For a London-bred millennial, my time studying at London School of Economics has been an eye-opening experience. As one of the most international and diverse campuses in the world, LSE is filled with some really smart students and I have learnt a lot from them. One of the many benefits from studying at LSE is the possibility to study abroad and I feel privileged to have been given that opportunity at UC Berkeley where I was immersed in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley.
During my time at UC Berkeley, I led a research project for Blockchain at Berkeley and had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented, up-and-coming minds in the field. Moreover, I was able to learn from professionals during a summer internship on the blockchain coverage desk at Goldman Sachs, while also working to launch my start-up off the ground, engaging with venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In the meantime I watched my cryptocurrency portfolio grow 280-fold and subsequently come crashing back down — hectic to say the least!
I quickly came to find that “The Valley” is a place where people are rewarded for their talent and individual thought, regardless of age or background. It’s an area brimming with the most ambitious and optimistic people; a place where everyone has a go-getter attitude and a real belief that anything is possible. This mentality, combined with endless capital and an immense pool of talent, gives The Valley an energy that has made it the world’s pre-eminent innovation hub.
Blockchain at Berkeley perfectly exemplifies the ethos of The Valley. With an acceptance rate of around 5%, BaB fosters success and encourages great minds to thrive. It’s a student organisation where the co-founders raised $23 million for their own hedge fund and a number of other members are self-made crypto millionaires. Not to mention that the former president, who is only 23, has been made an adjunct professor at the Berkeley Law School.
The amount of innovation taking place in The Valley is going to have a profound effect on the world. Take self-driving cars as an example: the industry consensus is that fully self-driving cars, level 5 autonomy, will be on the road by 2025 and integrated into the economy within the next 20 years. There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA and over 750,000 Uber drivers — as well as countless other taxi and bus drivers. Within 20 years self-driving cars will rebuild an industry that employs around 5 million people in the USA and this is but one of many disruptive inventions emanating from The Valley.
Simply put: most of the jobs that exist today, really won’t exist in a few years. The technology revolution is here — whether we like it or not. The inevitability of creative disruption will see millions displaced but most aren’t aware of the impact this will have within the next decade.
One of the potentially most disruptive, invaluable shifts in technology comes in the form of blockchain. Since 2012, I have been researching and investing in the space and it has been fantastic to see the recent influx of interest, talent, and funding. Spurred largely by the latest in a series of crypto-bubbles, there is so much buzz surrounding blockchain. Every day, countless medium and twitter posts, and now consulting reports, are examining how blockchain can revolutionise a particular industry and/or process.
It is my belief that the most significant value of the technology is its ability to decentralise currency, displacing the need for a central and controlling authority. This may or may not end up being Bitcoin. At the moment, many see holding Bitcoin as a hedge against a severe shock to the worldwide economic system; an event far more likely than most perceive. In our current climate, where countries have extreme levels of debt and there are rising geopolitical tensions, impending mass unemployment from the job-displacing technology revolution will have a profoundly destabilising effect. Whether it is in the next five or fifty years, it is my opinion that hyperinflation of a major currency, such as the dollar, is inevitable. A digital currency, like Bitcoin, still allows us to transact over the internet and exchange value; this is a scenario significantly better than bartering with tangible assets.
When compared to its actual, current capability, the truth is that blockchain is over-hyped. While blockchain technology holds much promise, it will take years for working scalable applications to be created and for people to truly grasp their benefits.
A key concern is the lack of blockchain education. The level of blockchain knowledge in The Valley is years ahead of London. The meet-ups there are highly technical and filled with leading engineers, where the latest developments in the ecosystem are discussed. This is compared to the UK where public awareness of the technology underlying the buzzword Bitcoin is thus far limited. Even the UK government’s policy makers are only just beginning to grasp the potential implications of the technology — even as smaller nimbler states such as Estonia are already running secure ID and voting systems on blockchain. The public confusion is only strengthened by the myriad of projects claiming to offer world-changing solutions through their new token offering, despite there actually being barely a single functional distributed application (Dapp) in existence.
At London Blockchain Labs, we aim to make a meaningful impact through our focus on education. Our goal is to educate students, professionals, and policy-makers about blockchain technology, providing them with the technical knowledge and skills to harness blockchain’s potential ground-breaking applications. We host regular events, with world-class speakers, bringing together our diverse community of students and academics from LSE, UCL, and Imperial, as well as London’s pool of professionals.
The technology revolution is going to have such a profound effect on our lives and it is time to embrace it, learn and get involved!