The impact of bitcoin and blockchain technology was on full display at the opening session of Exponential Finance, a conference that kicked off today to examine the intersection of artificial intelligence, blockchain and any other technology that benefits directly from its own improvements.
The idea behind Exponential Finance, hosted in New York by Singularity University, is that some technologies can be classified as "exponential" because of the way they are able to grow and improve more rapidly over time.
Called "exponential technology", the power of these largely nascent fields was demonstrated by Singularity University vice president of strategic relations, Amin Toufani, who discussed everything from the ability of artificial intelligence to save lives to how a "soft robot" could some day keep a human heart beating forever.
But it was at the intersection of artificial intelligence and blockchain where the professor who teaches what he calls "x-conomics" started to riff on the power of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Addressing a crowd of about 700 entrepreneurs, technologists and academics, Toufani described a future he sees where smart contracts executed on a blockchain clear up traffic jams and much more.
"What if your car offered some bitcoins to the car in front of you? And if and when the cars clear the lane the contract is settled? Enforcement is automatic, you do not need to trust the cars in front of you."
Co-founded in 2008 by Ray Kurzweil, now Google's director of engineering, and Peter Diamandis, founder and CEO of the XPrize, Singularity University's mission is to educate the world's leading thinkers on how technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchains can be used to solve humanity's challenges.
Since 2014, that work has included hosting the Exponential Finance conference, which views technology through a global lens, focusing on the kind of progress that might be enabled when the combined computing power of all humanity can be purchased in a cell phone for $1,000.
Focus on blockchain
Increasingly, blockchain has been taking center stage at Exponential Finance, though that may not be a surprise. Last year, Singularity University CEO Rob Nail explained to CoinDesk why he believes blockchain is a technology that's experiencing exponential growth.
But this year's event actually kicked off with a "technology bootcamp" designed to teach event attendees who come from a wide range of other industries how to accelerate the rate they integrate blockchain solutions into their products.
Throughout the three-day event, held at the Marriott Marquis hotel, other blockchain speakers on the agenda include Nuco CEO Matthew Spoke; Deloitte principal Eric Piscini; BitNation partner Toni Lane Casserly; vice chair of the board at Blockchain Canada, Anne Connelly; and DLT Education founder, Robert Schwentker.
With other events that cover energy, health and quantum computing, Singularity University professor Toufani argued that blockchain could end up being a financial layer that helps connect them all via increasingly sophisticated smart contracts.
"To have a contract with someone, you need to trust them, and you need to have an enforcement mechanism," said Toufani.
"Blockchain technology is showing us a path to where you can bypass both. Enforcement is automatic and your can trust you counterparty."
Image of Amin Toufani via Michael del Castillo