Thoughts from Devcon 5, Ethereum Developer Summit
TLDR: Some key insights and connections made but overall more subdued in tone compared to Prague as if responding to some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the ecosystem:
(As a reminder, here’s the link to last year’s Prague Top 10)
BlockPunk team @Devcon
- Radical Markets — is actually now a thing in Taiwan! The Taiwanese government has a minister dedicated to social innovation (Audrey Tang) that is actually implementing the high concept economics of Radical Markets that I mentioned in my Prague top 10 — wow on so many levels and new respect for the country of Taiwan. I asked Audrey ‘Why Taiwan’ turns out that Taiwan was not encumbered with legacy infrastructure allowing the country to introduce cheap and universal broadband from day 1 and implement higher level concepts at speed.
2. Scalability — it’ll happen when it happens.
Ethereum 2.0 development is in full swing and the most exciting milestone is the upcoming launch of the staking contract and launch of Beacon chain in the next few months. Beacon chain launch will be followed by shard chains later in 2020. The initial version of the shard chain is expected to be only able to store data and not do any computations. All this being said, a proof-of-stake Ethereum as a computation platform that is comparable to current proof-of-work Ethereum is not likely to be launched before 2021. No wonder then that Aragon, the DAO protocol that benefitted from Ethereum for their ICO funding have chosen to not wait but build their own blockchain. Interesting to read in the Aragon statement that they believe they have not yet achieved product-market fit. Feels like many protocols have a long runway to develop fuelled by ICO money but still haven’t found mainstream adoption.
3. Vitalik’s Back to Basics — CryptoEconomics 201
Vitalik reminds us what Satoshi brought us — it wasn’t a solution to the Byzantine’s General problem, er, it was cryptoeconomics! Turns out the truth is more nuanced and complex than the simplistic arguments we’d like to believe. Where have I heard that before? The fact is that the truth doesn’t always fit into bitesize memes but is quite nuanced. What is cryptoeconomics? “The use of economic incentives to provide guarantees about applications”
4. Venezuela — I asked Maker DAO what their number 1 use case was. Helping people in emerging markets avoid the volatility of their local currency by offering a stable alternative. Venezuela being one example. Their stablecoin DAI can also be used to load prepaid VISA cards and newly announced at Devcon5 — savings accounts with interest. Imagine if 1 million anime fans contributed 100$ into a savings account @4% interest- and the community split the interest 25/75 — we would have $1million to make a film This example is inspired by https://www.pooltogether.us/ One example of the growing influence of Decentralised finance applications “Defi”. See point 6 below.
5. The BlockPunk panel! BlockPunk makes its first speaker appearance and brings 2 legendary anime producers — Yamaga-san producer of mega anime franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion, President of Studio Gainax and Takeuchi-san (former CEO of Comixwave and producer of The Animatrix and Netflix original Sound and Fury) to screen the world’s first 4k anime short ‘Lights of Sand” (even though the sound didn’t work, what’s up with that Devcon organisers!?!) and offer a vision of a community-driven network of fan/co-producers around the world. A key question for us is can we offer business rights to the movie as NFTs and recruit ‘co-producers’ to the movie around the world. This is a step closer to our vision of a production studio run by the community: creators, staff and fans. Think Legion M with blockchain governance. Turns out there are also die-hard anime fans in the crypto world as evidenced by the Telegram responses to our invite to dinner. One CTO attending Devcon from Russia told us how he watched pirated versions of Evangelion during his high school days in St. Petersburg. Helped him survive the harsh winter and turned him onto science-fiction! Was great to be able to invite him to dinner with the producer. If I may say so we believe this was a unique insight to the ‘real world’ outside the developer community that also had obvious affinity with the host city and country.
6. Defi — or Decentralised Finance is the hot trend of crypto VCs — and it seems the metrics are there to prove this is not a false dawn (where have I heard that before) — upon the advice of one such VC, I am currently devouring this Youtube playlist from a recent Defi Summit in London as part of my education — am hoping this will help articulate our vision and also spark new ideas. This keynote from Consensys is a good framer.
7. Simon De La Rouviere and new markets in the arts — from Medium fanboy to actually talking and exchanging emails in Osaka and getting mind blown with the many permutations of crypto art — Simon came to our session and tweeted about us too.
8. DAOs — a lot of discussion around DAOs — could this be the OS for organisational governance? The concept of a distributed autonomous organisation intrigues me hugely but the question I’m still grappling with is when and how will DAO protocols appeal to organisations outside of the Ethereum community and go mainstream?
9. Open Libra — a bunch of smart people have hard forked Facebook’s Libra to create an alternative with apparently better governance — it’s called ‘Open Libra!’ Somebody joked that it may be financed by Google in the background and Crypto is just another battleground for big FAANG companies to duke it out! Lol. This initiative seems to prove that many people believe that Libra will in fact be the de facto digital currency standard in the future for international payments. Apart from the perceived existential threat to Ethereum, it remains to be seen how politicians around the world will react to a potential loss of power for their central banks.
10. Serendipity — while on the Osaka metro I met a French dude who is building a continuous finance mechanism using security tokens — https://founders.fairmint.co/ — Also met a guy on street outside a bar running an accelerator for teams building on Libra (see point 9) https://www.libracamp.com/