At Consensus, we want to do more than just talk about the latest projects and use cases for blockchain technology. We want to focus in on fundamental questions that the use of this technology can help answer.

That’s why this year we’re introducing The Consensus Debate. Modelled after Intelligence Squared or Oxford-style formats, our goal is to create a platform for leading voices from inside and outside the industry to wrestle with topics that are, at their core, foundational and existential to our industry.

This year, with all of the talk around censorship, financial privacy, deplatforming, delisting, etc., the key question we will address bubbles down to this: should the ability to transact, be it on a public blockchain or elsewhere, be considered a human right?

On one hand, the basic freedoms embedded into the value system of the post-Enlightenment world (speech, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.) revolve around the principle that these rights are inalienable. On the other hand, it can be argued, they are conditional upon meeting certain conditions or obligations to society.

Where does transacting on a public blockchain fit on this spectrum? How is the ethos behind the early cypherpunks’ vision of bitcoin – the concept of transacting without need of a third-party intermediary that could potential censor or block the transaction – still relevant and applicable in today’s world?

It also opens to door to a plethora of new and related questions:

  • Is it possible to have an “Open Financial System” if access to it is restricted or conditional? Can restrictions be addressed by private governance or are they best left to governmental authorities?
  • To what extent should concerns for public safety supercede the individual’s right to engage in economic activity?
  • Is “censorship resistance” desirable and/or beneficial for society as a whole? Is “absolute financial privacy” desirable even if facilitates criminals and terrorists?
  • If undesirable participants (terrorists, criminals, polemic political groups) are to be prevented from engaging in economic activity via public blockchains, who should be responsible for policing this behavior? Governments? The “community”? Third party bounty hunters?

These are all highly important yet tricky questions, so that’s why we’ve convened a group of leading experts, practitioners and human rights advocates to discuss the ins and outs. Anderson Kill attorney and Crypto Twitter personality Stephen Palley will guide us through a rich intellectual and practical discussion featuring:

  • Amber Baldet, Co-Founder and CEO of Clovyr
  • Yaya Fanusie, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
  • Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Office, Human Rights Foundation
  • Vinay Gupta, CEO, Mattereum

What does a digital world mean for the future of commerce? How might developments in technology change our understanding of privacy and trade? And will we ever reach agreement on rights and responsibilities in a digital world?

Attend the panel to find out. If we don’t find all the answers, we can at least guarantee you’ll leave with good questions. We’ll see you at Consensus.


The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.