Intelligence Squared: “Blockchain: Quantum leap forward or digital snake oil?” last night — Monday 2 July 2018

Intelligence Squared: “Blockchain: Quantum leap forward or digital snake oil?” last night — Monday 2 July 2018

 

The Intelligence Squared event last night was great fun! A very interesting and productive discussion.

It was held in the auditorium of the Emmanuel Centre, near Victoria tube station. I’m not sure of numbers, but it was pretty well attended.

The format was a panel discussion on the question: “Blockchain: Quantum leap forward or digital snake oil?” Moderator was Kamal Ahmed, the Economics Editor for BBC News. The other panelists were:

Vit and Primavera were notionally on the “quantum leap” side and Jamie and I on the “snake oil” side, though Jamie was surprisingly optimistic about the future of blockchain — i.e., that any of this could work or be useful — and Primavera acknowledged quite a lot of the practical problems and the hugely snake-oil nature of much blockchain promotion.

The discussion didn’t so much get into non-cryptocurrency blockchains (to the disappointment of a few attendees) — it started at cryptocurrencies and more or less stayed there.

I mostly talked about snake oil merchants, the cryptocurrency world and how blockchain marketing works. Vit and Jamie were very into the idea that cryptocurrencies were a huge threat to present governments, who would surely seek to crush them. I responded that this sort of claim was largely fairy stories that Bitcoiners tell themselves. I predicted cryptos would normalise into just another financial instrument with suitable regulation within a few years, given how financial regulation works in the real world.

Vit was heavily into the possibilities of smart contracts and DAOs to automate governance functionality. Primavera brought up The DAO as the obvious counterexample. “Smart contract” correctly translates as “computer program, but you can’t fix bugs.”

We were surprised and pleased that all the questioners asked straightforward questions, and there weren’t any speeches from the floor — remarkable for a blockchain event.

The event was recorded, and will be edited down to an hour for the Intelligence Squared podcast. Update: Podcast is up!

Twitter came to the party with photos! I need a more cheerful tie. (No, no crypto logos or “blockchain” stock photos, thanks.)

 

 



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