a result, rather than embracing Bitcoin, it banned it.

Blacutt, a software developer at the time, purchased his first Bitcoin in the same year, and the problems began. His bank accounts were closed, his credit cards were canceled, and he was unable to obtain loans.He dusted off the old pseudonym, formerly saved for video games and social networking accounts, and began using it full-time for his job. He wasn’t yet a blockchain engineer, but he was concerned about the direction things were heading.

In a Zoom interview with Decrypt from Bolivia, Mario Blacutt said of his alias, “There was an Atari game…called Berzerk, and I liked the name, so I adjusted a few letters and it sounded beautiful.”

To avoid government overreach, the name was changed. It might have been far worse, according to Blacutt. He was still able to purchase Bitcoin by wiring funds to a bank in Peru, where Bitcoin is legal, and then to a cryptocurrency exchange. “I’m pleased they weren’t too brilliant to monitor my actions,” he continued, “since they basically didn’t have any concept how crypto works below.”

Pseudonymity and crypto

Cryptocurrency has a long history of pseudonymity, dating back to Satoshi. Even now, there are significant crypto personalities whose identities are unknown, such as Ethereum maximalist @antiprosynth.

The subject of pseudonymity was brought to the forefront this week when “Scott Alexander” (not his real last name), the author of popular blog Slate Star Codex, deleted all of his posts after a New York Times reporter writing a profile on the site obtained Alexander’s real name and informed him that it would be used in the piece in accordance with the Times’ editorial policy.

Alexander, a licensed psychiatrist, wished to keep his identity a secret in order to prevent influencing his patients’ impressions during therapy.

Coin Center co-founder Balaji Srinivasan is working on methods to better combine pseudonymity with online life for reasons like these. People might have a separate internet persona from their professional persona.However, without knowing their true identities, many pseudonymous actors’ motivations for being anonymous may only be speculated. We know it’s political with Berzeck. Which is paradoxical for a developer who calls himself a pragmatic and sees the good in even the socialist regime he despises.”Monopoly regulation is a good thing,” he remarked. “Not fully a free market,” says the author, “since, like everything else in life, there must be a good balance, a decent compromise in order to find the most effective answer.”

His work with NULS, which intends to “create a platform where enterprises can build their business solutions to blockchain,” has the same spirit.

Companies aren’t going to adopt blockchain technology because of the ethos or ethics, according to Blacutt—about it’s the bottom line. Even if the aims of blockchain and business are aligned, you must communicate in their language. Blacutt stated:”You must learn how businesses operate and what you can give them. That’s what I’m attempting to achieve with NULS. I don’t give a damn about dogma. We have our objectives, and we will pursue them in the most practical manner possible.”

Morales may have been doomed by intellectual fanaticism in the end. After weeks of protests in the wake of a contested election, he was forced out of office in 2019.

Without it, Blacutt believes Bolivia would have followed Venezuela’s lead and produced its own digital currency:”I’m sure they were waiting to see what happened to [the] Petro and then take those moves because this type of regime wants to get around country sanctions sooner or later.”

Despite the fact that the transition administration has not sought to modify the law since Bolivia is focused on managing the coronavirus pandemic, Berzeck no longer fears using the name Blacutt:”The new administration will be more receptive to such technology. Because, as I constantly say, attempting to prohibit cryptocurrency is similar to attempting to outlaw the internet. In truth, there is no way to prohibit the use of the internet. You have a self-imposed internet prohibition. As a result, it’s a mistake.”

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