World Economic Forum Wraps Up Davos 2023 With Sparks

The WEF's annual meeting closed with a fiery panel on the role of regulators in crypto.

AccessTimeIconJan 19, 2023 at 10:58 p.m. UTC
Updated Jan 20, 2023 at 6:04 p.m. UTC
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DAVOS, Switzerland — The crypto world’s efforts to showcase a stable industry in front of the world’s elite wrapped up Thursday outside the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual conference in Davos.

And in a reversal from the rest of the week, the biggest event in Davos’ Thursday crypto calendar was without a doubt the main stage panel on crypto regulation featuring Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse; Mairead McGuinness, architect of the EU’s recent crypto law MiCA; Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, minister of state for artificial intelligence and the digital economy of the United Arab Emirates; and Klaas Knot, chair of the Financial Stability Board currently developing a global rulebook for the sector.

It was the only panel exclusively on crypto inside the main venue of the conference, and things got a little tense when Dutch central banker and chair of the Financial Stability Board Klaas Knot said many crypto assets were "offered from places that I would call sunny places for shady people."

Check out our more detailed coverage of what went down at that panel, and our exclusive interview with Mairead McGuinness on the prospects for international crypto laws.

More from Davos

The main venue of the conference also hosted a panel on the metaverse’s applications in industries – from port operations to bathroom refurbishment – just one day after some very different conceptions of the virtual online world were laid bare.

“Once my team put this [headset] on, they just didn't want to have to take it off,” said Åsa Tamsons, senior vice-president at telecoms company Ericsson, citing an unnamed executive who uses metaverse tech in construction.

Metaverse transformation of medicine means there may not even be hospitals in five years’ time, said Bernd Montag, CEO of Siemens Healthineers. If they’re not bullish on the tech, who will be?

Outside of the main venue, the industry continued bringing high-profile speakers to discuss their apparent interest in crypto. BlackRock Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldstein, speaking at a Circle event, pointed out that his company – one of the world’s largest asset managers – expanded its role in the crypto industry last year.

“We have been carefully watching, learning, trying to understand everything that's been going on for five years, 10 years, whatever the amount of time has been, but we've been consciously choosing to have a strategy, [though] not yet to implement the strategy,” Goldstein said. “What's interesting about the year 2022, which was a remarkable year in so many ways, and through so many lenses … interestingly, it was the year that we chose at BlackRock to actually start implementing our digital assets strategy, the strategy that we had written over the past couple of years.”

Another panel, hosted by the Filecoin Foundation, focused on the concept of “open science,” referring to the open-sourcing of vast amounts of data. The panelists, who represented the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), barely mentioned blockchain, focusing instead on the need to be able to easily share data collected through scientific research.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler was a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.

Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

Sandali Handagama

Sandali Handagama is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for policy and regulations, EMEA. She does not own any crypto.

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