FTP041 - The Possibilities of the Blockchain
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Euvie: We’ve talked about the blockchain a few times before, but it’s really coming into the mainstream public eye lately and we wanted to do an episode discussing some of the industries that it’s going to disrupt, some of the use cases, the things that are interesting to use about this technology, and the future possibilities for it.

Mike: This episode is somewhat for newbies, but I think it’ll be interesting if you’re deeply involved in the blockchain [00:00:30], because it’s such a broad field and there’s so many different applications for it. Euvie and I have been involved in this for a couple of years now. Every time someone new comes onto the scene and starts brainstorming with their own ideas of what the blockchain could mean, we get new ideas. So, there’s new inspiration, opportunities with every new person who has ideas about this technology.

Euvie: I wanted to do a brief introduction of what the blockchain is for those who don’t know. It’s the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but there’s actually a lot more to it than money. Blockchain is basically [00:01:00] a public ledger that nobody owns. It’s maintained by the network, it’s a decentralized database so to speak. In a regular database information is stored on a centralized server somewhere, you know, in Google’s basement. But on the blockchain, information is stored on a public ledger and is duplicated across all the nodes that run the software.

In a traditional system, like in banking for example, transactions are verified by a middle man, a trusted third party like the bank. [00:01:30] Whereas, on the blockchain transactions are verified by multiple nodes independently. So, it’s very difficult to falsify or remove transactions once they’ve been made. So, in this way, blockchain is a technology-based trust system that removes the need for middle men. And that means that it has application in many, many different parts of our society, not just in finance.

In the last year or so, a lot of banks and major companies have come on board with the blockchain, and they’re building their own blockchain based applications. [00:02:00] Some governments are talking about adopting it, for example Dubai is planning to put all of its government documents on the blockchain by 2020. I heard Ukraine is experimenting with the blockchain. I think there’s something being done in Singapore, as well. There have also been a lot of so called ICOs, or initial coin offerings, which is basically the blockchains version of crowdfunding for new companies and projects.

There are a lot of people buying cryptocurrencies speculatively right now, but there’s also a lot of stuff that’s being built [00:02:30] with this technology. So, the excitement is perpetuated by that also. That said, it’s still very early. The blockchain is still in its adolescence and the technology is not perfectly ironed out, it’s not perfectly user-friendly. But it still has a lot of promise.

Mike: Before we get into this episode I just want to say a quick thank you to our sponsor, Eternity. They’re building a new scalable blockchain technology that has many applications in industries like finance, insurance, supply chain management, gaming, and innovative things. They had a successful [00:03:00] first part of a contribution campaign that began in April, and raised 5.5 million dollars in cryptocurrency. And they’re now in their second part of the campaign and, so far, they’ve raised over 10 million dollars for this phase.

So, if you miss the first half and you still want to participate you can go to futurethinkers.org/AE to watch the interviews that we did with them in Bucharest, and then you can go to their website from there to learn more about their technology and the contribution campaign. As well, Euvie and I are just finishing up a video about the 19 industries that the blockchain will disrupt. [00:03:30] We’re going to be launching that probably within the week and you can check that out on our Facebook page or any of our other channels, it’ll be posted pretty much everywhere. So, check that out. If you want to know any other resources about the blockchain, we’re going to post a whole bunch of links and everything in the show notes of this episode, which will be at futurethinkers.org/41. Hope you enjoy the show.

Welcome to futurethinkers.org, a podcast about the evolution of technology, society, and consciousness. I’m Mike Gilliland.

Euvie: And I’m Euvie Ivanova.

Mike: To get notified of new podcasts [00:04:00] and videos, got to futurethinkers.org and subscribe to our mailing list. You can also find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and YouTube.

Euvie: If you like what we do and you want to help us make more podcasts and videos, give us a like or review, share it with your friends and consider becoming a patron. Go to Patreon.com/futurethinkers.

Mike: Last but not least, if you want to get access to more content, [00:04:30] hidden episodes, or if you just want to chat with us and previous guests, then check out our community at community.futurethinkers.org. Bitcoin and Ethereum. Holy shit, the value has been insane the last couple of weeks.

Euvie: Yeah. Blockchain is a big hype recently.

Mike: So, Bitcoin I think you were saying in some Asian markets it was trading at over $3,000.

Euvie: Yeah. And on Kraken it was at $2,700 [00:05:00] per Bitcoin. And Ether was briefly over $200 US.

Mike: You know, we recorded that episode a couple of years ago with Vitalik, the founder of Ethereum. Back then they hadn’t even released the software and now it’s a multi-billion-dollar market cap. And it’s pretty interesting what’s happening lately, but there’s a lot of people saying that there’s a lot of hype and that it’s sort of overvalued and this whole thing is crazy, it’s not real, it’s a ponzi scheme. So, let’s talk about that. Is this real? Is it a bubble?

Euvie: [00:05:30] Yeah, it’s an interesting question, because a bubble implies that the value at which something is traded exceeds its actual value. I think that’s debatable, because the tokens, like Ether and Bitcoin, are a mathematical representation of something. They don’t actually represent anything physical. So, their value is what people think it is.

Mike: And there’s a finite supply. Well, it’s programmed in a way that new coins are minted over time, [00:06:00] but it gets harder and harder and slower and slower to mint new coins. And then eventually it just stops. The coin especially, I don’t know about Ethereum specifically.

Euvie: Bitcoins are limited. So, there’s a finite number of bitcoins that will ever be released, but I don’t think that’s the case for Ether. It’s not like US dollars or any other fiat money where the government can decide to just print more money if they are, you know, gearing up for another war or whatnot.

Mike: So, this industry has attracted a lot of weird people and diverse people, [00:06:30] from anarchists, to bankers, to entrepreneurs.

Euvie: To people who are looking to create global change.

Mike: Yes.

Euvie: And that’s the part of the blockchain that interests us. I mean, the technology itself is agnostic always. Technology is just a tool and how you use it is up to you, you can use it for good or for evil or for making money or for any number of things.

Mike: We’ve obviously been doing a lot more stuff involved in the blockchain. We’ve been sponsored by Eternity. We did a talk at Brightlands in the Netherlands. [00:07:00] We’ve done a talk at the Zeitgeist conference in Australia. So, yeah, we’re obviously quite on board with this movement. But I think a lot of people are just kind of sniffing this out for the first time. I think you know the common questions they have for you, like what is it? How does it work? Why should I get involved? Should I get involved? That sort of thing. So, what do you have to say to people who are just kind of getting into this for the first time?

Euvie: I would say to educate yourself, first of all. There’s more and more information out there about how the blockchain works [00:07:30] and what kind of applications it can have in the future, and what the potential is. I know a lot of people are investing into it just for speculative reasons, because if you look at the curve of the value of any crypto token, almost any, it’s generally going up. I mean, I’m not your investment advisor, so I can’t say anything about that but it makes sense that it would be attracting people for that reason.

But I think there are a lot of other reasons why the blockchain is interesting. I guess in this episode we’ll talk about some of the industries [00:08:00] that it’s going to disrupt, or will likely disrupt, or is already disrupting. And what kind of use cases there are for the blockchain. What do you find exciting about it? What do you think are the most interesting use cases?

Mike: Well, I watched this talk, it was a Ted Talk, a while ago. I forget the guy but I’ll post his name and the video in the show notes. And he talked about the four pillars of a decentralized society, and they were communication, law, finance, and production. These four things are ready for disruption [00:08:30] from the blockchain. Just from personal experience, that makes me most excited for this, is communication. Because I was in Turkey for about three months earlier this year and during some of the attacks that happened this year there would be blackouts on Facebook and Twitter. And this is the kind of thing that, you know, government Erdoğan wants to censor the events and make sure people don’t, like, they’re ignorant to certain aspects of the events, they don’t want the outside world to be aware of what’s happening, as well.

It’s very predictable. An attack happens, [00:09:00] Twitter and Facebook stop working. I was there, I witnessed this. Having a version of Twitter or Facebook that’s resistant to outages and censorship is an incredible thing, and that’s something we just don’t have right now.

Euvie: So, you know, right now, Facebook is owned by a company. The database is on a server somewhere, it’s centralized. Somebody owns the access, somebody has the keys to it and cane decide what happens to it. They can change the algorithm whenever they feel like it, or they can…

Mike: Sell your data.

Euvie: [00:09:30] Shut down your account. Let’s say if the government pressures them to shut down certain people’s accounts or spy on certain people, that can be done.

Mike: Yeah, give the data to a government and if the government is engaging in some nefarious activities, blackmailing people who are in positions of power that they want to move that chest piece they can sort of blackmail them with the data that they have from various social media networks. So, that’s one thing that could potentially be stopped or a lot stronger resistance would be there.

Euvie: What’s really interesting [00:10:00] about the blockchain is that you can create certain types of behaviour that doesn’t depend on people’s compliance, it’s mathematically programmed. That’s what’s really interesting about it. For example, if you have an election and it happens on the blockchain, it’s nearly impossible to falsify the results.

Mike: There’s also the access to microfinance from people in the West, or from people with money who want to invest in third word countries, and just average people with a bit of extra income can, say, take, you know, that $1,000 and have these micro-investments that are useful [00:10:30] to people, actually have a good return on investment that the people with higher capital are actually not even interested in doing. Like, $1,000 would be enough for someone in Africa to start their business and launch products or services, and be actually like a boom to society.

Tiny amount of money and that money can get repaid quite quickly. It often does get repaid more reliably than loans that are given out in the West. Interesting, right? It sort of democratizes access to finance, brings the lower and middle class together [00:11:00] to be invested in each other.

Euvie: Another thing that can be done is you can take these sharing economy apps that have become really popular in the recent years, except they’re still owned by a centralized company, by a corporation that has its own agenda. Which is, you know, pleasing shareholders. Except, you can do them in a decentralized way. So, people can still do things peer to peer, they can sell microservices to each other peer to peer.

Like, you could have a decentralized version of Uber [00:11:30] or Airbnb, and contracts between people wouldn’t be enforced by the centralized entity they would just be, they’re mathematically written into the system. And if there is any kind of disagreement, then it can also be solved in a decentralized way. This way, you reduce fees, you know. Airbnb, for example, takes very large fees. If you don’t have shareholders to please then you don’t really need that anymore.

Mike: I always say it removes the incentives to become middle men and defend your position as the owner of a platform. [00:12:00] If the platform is owned by the people, the people will develop the platform in a way that is best for the people. You know, I just read a report recently about Uber experimenting with different fee structures for connecting rich neighbourhood together. So, you might actually think, “Okay, well, that’s a good thing. Charge the rich people more,” but actually that will trickle down to the masses very quickly.

They want to look at where you’re from, how affluent people are in your neighbourhood, and charge you more based off of where you’re going. That’s crazy. That’s not based on market [00:12:30] conditions. That’s not based off of demand and supply and that sort of stuff. That’s just Uber trying to maximise its profit.

Euvie: Yeah.

Mike: And it doesn’t give a shit about the people that it’s doing this to. And especially when, you know, Uber starts winning battles over cab companies and other ride sharing apps, once again we have another tech giant who’s monopolized an industry. In this case, they’re cheaper than taxis currently, but that’s not going to last forever especially after they’ve destroyed all the taxi companies. So, in an actual decentralized version of this, [00:13:00] where the people are maintaining the software, it’s good for everybody that the cost of transactions within the system decreases at all times. We’re not trying to maximise profit, we’re trying to maximise access for people.

And in this sense, it’s actually totally perfectly fine to not have competition, to have one app monopolizing the system because it’s a monopoly that’s owned by everybody and everyone agrees that it’s good for the people. So, yeah, obviously taxi companies would fight against that, people in positions [00:13:30] of power and profit are going to be fighting against these systems. But they’re not actually going to be able to win, that’s another interesting thing. These things cannot be shut down. You know, for example, if like Uber wanted to make a blockchain version, Uber is still liable, Uber is still the one that can be shut down by the government and by law and all of the stuff by, say, cab companies who are lobbying against Uber and getting them kicked out.

So, that can still be possible, Uber can be shut down. A decentralized version of Uber that is owned by everybody cannot be shut down. It’s on the internet, [00:14:00] it’s distributed, and it’s resistant to censorship. That’s a perfect type of app that is good for the people, resistant to the centralized institution, resistant to government censorship.

Euvie: Yeah, it’s so funny whenever I see banks trying to say, “We should ban Bitcoin.” Good luck, it’s not going to happen. It’s not owned by anybody.

Mike: It’s an example of a current system, current technology that is resistant to change and that is actually failing to evolve. These industries that are resistant [00:14:30] are only going to strengthen the benefits of these independent decentralized system, because they just simply can’t compete. They can’t compete on margins, they can’t compete on speed, on efficiency, all of this stuff. On a capitalistic market, the decentralized entity wins because profit margins are next to nothing.

Euvie: Yes, as long as it’s usable, as long as it’s user-friendly, as long as it’s convenient, because, you know, an average person is not going to [00:15:00] care what kind of technology is behind it. They’re not going to care that it’s decentralized and resistant to, you know, all these things, as long as it’s useful.

Mike: That’s a really good point and that’s another benefit to these systems, is that entrepreneurs can actually still get rich by playing in the blockchain or decentralization space because they can do crowd sale and raise funds to build the software. And you can have your expert user interface developers and your marketers and all of this stuff. [00:15:30] You can have your expert developers build the software, still get rich, and still not own the software. That’s an incredible thing, that’s an incredible advantage that like any kid in his basement can build a new blockchain app and make a bunch of money from it, but still not be taking these exorbitant fees of every transactions. There’s still the capitalistic incentive and yet, the organization has become independent from the individuals because they don’t own it anymore.

Euvie: Yeah, it’s a completely different way of looking at it. It’s interesting. You basically [00:16:00] get paid to make something but you don’t get to control it after it’s made.

Mike: Exactly. Yeah. So, I can hear the questions now of like, “Okay, well how do you maintain something? How do you update it?”

Euvie: Well, one of the ways that it’s been done in the blockchain industry so far is by having a non-profit foundation that’s responsible for maintaining the software. The way that blockchain is made is that you can’t, you know, a centralized entity can’t just update the software because they decide to. [00:16:30] The whole network has to agree. So, depending on the algorithm, you know, it has to be, let’s say, at least 51 percent of nodes that agree that this update should happen. And so, basically if the majority of the network adopts the new system then that’s the system that gets to live. And you can do this on a, you know, case by case basis. If the community agrees that some change needs to happen, the non-profit foundation can crowd source the development of this new change or any person [00:17:00] can build a new version of the software and propose it.

And if the majority of the network adopts this new software, then that’s the software that gets used after that. So, what are some other industries that are interesting for you in this?

Mike: Well, this brings up the conversation that we had with Vince Meens a while back about the really crazy, futuristic applications of the blockchain. Like, he’s talking about cars paying roads that they drive on for the maintenance of the roads. Like, that’s an interesting idea. Probably the world computer idea, where we have data that is [00:17:30] verified and accessible to everybody. And a computer that is open source and everyone can be developing modules for it, I think that’s pretty cool. The fact that we would no longer need to be developing software from scratch we could, instead, use blocks of software that are already published to the blockchain. I think that becomes really, really interesting for developers.

Euvie: And just for the sake of clarity, the blocks that you’re talking about are not the same blocks.

Mike: Not the blockchain, yeah.

Euvie: The blockchain blocks, just like modules or components [00:18:00] basically.

Mike: Yeah. If you find some sort of problem that needs to be solved and you’re a developer, you can just like write the code for that specific problem, plug it into the existing blockchain if everyone agrees that that thing solves the problem, then great you can launch it. There’s also a concept of bounties for software developers. So, someone detects a problem, they release a bounty, or the network agrees this project or this solution is worth this much Ether or Bitcoin or whatever, and someone can put up their hand and develop the software [00:18:30] and then the community can confirm that the software works and then that person gets automatically paid.

So, that’s pretty cool, too. Like it would be a great way to just sort of pick up some extra cash and then benefit the entire network at the same time. So, I like that idea a lot. Supply chain management would be interesting, as well, so that you can confirm that your coffee is fair trade and that it’s taking the routes that make sense along the supply chain to your front door. You can ensure that people are treated fairly in these organizations, [00:19:00] that the product is linked to what you’re buying and what the marketing says the product is. So, that’s another one.

Euvie: Right, yeah. You can track any product from its origin. If you have sensors installed on everything, and if you have data that’s being fed into the blockchain through something like an oracle, you can basically see what kind of impact each product has and what resources it uses, what labour it uses, where it comes from. You can even track the carbon footprint of products, you can see if a product is actually [00:19:30] overall good for the environment or not. You know, for example, people are obsessed with avocados in the Western world. Let’s say they come from South America and you have this one avocado traveling thousands of kilometres and the being sold for $1. And you can see the real impact of things. In this way it can be a lot more transparent.

Mike: This brings up another question of like any type of organization that is creating products or services that are considered to be for the public good, like food. We should all have the right [00:20:00] and access to have food and water and shelter. Organizations that are build around these public needs shouldn’t have a profit incentive, they should have an efficiency incentive and making a product as good as possible. So, a company, I use the word company loosely. An organization that is crowd funded on the blockchain by the people interested in seeing this organization build, is now incentivised because it’s publicly owned to produce the best product possible that lasts [00:20:30] as long as possible so no more planned obsolescence, Apple.

And then you have reduced profit margins, because no one needs to make a profit. The return on investment that people get is the token that represents the final product. So, if I went and fund the avocado decentralized organization to make an avocado farm, the money that I’ve invested in them to get them started is now represented as avocado coin that I own. And I can buy future avocados using that coin at a discounted price. [00:21:00] So, I’m incentivized to fund them because I get the product at a discounted price, they get to make their money, build the organization and then that organization is technically owned by all the people that have avocado tokens, right?

And the same thing could be swapped out with like phones. Imagine all the technology now that is produced that on the day that your warranty expires, the thing breaks. I say Apple, because I’m pissed off that I’ve had to replace my $100 cable 3 times already, or that the thing keeps breaking. [00:21:30] That sort of incentive for greed and profit maximization disappears in the blockchain. That is like fucking, I’m ecstatic about that. That is a beautiful thing. Eliminate waste and make products better and cheaper.

Euvie: At least if it’s done properly. Because I think a lot of companies right now are hearing about the blockchain and then they allocate a budget and say, “Okay, guys, we need to do something blockchainy because this is the cool thing to do now.” [00:22:00] And then they develop some stupid private blockchain that isn’t actually a real blockchain, it’s just blockchainy.

Mike: That’s true, I mean there’s a lot of hype. And then there’s actually people who are trying to build software and build products and use that token sale money to actually release something. So, I think there definitely are fast movers in this space, and we need to try and to our due diligence as independent investors. But I don’t think this is going away, and there is an opportunity for people who are in this space [00:22:30] legitimately trying to build something to use that ICO money in a very positive way. So, we can’t just like cut this whole thing off, right?

Euvie: Yeah, it’s still very early days and the technology’s developing faster than the regulations can keep up with it and people are still figuring out as they go how this works, but I think that this is very promising, you know, just like with Kickstarter, some products didn’t end up getting delivered or, you know, the manufacturers ran into problems and they couldn’t make the thing [00:23:00] as good as they promised. And this is normal. It’s just early days and it’s risky, but it doesn’t mean that legitimate things aren’t being built. They absolutely are.

Mike: There could be so many other things, too, that could replace government systems that are funded by society and built by society and have nothing to do with the government like road maintenance. If your government, if your municipality is not maintaining the roads in your area, you could do a road coin or road token sale and say, “Look, we want to raise funds to fix the roads in our neighbourhood.” And [00:23:30] everyone in the neighbourhood could contribute to that, make that happen. Obviously, there’s a lot of problems with that, what if some people don’t want to participate etcetera, etcetera.

You could also build technology on top of that where people who drive on that road are automatically taxed, that sort of thing, you know, along the lines of what Vince Meens said in a previous episode. So, I think the first step is probably decentralizing and putting on the blockchain all of the creators of hardware and technology in the world, and making decentralized versions of what we’ve mentioned. [00:24:00] Communication and production. Once that’s done, then we have the power and control to ensure that everyone in the community’s participating in a way that’s, you know, good for everybody.

Euvie: Yeah, speaking of that actually, I just remembered. So, you know solar panels are becoming very popular lately, so now a lot of people have their own source of power but they still have to hook up to the public grid and what ends up happening is that they’re selling power from their own solar panel to the public grid and then buying it back at a fixed rate. Which is kind of ridiculous [00:24:30] to me.

Mike: Yeah, that’s insane.

Euvie: Yeah. Instead, why not have a decentralized grid where people can sell their energy to their neighbours peer to peer, without an intermediary, and they can set their own rate, whatever they want.

Mike: Yeah, or have it automatically managed by the software and, you know, people can buy it. It becomes a market.

Euvie: Yeah, based on supply and demand or whatever.

Mike: Everyone can create their own market with these tokens, that’s the other thing. So, you know, when people talk about like, “Another blockchain, this coin is competing with this coin.” [00:25:00] Like, do you really believe Bitcoin’s competing with Ethereum?

Euvie: No.

Mike: Yeah. Do you think avocado coin is going to be competing with Ethereum? It’s an interesting though experiment, right? Because every product, every service, every type of transaction can have its own coin that’s publicly tradable. That’s the other cool thing about this. Any of these coins, if they represent value in the real world, can be put on a market quite easily. The market is also decentralized and they can be traded. So, it’s like if I want discounted avocados [00:25:30] I can buy a whole bunch of avocado coin and then I get my avocado and then the person who had an excess of avocado coins can offload those coins and get equivalent market value for them. So, it’s actually like a fairly trackable and transparent system that, you know, allows you to trade goods without actually having the goods, but the coin is linked to the goods.

Euvie: Yeah, and it doesn’t have to be complicated either, you know. Because I can hear the criticism in my head now, “Well, what if I have 1,000 [00:26:00] of these coins and I need avocado coin for avocados and toilet paper coin for toilet paper and, you know, whatever.” Well, it could be automatic. You don’t have to manage all these different coins. You have them in your digital wallet and, you know, based on the rate of the days it’s automatically traded with whatever you have if that’s what you want.

Mike: Yeah, the whole idea with every product or service having its own coin is that you’re incentivised to return the coin to the actual creator of the product. So, it just allows financing [00:26:30] for these new organizations to be a lot easier and a lot more accessible. You start your avocado organization, you sell your avocado coins, the people who finance it get the benefit. That’s really the main idea here.

Euvie: Another thing that I’m really interested in is creators being able to get paid for their work directly from their fans and early supporters. And the early supporters being incentivised for supporting their favourite creators. So, what you can do is if you’re an early fan [00:27:00] of, you know, say, a musician, you could purchase their coin, you know, whatever band coin and then as the musician gets more famous, the value of this coin goes up because more people want it. You know, and more people use it to buy their albums or go to their shows and you as the fan of this band become rewarded in the future for being an early adopter because the value of the coin goes up.

Mike: That’s an excellent point. I was thinking about this before when we were kind of toying around with making [00:27:30] a Future Thinkers coin. It’s like, okay, what’s the value of that? What is it tied to? Well, it’s the same thing as the avocado coin, it just represents one small thing of value where you don’t need to raise millions upon millions of dollars. It’s just people who want to see us be successful, you know, or bands, or like any type of creative people can just invest early and give them some money and then use that token to purchase whatever future goods they make or courses or blah blah blah.

So, it’s actually, it makes a lot more sense, it’s just that because of the nature of [00:28:00] this market right now and all the hype, people are kind of like, “No one’s going to buy an X band coin.” Well, actually, they probably will. The fans of that band would want to actually have a cryptocurrency, a token that’s like band coin. Like, that’d be kind of cool. You know, especially as like in these industries where everything’s been digitized now for several years, you’re not buying CDs or records anymore. You’re actually just buying digital files. So, if you have a limited edition digital blockchain token [00:28:30] that no one else has and there is a limited supply of it and it’s something that is tied to you, and it’s not a copy, it’s not a digital file that you have a copy of. It’s a legitimate unique unit.

Euvie: And it’s spendable.

Mike: Yeah, it’s like playing cards or something. You have a unique rookie card of some famous baseball player.

Euvie: Yeah, and especially if it’s easy enough for people to use it. And yeah, of course, early uber geeks will go through the pain of [00:29:00] getting these tokens even if it’s inconvenient, but ultimately for mass adoption you need it to be easy. And it is happening, you know. It’s easier and easier to get Bitcoin, for example.

Mike: And we’re really saying that because we’re surrounded by people in this industry and there’s so little thought about like how something should be done, rather than whether it can be done. That’s just a big opportunity. I would say for anyone listening to this who’s, you know, an entrepreneur or a designer or anything like that, there’s actually a giant opportunity not just for developers in this space.

Euvie: Yeah, that’s a great point actually. [00:29:30] After our talk in the Netherlands, somebody came up me after and said, “Well, I have a background in business development, you know, I have a Masters degree in this. How can I participate in this other than just buying tokens?” And I said, “Oh my God, people are like you are so needed.” It’s simply a different kind of mindset and a different kind of skillset. It takes more than an engineer to build a company and that’s what you need, you need people who know how to build companies. Who can think about users, who can think about stakeholders, who can think [00:30:00] about how this thing is going to function in a society. Like where the value of things are. You need people like that, it’s not just about, “How is the technology going to function?” There’s so much more to it.

Mike: Exactly. I think a lot of these blockchain CEOs are like people developing a technology that all of a sudden envision themselves as the next Steve Jobs of this industry are way over their heads when they run into the actual roles and responsibilities of actual companies. And that’s one thing I would say to [00:30:30] the engineers, as well, like don’t try and be the Steve Jobs of this. You’re way better off trying to be the Wozniacki. Build the, you know, use your skills and build the software. You’re still probably going to get rich in the token sale if you’re actually going to do that. But don’t think that as the engineer you’re going to be able to run the company, because those are completely different skillsets.

Euvie: And this is interesting actually, because I see this changing. That more non-techy people are coming into the blockchain space and actually [00:31:00] thinking about these things like usability and stakeholders and value of different things other than the technology itself.

Mike: Right. The problem is is that you need to actually dive into this technology for several hours to understand it as a layman or a person who doesn’t get this. Like, it is a complicated subject. What does validation of transaction mean? What is proof of work? What is proof of stake? What is an oracle? What is a state channel? Like, this stuff is complicated. It has to be explained and researched. [00:31:30] But I promise you, there’s a click moment where you’re like, “Oh my God, I see the use case in my industry. I see the use case in so many other industries.” And all of a sudden from that point you’re off to the races. But the main thing to simplify this whole concept is the blockchain is a distributed, decentralized, synchronized database. So, if you find yourself using the word blockchain interchangeably with database then I think you probably don’t understand the real benefits of the blockchain, because, you know, having a centralized database, [00:32:00] just use MySQL, use a regular database. If you want to remove incentives from monopolization and middle men, and if you want to distribute information and make it transparent, then this is a way that the blockchain can be of use.

Euvie: Yeah. Another thing is, yeah, it’s important to understand what the blockchain does, but as an entrepreneur or as a creative person, you don’t have to be super technical. As long as you get the basics of how it works, I think that’s enough. Like, you don’t think about what [00:32:30] kind of technology’s behind your computer, it just works.

Mike: Or the internet, or browsing or any of that stuff, yeah. If it works, it works.

Euvie: Yeah.

Mike: So, conceptually it’s important just to think about decentralization and access instead of ownership.

Euvie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a big one.

Mike: So, I think engineers need to be thinking a lot more about how to make this technology usable for everybody. And, in that sense, like having a platform where you can launch a token, or launch a decentralized organization. And there’s [00:33:00] frameworks, and there’s pre-built software and all you have to do is go launch, click a button. That’s something that more and more people are going to want and it’s really a required step for mass adoption.

Euvie: Yup.

Mike: So, you know, I’m looking at you Eternity.

Euvie: Yeah, right. So, this is something we talked about at our presentation in the Netherlands, that right now a lot of people are thinking about these complicated use cases for the blockchain, and that’s great. But right now, the time is to build platforms. It’s to build the kind of base applications, [00:33:30] you know, the building blocks like we talked with Vince that other people can later use and put together into more complex applications. Like, right now, we’re building the DNA of the blockchain systems. We’re not yet building complex organisms. We’re not yet building an elephant. Yeah, it’s just about DNA at this point.

Mike: So, how can the average person get involved at this step?

Euvie: Well, I think you can partner with engineers who are actually building the technology. All kinds of people are needed to build companies [00:34:00] and organizations.

Mike: Right. This reminds me of a conversation I was having with our friend Chris the other day, and he was asking, like he’s a marketer and, you know, he’s looking for sort of his next project to work on and I was like, “Man, you’ve got to get involved in blockchain.” And he was like, “Well, I don’t know about this stuff. I don’t really have experience. I’m not a blockchain dev.” I’m like, “Well, I know you. You’re a marketer. You actually have tons of opportunity to jump into this space. Like, imagine partnering up with a bunch of blockchain engineers and saying like, ‘Look, I will present [00:34:30] you with data of how people are using your product.’ Or, you know, any number of things. Creating marketing funnels, that sort of stuff.” Like, marketers have plenty of opportunity. User interface designers have plenty of opportunity. A kid in his basement who sees a problem that could be solved by blockchain could attract the people to him or her, to build the software, create an ICO, and, you know, you’re off to the races.

Euvie: I think you also have to do things in the right way. ICOs, at least in the [00:35:00] States, are in a regulatory grey zone.

Mike: Yeah, where you’re liable.

Euvie: Yes. The way that it looks often is that you’re offering shares in a company to people, especially if you’re promising returns.

Mike: And when you don’t go through the regulatory channels, have a proper company where your liability is limited, then you’re actually extremely liable if anything goes wrong, if your software gets hacked. You’re the one that’s liable because you don’t have an organization that protects you. Countries like the United States [00:35:30] who are trying to crack down on this stuff and prevent it, because they see it as a threat, I mean, what do you think the citizens are going to have to do to get involved if their country is limiting or attempting to limit their access to it? That’s a big question.

Euvie: Yeah, it’s difficult. Because on one hand, the regulatory systems are very old, the judicial and the governmental systems in a lot of the Western world are 500 years old. So, it’s a question of [00:36:00] what actually makes sense in this new world. Should we be going by the old rules, or should we be making new rules?

Mike: That’s something that the United States has to face at some point. That’s why we see a shift to China with innovation, especially with artificial intelligence and any of these other futuristic ground breaking and risky technologies, we see the innovation moving to other countries. Because of the regulatory stance of governments like the United States.

Euvie: Right. If it’s too difficult to innovate, people will go somewhere else.

Mike: Exactly. And this is, [00:36:30] it’s a really funny example of Atlas Shrugged but it’s pretty accurate at the moment. I guess what I’m trying to say is, like, a message to the regulators. Don’t fight this. Support it. Because it’s good for your people, the people you’re supposedly there to try and help.

Euvie: I think it’s actually helping that the big industries are starting to come on board, because if the, let’s say, big banks are using blockchain, they’re going to lobby for the blockchains to become legally recognized and for smart contracts to be legally binding and things like that.

Mike: Yup, that’s right. [00:37:00] That’s a really positive sign, actually. A little scary that they would be the ones doing that, but, you know, attempting to lead innovation. But it’s also a good sign.

Euvie: And it’s really strange for people who are coming into the blockchain with this kind of anarchist mindset that now it’s getting adopted by big industry and by some governments, like the big boys are coming into this league and it’s not just some fringe thing anymore. But that’s how it always is. You know, there’s the early adopters and then there’s the early majority and then it [00:37:30] blows up and everybody’s using it.

Mike: So, I have one final thing I’d like to talk about, which is I just watched a video the other day where Mark Zuckerberg came out and had this big speech about a need for basic income. And other big tech giants like Elon Musk and…

Euvie: Peter Thiel I think.

Mike: Peter Thiel, that’s right, yeah. Have come out in support of a basic income for people, because job automation is increasing so these guys are coming out in support. And Mark Zuckerberg even said like, “People like me should pay for it.” Wow. [00:38:00] That’s an incredible thing to say. That’s the next stage for our entire civilization to put people before companies and technology and actually give people a decent standard of living, whether they’re working or not, because the jobs simply aren’t there. That’s probably the last and most important thing for a transition stage that needs to happen. A transition stage I should say to a post-capitalistic society. And the blockchain happens to be the perfect operating system for a global [00:38:30] basic income system.

Euvie: Yeah. So, we did an episode with Scott Santens a while ago talking about, and I think he very clearly explained why we need a basic income, and answered a lot of the common criticisms against basic income and explained what some of the ways there are that we can pay for it. So, we’ll put a link in the show notes for that one and we don’t have to get into the details here. But the reason why blockchain could be a great technology to implement this is because it is transparent, it is [00:39:00] decentralized. Everything can be tracked. But, at the same time, it’s cryptographically secured so you don’t necessarily have people’s data exposed.

Mike: And you eliminate the bureaucracy and the time and money that goes into administrating a system like this.

Euvie: Right.

Mike: If you eliminate the bureaucracy and the administration and just have like this automatic system that doles up the money on a monthly basis or something. I mean, just the sheer cost alone of the administration [00:39:30] that would go into doing this, and does go into welfare systems. The money saved from current welfare systems would fund a large chunk of an actual basic income. One argument against sort of having this sort of unified global system is that, “Well, you’ll have people in power that will manipulate it.” Well, that’s exactly what we’re avoiding with the blockchain. If everybody owns it, everyone expects taxation of each other and it’s enforced by the software which is owned by the society, like we have a huge [00:40:00] opportunity for a truly transparent and democratic and efficient society by implementing this on like a legal level, which we haven’t even touched on. Like, some of us in the blockchain space are a little afraid of talking about this, so we’re entering it from a finance and an entrepreneurship and innovation stance. But I think in the back of a lot of our minds we’re kind of looking for a future society that is run on the blockchain and a government that’s run on the blockchain. And I could end it there, because that’s the most exciting thing.

Euvie: Yeah. [00:40:30] Systems that are actually transparent, truly democratic, and secure.

Mike: Yeah. Alright guys, I think that’s it for this episode. This has been a fun conversation. It’s nice to just do a one on one session.

Euvie: It’s been a while.

What is The Blockchain?

It is the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but there is a lot more to it than money. It is a public ledger that nobody owns, a decentralized database that is maintained by the network.

In a regular database, information is stored on a centralized server. In a blockchain, information is stored on a public ledger that is duplicated across all the nodes that run the software. In a traditional system, transactions are verified by a trusted middleman – like the bank, for example. On a public ledger, transactions are verified by multiple nodes, so it’s very difficult to falsify or remove transactions once they have been made. In that way, the blockchain is a technology-based trust system that removes the need for middlemen.

The blockchain is decentralized, trustless (does not require a trusted third party), and secured by cryptography. It can make the companies and institutions that run on it more transparent, democratic, and secure. It has the potential to transform the 4 pillars of society: finance, communication, law, and production.

We talk about the current and potential use cases, and the industries the blockchain will disrupt in the next 5-10 years.

In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast:

  • What the blockchain is
  • Are we in a hype bubble?
  • The use cases for this technology
  • Industries ripe for disruption
  • How decentralization can change companies and institutions

Mentions and Resources:

Recommended Books:

More From Future Thinkers:

Thank You to Our Sponsor!

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1 Comment

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  1. cmilescody 7 years ago

    This is a great idea, and IMHO, it’s best iteration was when the Dutch tried it with tulips in the 18th century. Even though it collapsed, over and over again, it continues to power (most of?) the innovation extant today.

    People wanting to advance some project, regardless of motive (because who can know what is at the heart of any person’s wants… as revealed by your not wanting to get into the legal aspects of this future idea) and giving it capital to make it more possible, and then if others do the same and the coin increases in value, allows people to use that increase to provide capital for other projects they deem worthy.

    The block chain, again something I think could be a great idea, requires that there is machinery to maintain it and communicate it, and since it is a distributed set of transactions, then the machinery needs to be big enough and fast enough to support the load of transactions. When you say this could be used for a basic income scheme, that means everyone will need access to a device and an infrastructure to communicate that income to its rightful owner (via wire, fiber, satellite, quantum something, bursar, corner Piggly Wiggly, etc.).

    I’m wondering how this methodology can be both maximally independent and maximally dependent at the same time, without it returning to the current state of affairs where corporations write laws that centralized governments compassionately enforce for them.

    I am very much in favor of the independence you promote, but the dependent part is what worries me. If the independent system depends of a common good and service, where does this common good come from and who has the endless and thankless job of servicing it and why on earth would they spend their lives doing so? If it’s compassion alone, then that resource will likely dwindle in proportion to its inability to adequately keep up with the demands of the 7.5 billion earthlings who believe they have a basic right to the resource and its timely and efficient function.

    The block-chain relies on technology. That technology relies on material (metal, plastic, fuel, infrastructure currently owned by people), and I only suspect that this is the theme of the legal issues you didn’t want to elucidate. I’d like to know if in the plan to make a basic income (and therefore a basic device in the pocket of every person on the planet), there is also a plan of some sort of coercion (incentive at the end of some gun or jail… crowd-sourced of course), and to the extent that it does, look at where the Soviet Union ended up, and look at the cars (i.e. basic devices) the Cubans have to drive. Hopefully you’re advocating that some in the future thought experiment will still have Tesla’s while other have ’52 Chevy’s.

    Again, I’m all in favor of innovation and independence and new ideas, but trying to manage why people want the things they want is a short step to totalitarianism.


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