A panel discussion at COSM explored the future of crypto currencies like Bitcoin and blockchain technologies in general. What might they mean for global money, global security, and internet architecture?
The panel, moderated by Wired contributing editor Spencer Reiss, comprised futurist George Gilder, Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media, Ed Moy, former Director of the U.S. Mint, and William Dembski, mathematician, entrepreneur, and philosopher:
Can Crypto and Blockchain Reverse the Tech Decline (and Enable an Internet Renaissance)?
Here are some snatches from the dialogue (aired September 11, 2020):
George Gilder (on what’s wrong with the internet): It’s a broken paradigm. How do you tell a broken paradigm? The more money you spend on it, the worse it gets. Last year, we had a billion breaches of private data. This year, we’re spending roughly 20-30% more on internet security and we’re on track for three billion breaches. To have IP addresses is like having public keys with no private keys. It’s a failed foundation for a secure system. And we have a solution in the new cryptographic inventions that blockchain epitomizes.
Steve Forbes (on the challenge of disruptive technologies in general, citing his industry as an example): When we started our electronic publishing in the mid-90s, most publishers thought you just took a printed page and put it on line. And that was electronic publishing. That was like, when Edison and others invented film 120 years ago. Some people thought that a fature film was like filming a stage play. No. Very different medium. One of the first things we did was separate Forbes.com from Forbes Magazine. Separate staff, separate buildings, separate support systems. We wanted the baby away from the rollover of the mother. The other thing we did was, we went beyond the content of Forbes Magazine. We used a lot of outside content. We didn’t restrict ourselves to what appeared in Forbes Magazine.
(Later, Forbes tried combining the two operations but found it extremely difficult. Steve Forbes “It’s amazing how difficult it is to combine two different cultures.”)
Steve Forbes: One of the things about these kinds of transitions is that there is no play book, no formula, no painting by the numbers… when a disruptive technology comes along, what do you do? You don’t know what to do. You are experimenting constantly.
Ed Moy (on how cryptocurrency and blockchain could become part of everyday transactions): First of all, I hope government doesn’t lead it because we will all be in trouble then. When you look at fiat currency, fiat currency is in essence the government’s monopoly on money and I’m not familiar with that many monopolists who are willing to voluntarily give up their monopolist position. And so government has a vested interest in keeping the system the way it is. The reason I went from an “old money” guy to the future of where I think money can go is that this is a private sector alternative to government’s monopoly. I don’t ever see this as a complete substitution where governments give up their monopoly… but I do think that the market will gravitate toward these solutions.
Further: Chair of Forbes Media says money is about trust. Experts forecast the future of money in general at COSM. Will money be “real” in an information society? Now that Facebook is proposing Libra, a cryptocurrency, this might be a good time to ask.
Jay Richards’s interview with William Dembski at COSM (aired June 26, 2020) asking, “Is it possible to create a decentralized, information-based currency?” Dembski offers a thought experiment: “Can you, as a lone individual, create currency that is going to then be created by the individual, but will have legitimacy? That will have intrinsic value rather than depending on some sort of fiat authority trust. And so that was the thought experiment. And it uses some insights from Bitcoin, but I think it goes much further. So I need a blockchain, I need a computation to be scarce. And when I get those certain minimal assumptions, I need to have hashing where you’ve got these one way functions that really mix things up. And if I’ve got public key cryptography, it seems I can get a system that’s very minimal infrastructure. I just need a blockchain that keeps the blocks in an order. No backdating. That’s the problem…
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