French Think Tanks Get Tutorial on Bitcoin’s Big Picture

Pete Rizzo
Apr 5, 2014 at 16:41 UTC
Updated Apr 24, 2014 at 16:53 UTC

InnoCherche, a France-based think tank dedicated to fostering innovation in the European nation, held an event composed of seven of its peer organisations on 3rd April as part of a discussion that touched on some of the biggest digital trends, including data visualization, electronic healthcare and digital currencies.

Onhand to inform the influential community members about the benefits of bitcoin and its available alternatives was local bitcoin trader and financial writer for the forthcoming newsletter BitcoinWeekly, Stanislas Marion.

Though his talk was limited to under a half hour, Marion reported that he was able to inform his local community about the benefits of bitcoin, including its use cases in digital contracts, the remittance market and for the underbanked.

Overall, Marion indicated that the panel members were not very educated about bitcoin, and as a result, he had to defend against the spectre of the now-defunct Japan-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox and the implications that digital currency exchanges were and are unsafe for the general consumer.

The result, however, was that Marion says he was able to engender new interest in this influential part of the French community, even if it only represents a small step for the ecosystem as a whole.

Said Marion:

“A few of them asked me to point them to some resources so that they could read up. None of them asked how to get involved though, they’re still in a discovery phase.”

Marion told CoinDesk that this is indicative of a change in tone occurring in France, where despite media articles that portray bitcoin as a pyramid scheme, the general public is beginning to slowly become more open-minded and interested in digital currency.

Structuring the talk

Before speaking at the InnoCherche event, Marion indicated that he spent considerable time determining how to best explain bitcoin and its potential to the assembled think tanks, even drawing feedback from the reddit community.

Marion notes that he started with the basics, touching on bitcoin’s distributed nature and the complexities of the general payments system before moving on to what he considered to be the three areas where innovation is most needed – security, usability and accessibility.

Explained Marion:

“Basically, here I wanted to shed the [fear, uncertainty and doubt] (FUD) about anonymous transactions that only suit drug dealers and terrorists and explain how bitcoin is no more anonymous than the Internet but actually offers something that is completely new [that provides] transparency as a competitive advantage for politicians, charities, companies, etc.”

Starting a discourse

Marion indicated that the think tank members provided some interesting feedback during the event’s Q&A session.

For instance, they asked Marion questions about how consumers could use bitcoin to become their own bank, how bitcoin mining worked and whether a company like Google would be able to quickly enter and dominate the market.

Unsurprisingly, it’s here where questions about Mt. Gox first surfaced.

Said Marion:

“I had to explain that exchanges and most wallet services are not built in a way that gives people access to their bitcoins and that securing private keys is hard.”

Bitcoin in France

Research from the US Law Library of Congress has indicated that France has been among the more active countries when it comes to debating bitcoin and its regulatory needs.

So far this year, the country’s Senate Finance Committee has held hearings on bitcoin, while the French Prudential Supervisory Authority has issued statements clarifying the status of bitcoin and bitcoin exchanges.

Still, Marion indicates that France has a long way to go before its ecosystem catches up with those abroad, stating:

“The main thing that’s slowing down France right now apart from its traditional risk aversion is the absence of clear regulatory guidelines like those that have been issued in the US, UK, etc.”

He added: “Clear guidelines would go a long way to bolster a new wave of merchants, consumers and businesses to work with bitcoin.”

Of course, this will necessitate that community members like Marion continue to generate awareness for this need.

Image credit: View of Eiffel Tower via Shutterestock

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.