With more board configurations than there are atoms in the universe, the ancient Chinese game of Go has long been considered a grand challenge for artificial intelligence. On March 9, 2016, the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence collided in South Korea for an extraordinary best-of-five-game competition, coined The DeepMind Challenge Match. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a legendary Go master took on an unproven AI challenger for the first time in history. Directed by Greg Kohs and with an original score by Academy Award nominee Hauschka, AlphaGo chronicles a journey from the halls of Oxford, through the backstreets of Bordeaux, past the coding terminals of DeepMind in London, and ultimately, to the seven-day tournament in Seoul. As the drama unfolds, more questions emerge: What can artificial intelligence reveal about a 3000-year-old game? What can it teach us about humanity?
Bitcoin is composed of a network of full nodes, which thousands of people around the world run on computers. Bitcoin is an anomaly in the financial world. Bitcoin has no one king with a jeweled scepter or company with a profit motive in charge. These nodes are a crucial piece of ensuring that Bitcoin remains decentralized and secure.
Each node stores a record of every bitcoin transaction ever sent. With this knowledge, the node can independently verify that new transactions are valid – that the person sending the transaction owns the bitcoin they say they own.
On top of this, Bitcoin’s Lightning network is one of the more promising technologies in the space, pushing bitcoin transactions to a new level of scale and speed. Luckily, for tinkerers who like having extra control of their money, running the mysterious infrastructure underlying it can be a short weekend project.
In this article, we’ll walk through how to set up a Bitcoin node as well as a Lightning node, using RaspiBlitz, created by developer Christian Rotzoll and supported by the German-based Bitcoin startup Fulmo, which also hosts Lightning network hackathons around the world.
Why set up and run a Bitcoin node?
Not only is it a mind-expanding experience that contributes to the health of the Bitcoin network, but it benefits the user running the node as well.
One of the key advantages of Bitcoin is that users don’t have to trust an intermediary bank such as Wells Fargo to hold their money or to make payments.
“Not your Node, Not your Rules,” as the RaspiBlitz instructions put it.
Along those lines, running a node is a key part of being financially self-sovereign. Users running these nodes can rely on them to be correct. They don’t have to trust anyone else with this information, such as a malicious actor that might want to provide a user with incorrect information. If a user accepts bitcoin payments, but does not run their own node, they’re trusting information about the payment from somebody else’s node. This data can be spoofed.
Bitcoin developers think that running these nodes are so important, in fact, that many have dedicated their careers to make them as easy to run as possible.
“Why would you want to use someone else’s computer as the source of truth?” Bitcoin entrepreneur Chimezie Chuza argued.
Then there are Lightning nodes, which run on top of this Bitcoin full node as a second layer for speedier payments. These nodes connect users to the Lightning network for speedier payments with lower fees (which is especially useful when they bounce up from time to time). The network is still experimental and new, but plenty of users and developers are throwing caution to the wind out of enthusiasm for Bitcoin and are using it anyway.
What we’re going to do in this article is set up not just a Bitcoin node – with the help of RaspiBlitz, we’re also going to install a Lightning node.
Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money.
Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part. Through many of its unique properties, Bitcoin allows exciting uses that could not be covered by any previous payment system.
Bitcoin when used on a mobile device allows you to pay with a simple two-step scan-and-pay. There’s no need to sign up, swipe your card, type a PIN, or sign anything. All you need to receive Bitcoin payments is to display the QR code in your Bitcoin wallet app and let the other party scan your mobile, or touch the two phones together (using NFC radio technology).
Bitcoin transactions are secured by mathematics and energy. Cryptographic signatures prevent other people from spending your money. Energy spent by proof of work (PoW) prevents other people from undoing, rearranging or losing your transactions. So long as you take the required steps to protect your wallet, Bitcoin can give you control over your money and a strong level of protection against many types of fraud.
Similarly to email, you don’t need to ask recipients you’re sending bitcoin to, to use the same software, wallets or service providers. You just need their bitcoin address and then you can transact with them anytime. The Bitcoin network is always running and never sleeps, even on weekends and holidays.
Sending bitcoins across borders is as easy as sending them across the street. There are no banks to make you wait three business days, no extra fees for making an international transfer, and no special limitations on the minimum or maximum amount you can send.
There is no fee to receive bitcoins, and many wallets let you control how large a fee to pay when spending. Most wallets have reasonable default fees, and higher fees can encourage faster confirmation of your transactions. Fees are unrelated to the amount transferred, so it’s possible to send 100,000 bitcoins for the same fee it costs to send 1 bitcoin.
With Bitcoin, there’s no credit card number that malicious actors can collect in order to steal from you. In fact, it’s even possible in some cases to send a payment without revealing your identity, almost like with physical money. You should, however, take note that some effort can be required to protect your privacy.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s original paper is still recommended reading for anyone studying how Bitcoin works.