A panel comprising of both bitcoin enthusiasts and sceptics discussed everything from awareness and education to regulation and entrepreneurship at a panel discussion held at London’s O2 venue on Saturday, 5th April.
Titled ‘How Bitcoin Can Fight Back Against the Hackers and Recent Setbacks’, this discussion took place before the much-awaited Bitcoin Fight Night kickboxing event, and was co-organised by CoinScrum, Firestartr.co and HardBTC.org.
Hosted by Chris Ellis, bitcoin enthusiast and co-founder of feathercoin, the goal was to have developers, philosophers and bankers engage in a dialogue about bitcoin.
Sadly, the event didn’t quite go as planned, with technical difficulties with a live stream from the US and the resulting delay shrinking the size of the panel from the original seven to four, which included the last minute enrolment of Simon Dixon from Bank to the Future.
The final lineup was as follows:
- Chris Ellis – co-founder of feathercoin
- Ben Dyson – bitcoin sceptic and founder of Positive Money
- Gautam Dhillon – founder of the Treasury Outsourcing Company and former employee of Lloyds Bank and JP Morgan Chase.
- Simon Dixon – CEO and co-founder of Bank to the Future
Although the panel was smaller than expected, Ellis, Dyson, Dhillon and Dixon were able to cover a wide array of subtopics from within the cryptocurrency realm.
The main theme of the debate was to address security concerns around bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In the shadow of the Mt. Gox fiasco, Ellis started off by mentioning that some people who had a good grasp of bitcoin and were smart investors also lost money on Mt. Gox:
“I think there is a lot of awareness (about bitcoin) right now, but there isn’t an awful lot of understanding.”
“I am not sure how much awareness there is,” countered Dyson. “I was reading a reddit thread of Mt. Gox horror stories and one guy lost his kids’ education fund and another borrowed his wife’s live savings to put into Mt. Gox. All this is typical bubble behaviour.”
“People need to understand that bitcoin is more like gold. If somebody takes cash out of your wallet, you aren’t going to get it back.”
Commented Dixon: “When you are dealing with banks, the bank takes care of security. But, peer to peer, the peer has to take care of security. So, it’s a challenge because people need to be aware of how to store [their coins].”
Expectations from the entrepreneurs
On the topic of increasing education on the pros and cons of bitcoin, Dixon said that it was the responsibility of entrepreneurs to solve issues that consumers don’t want to engage with.
“Bitcoin will be a success when people don’t have to know how it works. No one looks inside their iPhone and scrutinizes how it works. No one looks inside his or her TV or credit cards; they just work. When bitcoin becomes close to adoption, it will be because entrepreneurs have invested into things that make it so that you don’t need to know how it works. That’s one of the things that is holding back adoption right now.”
While some of the panellists were discussing how to increase the usability of bitcoin, Dyson was more vocal about his scepticism regarding the technology as a whole.
“There are design flaws in bitcoin,” said Dyson. “It’s a prototype and when you create a prototype, you quickly learn there are problems with that, so you change those and bring something new.”
“Here’s what bothers me about bitcoin: the first version of the Internet was basically connecting few different universities in California. Now, we are using a better design. With bitcoin, everyone is still stuck on first design and first version.”
That conversation turned into a discussion of various cryptocurrencies currently in existence. Ellis himself was involved in the early stages of creating feathercoin. He pointed out that it can take about a week for someone to study the code and create their own cryptocurrency.
Quoting Andreas Antonopoulos, Ellis said, “Asking ‘how many cryptocurrencies there would be’ is like asking how many bloggers there would be.”
“I think there will be a cryptocurrency for every idea and person that cares to try.”
Towards the end of the talk, the panel engaged with the audience and took questions from the attendees. Furthermore, there was allotted time for networking after the event.
Attendees of the meetup also had access to discounted tickets for the first Bitcoin Fight Night, where they could see an evening of kickboxing, as well as a stunt by broadcaster and MaxCoin founder Max Keiser who symbolically took on a fighter representing traditional currency (see the video).