“This is either the biggest scam or the most undervalued asset in humanity. It could still be either way.” — quoted by Ronny Chieng, daily show comedian on stage with Joe Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum. “Other than you guys, no one knows what the fuck is going on”.
He might be right. Crypto enthousiast talk in language only invented in the past two years. “Blockchain, sidechains, atomic swaps, zk-snarks” are all words that are founded in this industry’s dictionary. Joe Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum, stresses that we believe crypto is everywhere around us, but it’s not. We gotta realize it’s still day 1.
Putting music, art, KwH, food tracking and any other form of transacting value on the blockchain might seem normal to some, another might hear the word blockchain for the first time. According to Joe “It’s up to smart software developers and good entrepreneurs now to make this into good UI’s and understandable concepts for the mainstream.”
So if you’re reading this and you feel you’ve missed out on this industry: don’t worry. It’s still day 1. Plenty of time to get involved. Perhaps by starting to continue reading my write-up of the Ethereal conference that was hosted in NY on May 11&12! All recorded speeches can also be found here.
The narrative of inclusion was a reoccurring topic at the summit. Who’s left behind and how can we this time, what the internet failed to do, actually use this technology for financial inclusion. This meant not only the ones without having financial access, but also protecting people with their data, IP rights to art & music and so on. And taking a step further, even trying to prevent fake news from hitting the newspapers.
I hear you thinking ‘this sounds cool but didn’t we already mention these examples for inclusion over the past years?’. You’re right. This Ethereal however, it’s not just talking. All the examples mentioned above are actual use cases built. You can find them by clicking on the hyperlinks in the words.
Not surprisingly, this came with critiques on the current way of organising our institutions. Sam Cassat, Chief Strategy at Consensys started his speech with a quote of Henry Ford, saying “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” Sam uses this quote to outline the history of money, how money was decoupled from any value a long time ago, and how it is only backed by the trust of the people: while it’s in the hands of only a few. He argues blockchain could be a changing factor by it being scarce and it not being able to be reprinted, like Bitcoin.
Ethereal echoed inclusion. However, there were also discussions about how to govern Ethereum. The need for better security models is on the rise with more and more applications being built. “Fundamental strong encryption is a requirement for these systems,” Baldet said, former blockchain lead at JP Morgan, adding that such cryptography should be open source and intensely vetted.
Vlad Zamfir, Ethereum protocol researcher, placed the emphasis on blockchain development being shaped by social consensus. “Once a blockchain developer’s project is live, they have no power, no influence, on whether it will succeed.” According to him, getting people to side with a specific fork is a responsibility held by the crypto-focused media.
Future with blockchain
Being the final keynote at the conference, high expectations were set for Ethereum’s co-founder Joe Lubin. This conference to him is not about just tech, it’s about preparing for the future by building the actual sharing economy. Not like Uber and Airbnb, which are “just service aggregators and intermediaries”. He argues for building so called “Protocol Based Open Platforms”. To give an example, Netflix is a two-sided market: the service provider and you. Facebook is three sided: the intermediary, the advertiser as the customer and you as the product. With blockchain we’re now building the Web 3.0: N-sided platforms on open markets, co-owned by all of us. All the help is needed to make that happen.
But wait, would it be for the above reasons that “no one knows what the fuck is going on”? I mean, the tech is in the end just the enabler for making this happen right? Well, the tech is maturing and we can tell by not talking about the ins and outs anymore, but about the actual use cases built on top. That’s refreshing to say the least, being in it for a while now. But just as you’re starting to think we’re moving from the crypto bubble into mainstream adoption, the conference ends by selling a Cryptokittie at an auction for 140k(!). And then you realize: it’s still day 1.