I had the amazing opportunity to moderate the first Geneva Annual Blockchain Congress on January 21, 2019

Three Thoughts About Blockchain, After Moderating Geneva’s First Annual Blockchain Conference

Key take home messages from “The Trust Valley” Meeting

With the energy of a new year and a day before the World Economic Forum in Davos, 50 speakers, 8 moderators, over 550 attendees and 20 private and public partners gathered in Geneva’s Palexpo Conference Center for the First Annual Blockchain Conference (above).

As master of ceremonies (“mc”) for the day I left with three main take-home messages:

#1: To succeed, the Blockchain community must have government, enterprise and institutional support and replace the notion of dis-intermediation with re-intermediation (i.e. not cut the middleman but change its role)

#2: To succeed, the blockchain community must collaborate from within and replace the concept of competition with coopetition (aka cooperative competition), meaning cooperating with each other to reach a higher value creation

#3: To succeed, the blockchain community must radically expand the scope of markets to include all producers and replace the notion of free market (that includes non- and counter producers) to an open market (that is restricted to non- and counter producers).

Message #1: It is all about Leadership

Opening and closing ceremonies were both given by State officials.

The flag of the State of Geneva since 1293, includes the Imperial Eagle and the Key of St. Peter. The Latin inscription reads: After the darkness, light

Mr. Robert Hensler, former State Chancellor and President of Palexpo started the day by sharing his vision of Blockchain as a technology that creates an economic activity that positively impacts social order. Similar to “Silicon” and “Crypto Valleys”, he sees Geneva becoming the world’s “Trust Valley”. (I also wrote about this here).

The current Geneva State Chancellor and Head of the Department of Security and Economy Pierre Maudet, concluded the day by reiterating Geneva’s interest in Blockchain technology (Blockchain Lab), it’s commitment for legal clarity (Geneva ICO guidelines) and a history of digital innovation dating to the early days of the internet (below).

Tim Berners-Lee, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989, while working at CERN, Geneva (Source)

Message #2: It is all about Collaboration within the Blockchain Community

Just as the world-wide-web project was a global effort, Patrick Odier, Former Chairman of the Swiss Banker’s Association and Managing Partner of Lombard and Odier, emphasized the need for a collaborative effort between the Blockchain and Banking communities. The centuries-long financial know-how residing in Geneva, poises it to be an important engine and credible partner behind the global, large-scale adoption of blockchain.

Don Tapscott, Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute (BRI), gave a fascinating overview of the intentionality and applicability of Blockchain in our current and future life, showing the power of “swarm intelligence”, where none of us is as good as all of us (Below).

Swarm intelligence is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems where agents follow very simple rules and although there is no centralized control dictating how individual agents should behave, interactions between agents lead to the emergence of “intelligent” global behavior, unknown to the agent.

Together with Carlos Moreira and Hans Schwab, CEO and CIO of WISeKey, Don announced the signing of a partnership with BRI and the creation of Blockchain Centers of Excellence (BCoE) around the world, starting with Buenos Aires and Geneva.

Interviewed by the Swiss journalist Alain Jeannet, Jerome Grilléres, Director of VeChain EU-China, Weng Wei, Chairman of China Mergers and Acquisitions Association and Vincent Subillia, VP Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, discussed the repercussions of mass adoption of blockchain by the Chinese and the need for prior coordination, collaboration and alignment.

Finally, Philippe Thévoz, eGovernment Systems Vice-President at SICPA, explained how combining technologies (Blockchain, cryptography, digital-physical links, secure marking and artificial intelligence) can provide “Digital Integrity” to Governments, Administrations and Public Services.

Message #3: It is all about Governance

Krzysztof Gagacki, Founder of IOVO, a DAG-based data ecosystem; Joshua Hong, co-Founder of MindAI, an open source AI engine on a distributed ledger and Toufi Saliba, CEO of the TODA, a decentralized network protocol, briefly presented their platforms. Then they sat with ethicist Delphine Bracher from Ethix.ch and Dejan Nikolic from the State of Geneva Department of Economic Development Research and Innovation (DERI), to discuss the current shortcomings of blockchain.

It was an honest debate about not only the need for ethical programming (“code with a soul”), but also a sobering look into what is missing in blockchain, namely: security, efficiency, confidentiality, scalability and interoperability or as Toufi Saliba CEO of TODA network said:

The reason why blockchain’s global adoption rate is only 0.2% is because blockchain is not secure, efficient, confidential, scalable and interoperable enough. Blockchain needs to be SECSI (pronounced SEXY)!!!

After lunch the audience split into 5 parallel sessions (below) and many of the discussions gravitated around governance and ethics:

  • E government and digital identity
  • Fintech for the economic market
  • Fintech for the banking sector
  • Commodity trading and supply
  • Education
Many of the multiple parallel sessions found themselves talking about governance and ethics

Final Thoughts:

Most attendees rushed out the doors and headed out to Davos. The organizers already are thinking of the necessary changes for the 2020 conference, namely: more women, more diversity, include healthcare, smart cities and social impact.

But we all felt that the Annual Blockchain Conference in Geneva is off to an impressive start.

And while the attendees in Davos will try to answer how can we have a good economy during these times of economic populism, in the Trust Valley, we asked:

How can we have an economy in which it is easier to be a good person? How, through the virtues of Blockchain can we start re-moralizing the Market?

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