Money20/20’s (Bit)coinWorld track resumed for a second day of action on Monday, delving more thoroughly into the nuances of the technology.
Interestingly, given the comparatively advanced subject matter, attendance at the bitcoin-themed seminars on Monday appeared higher than day one, with lines forming outside of the session room several times during the afternoon.
Beyond the seminar, bitcoin was an audible and frequent discussion topic among conference attendees, many of whom seemed eager to discuss the potential impact the technology could have on their respective industries.
The Internet of value
The first session brought together Circle founder and CEO Jeremy Allaire and Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam. Moderated by TechCrunch senior editor Jonathan Shieber, the seminar took a broad view of digital currency, placing the topic in context of global payments, finance and commerce.
In opening statements, both men struck a tone critical of bitcoin’s existing infrastructure, but framed the technology generally as a powerful way to transmit value or develop what Allaire called the “Internet of value exchange”.
“I think we know a better way – the path of the Internet,” he said. “Its core values, its core DNA, its core distributed systems that are built on the public commons, its deep respect for personal freedoms and privacy.”
Ehrsam, meanwhile, noted that one of the most significant aspects of digital currency is that it puts the transaction and assets in question under full control of the user. This, he said, carries its own associated benefits and risks, but nonetheless represents a big departure from existing payment vehicles.
“Bitcoin fundamentally rethinks [what we have today] as you are ultimately in control of your money and all transactions are final,” he added.
During a discussion segment that followed, both Allaire and Ehrsam shared their thoughts on the potential for bitcoin to be adopted by larger institutions, including banks.
Allaire said that he believes banks are a few years away from integrating parts or all of the technology underlying bitcoin, explaining:
“I think banks are reluctant to get into this market until they have a better understanding of the obligations under existing laws and regulations. I think they are reluctant to work with other companies if they are directly involved until they have that clarity.”
A legacy disrupted
A session entitled ‘Legacy Disruption and Mainstream Integration’ aimed to predict how bitcoin could be implemented within the broader financial system.
Hosted by Business Insider analyst John Heggestuen, the panel looked at both the transformative and disruptive impact digital currency can have on the world’s payment and finance ecosystems.
While all the participants presented their own vision for how digital currency integration could happen over the next few years, all agreed that the technology will be most beneficial when most consumers don’t even know they’re using it.
“I think, in hindsight, bitcoin will be seen as one of those transformative technologies,” Minor predicted.
O’Brien noted that he believes bitcoin “will become the backbone of finance”. Ludwin suggested that some consumers will be more aware than others that bitcoin is being used to facilitate their transitions, while Dahl added that, in the future, it will be “impossible” to identify all the areas in which blockchain-based transactions are happening.
Panelists urged finance institutions, including technology firms, to get involved with bitcoin even in an informal way. Ludwin said this sector has an interest in understanding the blockchain, ending with a call to action:
“Now is the time to start experimenting with building for bitcoin, with your platform.”
Winklevosses pitch for automatic economy
One of the final keynotes of day two was given by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the leaders of VC firm Winklevoss Capital and two of the most significant bitcoin investors. During the speech, the Winklevosses pitched what they see as both the future of money and of economic activity – the blockchain.
After walking through a truncated history of money and value exchange, the presentation moved into a conceptual framework for an automated economy. This, the brothers said, would include self-driving cars, delivery and commerce kiosk networks, and even forms of artificial life underpinned by blockchain behavior.
The framework proposed pushes the ‘crypto 2.0’ concept – that next-generation digital projects will be powered by programmed transactions – to cover almost every aspect of what the Winkelvosses called a sector of automated business, with agents behaving and creating economic activity all on their own.
Funding these mechanisms, they suggested, would be public campaigns that collect the microtransactions needed to fuel these “autonomous agents”.
As the two concluded:
“If we fix money, the computer bits are the limit.”
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