Speaker Interview: Dustin Laurence

The details of how cryptographic algorithms are designed, implemented, verified, and assembled into cryptosystems require expert knowledge. Good thing, says Dustin Laurence, that fortunately, the big picture of how the resulting cryptosystems are used does not. Dustin's talk on Action-Movie Crypto will be given on SCALE 13x Saturday at 6 p.m. The SCALE Team caught up with Dustin to talk about this and Thai curry delivery.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

A: Some little-known facts about Dustin: his first exposure to computers was playing the Fortran IV Zork and Colossal Cave Adventure on his cousin's work mainframe using a glass teletype and a modem with a cradle for the handset. When learning C he gave up trying to use the low-level I/O functions from the Ultrix man pages because he thought a buffer must be some kind of abstract data type provided by the C library, not a hunk of memory. He once predicted that Linux wouldn't catch up with BSD once the BSD codebase was completely free -- it's probably a good thing he doesn't gamble. He currently writes low-level crypto-currency related embedded software for Gem, Inc. No one believes him when he says that is a lot of fun.

Q: You're giving a talk on Action-Movie Crypto. Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: It will be a whirlwind tour of very elementary cryptographic concepts starting from scratch, emphasizing simple mental models to reason with. I will focus on the big picture and on providing enough concepts and language for further reading. If you know some cryptography I won't cover anything you don't already know, but I hope the presentation is a little unusual.

Q: What is the most vital role of cryptography in modern society?

A: As I explain in my talk, it is to keep my Thai curry delivery from being stolen.

Q: Is this your first visit to SCALE? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

A: I think I have a SCALE 4x or 5x t-shirt somewhere, and I don't think that was the first SCALE I've attended. Some of the more memorable things are the friends I have met at SCALE, the work I've gotten at SCALE, and the work I've gotten because of skills I learned at SCALE. My ten-year-old now demands to go to Game Night every year -- what other technical conference is that much fun?

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A: I hope some of the "SCALE kids" are interested enough to come over as well -- the level of the talk should be accessible, since I've tested it out on a precocious ten-year-old.

[SCALE Team interview by Larry Cafiero]