2018 NYC Fluidity summit analysis: A day of great perspectives and heated debate between crypto skeptics and luminaries
The Fluidity Summit, held at Weylin, Brooklyn on 10 May 2018 marked the kick-off of NYC Blockchain week. Held at the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank, the venue was befitting as enablers of blockchain technology “white boxed” the banking industry and discussed ways to disrupt and revolutionise the industry.
It was a star-studded event, wherein skeptics, scholars and luminaries like NYU Stern Professor and crypto skeptic, Nouriel Roubini, industry legend Joe Lubin (co-founder of Ethereum and CEO of ConsenSys), co-founder of Coindesk Ryan Selkis, CEO of Cornerstone Capital Erika Karp, Henri Arslanin from PwC and Jehan Chu, Managing Partner from Kinetic gathered for a day of insightful discussion.
Topics canvassed included the latest technical offerings, developments on the legal front and perspectives on institutional adoption of blockchain technology by enterprises, especially the financial sector. This was a timely discussion given this week’s launch of a cryptocurrency index with Bloomberg, the launch of Etherum futures in the UK (following the earlier launch of Bitcoin futures in 2015 and Ripple futures in 2016).
Having travelled over 3,000 miles across the ocean from Sydney to attend this event, I did not find myself disappointed. Two sessions stood out for me personally — the first was Jehan Chu’s views on the emerging role of Asia and how adoption across the region is fuelling the next wave of growth for crypto and secondly the heated debate between Prof. Nouriel Roubini and Joe Lubin on the merits and demerits of an increasing decentralised world.
Emerging role of Asia and how adoption across the region is fueling the next wave of growth for cryptocurrencies
Jehan Chu brought some compelling insights to the forum, which left no doubt that perhaps not only the next wave of growth, but perhaps also the next hub of innovation might emerge from one of the challenger economies in Asia. Evidence in support of his narrative included:
- Asia leading the way for corporate adoption: Companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have already confirmed adoption of blockchain technology within their core businesses. Traditional exchanges are already getting decentralised. Companies like Samsung and Huawei are considering building crypto wallets natively in their devices. Mega firms in logistics space are increasingly adopting block-chain & IoT technologies etc.
- Liquidity driving high volume trade: Largest liquidity among exchanges across the world can be spotted across Asia, wherein exchanges such as Binance and Bitfinex continue to set records for volume and value of transactions on a daily basis.
- Favourable regulatory environments supporting overall growth: Leading economies like Japan, Singapore, China, South-Korea, Thailand etc. were increasingly embracing the change brought about by blockchain and cryptocurrencies. While they seek ways to regulate so as to prevent corruption and anti-money laundering, regulatory regimes within these countries were keen not to stifle innovation and growth. Favourable regulatory environment is also laying the ground-work for some large cap funds and enterprises to make mega investments across the board.
Debate between Prof. Nouriel Roubini (Dr. Doom) and Joe Lubin on merits / demerits of an increasingly decentralised world
It seemed as if Prof. Nouriel has come well prepared for the kill. Starting out with a few comments on why the interest in decentralisation first came to gather interest (referring to disappointment and lack of trust in centralised financial institutions during the 2008 financial and housing crisis), he quickly jumped to viewpoints that while there is a need for more transparency and democratisation of the financial industry, human history was strained with examples of financial failures and crisis when economies were more decentralised, economic and financial crisis were also far more virulent. His view was that new fintech solutions such as Alipay, Wechat Pay, PayPal, Square and other payment technologies are perhaps true democratisers in the modern financial system.
He came on specially strong when he put forward strong arguments against crypto and blockchain technology being “decentralised”, key punches included:
- Mining is already centralised (viz. 25% of Bitcoin mining and 40% of Etherum mining already controlled by largest mining companies, with top 5 companies controlling more than 75% of all mining activity).
- 99% of all crypto transactions take place on centralised exchanges rather than through decentralised exchanges.
- Current ecosystem in its current shape and form was developed by a small cabal of computer scientists and not general population and the reference to DAO which allows code changes when something goes wrong.
- Cryptocurrency wealth is currently very concentrated and has not effectively delivered on the promise of promoting fair distribution of wealth.
Joe Lubin’s response was more centered on providing strong counterpoints to Dr. Roubini’s arguments as against defending each of the points raised by Dr. Nouriel. He pointed to an idyllic future where technologies such as Etherum, ConsenSys and Air Swap will work to create a more fairer, more transparent and more equal society. He also pointed towards the need to create a censorship-resistant platforms and brought to life numerous examples and use-cases wherein, what can now be achieved through properly leveraging block-chain technologies could never have been achieved before.
Bonnie Yiu is the co-founder of Consulere.io, a blockchain consulting company. She is also a governing member of the Decentralised Future Fund.
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