Spreading Real Crypto Adoption at CryptoCompare MJAC Conference

Vlad Costea
  • While meeting with representatives from CEX.IO, Coinbase UK, Circle, Citigroup, and Ripple is really informative and inspiring, the mission of achieving mass adoption for cryptocurrencies must extend its scope towards including those who otherwise wouldn't find the time to catch up with the latest innovations in technology.
  • When we're at coferences, we often ignore those who work at the venue and provide various services. Hownever, these people are often enthusiastic about cryptocurrencies and you might just find investors who would gladly take advantage of the situation to learn a little more about digital assets. This article is dedicated to these working class heroes whom Satoshi Nakamoto would definitely want us to integrate in the decentralizing financial revolution..

On Wednesday, June 13th 2018, I've had the pleasure and privilege to attend "CryptoCompare MJAC London Blockchain Summit". In hindsight, it was a meritorious effort which brought together representatives from some of the most respected and reputed companies in the crypto space for the purpose of introducing new concepts, start-ups and ICOs. For someone who's spent most of the time doing online research and listening to podcasts, this had been a unique experience.

However, this article aims to take an unusual spin by focusing on those who were actually there but couldn't attend any of the meetings. It's about the individuals who do regular jobs and most likely wouldn't spare £100 a ticket. However, we must try to build a world of finance that's inclusive, inviting, and comprehensive to anyone who shows interest. After all, if we replicate what we claim to despise, then the revolution itself is pointless without doing much for the regular people.

The Man Who Knew Unexpectedly Much

While the conference was great and featured insightful commentary on cryptocurrencies and the emerging blockchain-based innovation, I was yet to find something unique which was worth covering. Could I just do an overall analysis of the event and construct the piece from various tweets, quotes, and memorable moments? Sure, but I had been recently reminded about the importance of building communities in crypto from Andreas Antonopolous.

This time, I got lucky for being Romanian, as I overheard two security guards speaking in our native language and I decided to stop by and say hello. That's how I met Cristian Cotirta, a fairly tall and imposing young man who was unusually interested in cryptoassets. As it turns out, he was well aware of the discussion panels and almost seemed as if he wanted to participate them. But to him it wasn't as easy as just entering the main conference room to hear the talks about regulation policies - he had a clear job to do and couldn't satisfy this intellectual curiosity of his.

That's when it hit me: the employees from the venue were all within the demographic description of the regular crypto investor/enthusiast. Could this mean that even the people we usually overlook in our shallow contextual social hierarchization actually know a little something about Bitcoin and might have bought a few Satoshis?

In the case of Cristian (who was also from the Bucharest area and happened to have grown up in the same neighbourhood where I've lived during my studies) I discovered quite an impressively-diversified Binance portfolio which he was regularly checking out in the Blockfolio app. He hadn't invested large amounts, but bought small quantities of major coins, as well as promising tokens. OmiseGO, BTC, LTC and ETH. Cristian was more of a crypto conservative than myself!

Crypto for the People: This encounter made me do further research about the employees from the venue and their views on cryptocurrencies. And my discoveries were nothing short of impressive.

During the afterparty I decided to focus my attention on the bartenders who were cheerfully giving away free beers to the participants. I got lucky on my first try: 23 year-old Kyle has told me that he acquired 1 Litecoin for £173 and has been holding it in his wallet ever since. He seemed pretty interested in the dynamics of the market and wanted to learn a little more about the way the technology works, and to me it was a big mind opener. Even though it's big money which pumps the price and 2018 is supposed to be the year when financial institutions enter the market, the ones who really matter are the end-users who lay the foundation of our new decentralized economy. It's a lot more likely for private individuals to believe in the technology and hope for a paradigm shift in our financial system than for banks or investment companies which mostly care for a great ROI (return of investment).

It didn't take me too long to find another venue employee who did some crypto investments. Jan, a co-worker of Kyle's, has also confessed to have bought some Bitcoin at some point, but didn't want to go into details.

In my mind I've made a connection with the early novels of George Orwell. He is well known for making witty commentaries about totalitarianism and failed revolutions. However, his novels "Down and Out in Paris and London" and "Burmese Days" are an excellent reflection of the working class. Instead of writing about the lives of noblemen, he gave us accounts about the struggles of regular people, their unquestionable wisdom, and their often-overlooked good nature.

To me, speaking to Nelly, Cristian, Kyle, Jan, and everyone else felt a lot more satisfying and productive than inquiring about the sustainability of an ICO or meeting an executive of a big crypto company. Spreading adoption and helping others appropriate the ethos of decentralization has to be the most important part of being involved in this revolutionary world. They might disagree with some parts, but that's how we constantly receive feedback and improve our implementations. They might enter in hopes of making gains, but in the process, they will also discover the meaning of decentralized, secure and censorship resistant money.

The Jean-Paul Sartre Conclusion

While sitting at a table on Rue Saint-Germain, French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, observed how a waiter was being a little too much of a waiter and not enough of a human being. He was moving as if he was trying to please everybody but didn't reflect any side of his personality. And in many ways, his thoughts and commentary are very relevant for what we expect from employees who work in services: we often forget that they're human beings just like us and only see them for their utility in the context.

If we want to build a fairer, more transparent, and overall better society with blockchain and decentralized technology, then we must learn to be kinder, more inclusive, and less judgmental in our choices. It's very likely that the people who sell us beverages, cut our hair, or do our plumbing are more than interested in the Bitcoin phenomenon, but lack the time and resources to do further research. Sometimes a link to an informative (and hopefully unbiased) article or a borrowed book can make all the difference and generate more adoption among the audience Satoshi himself had in mind when he created bitcoin.

If we decided to be genuine and authentic with each other, we could probably solve lots of communication, diplomatic, and even educational issues that we have in the world. But for now, if our purpose is to increase crypto adoption and show everyone how Bitcoin payments work, a little open-mindedness can work miracles.

Hello Cristian, Kyle, Jan, Nelly, and everyone else working in the Old Billingsgate building! Hope you're reading this and make good use of your books.

Distributed Versus Decentralized Tech and Why You Should Care About the Difference

Distributed ledgers—digital records stored on many computers at the same time—are everywhere. VISA, Walmart, and IBM are only a few of the companies using this technology to check your credit balance, process payments, keep track of what’s stored in warehouses across the country, and digitize transaction workflows. Even though consumers hardly interact with them, computerized, distributed records have become integral to the successful operations of most businesses.

As with any database that stores potentially sensitive data, security is a central issue for distributed ledgers. Especially for applications in banking and finance, we want the ledger to be immutable, one that cannot be changed once created. Surely you don’t want your credit card company to be able to change your balance independent from your credit card use!

Distributed ledgers have made our lives much easier. They’re why you can use your credit card seamlessly in a bar in downtown San Francisco as well as a grocery shop in Hastings, Nebraska. But is that all distributed tech can do for you?

More and more, people are claiming that the blockchain revolution is coming to finance. That distributed, decentralized ledgers have even greater benefits. To understand what the hype is about—and why we really should care—it is time to lean further into this technology; to explore some weaknesses of conventional distributed systems and how decentralized systems can mitigate security risks and even reduce costs.

What exactly is a distributed ledger?

Distributed ledger technology (also known as DLT) is essentially a database that is updated, maintained, and validated on many computers, in many places, at the same time. The computers, referred to as nodes, are all plugged into a large network and pick up data as it is submitted to the ledger to keep their own records. When you swipe your credit card, the little machine is able to take the information it gathers—like what your account number is, how much you spent, etc.—and send it to VISA, where the record is updated.  

In such a system, there isn’t one server holding all records that presents an obvious target for hackers. In this way, DLT provides better security compared to conventional, centralized systems. With DLT, if one computer is destroyed or hacked, the complete record is still preserved elsewhere. Reliable financial and supply chain management services as we know them today could not exist without DLT.

All distributed ledgers are not created equal

In most mainstream implementations of DLT, however, not all computers on the network have the same level of authority to edit the ledger. The system is ‘centralized.’ Only select nodes are allowed to update the information. This is what VISA and other credit card firms are using.

In systems like these, we—the users—have to trust the company to act appropriately and not mishandle or change our data. We don’t have to look any further than Wells Fargo and its repeated fake account scandals for an example of a central authority letting its consumers down.

So, who should decide what the truth is and what is recorded on the ledger? In other words, how is consensus reached across a distributed system? With centralized DLT, consensus is easy, because only a limited number of users are able to edit the ledger and this information is distributed across all nodes. There’s an obvious drawback, though: If someone infiltrates this authority, the ledger can be altered in any way the bad actor chooses.

Decentralized distributed ledgers are directly addressing this problem. In such a system, no single entity (or limited group) holds complete authority. All users have equal permissions on the ledger, and the majority decides what’s true and what isn’t.

With a decentralized ledger, a single bad actor is unable to achieve the consensus necessary to alter the ledger. By democratizing recordkeeping and removing centralized middlemen from a position of power, decentralized systems can eliminate an ever-lingering threat to consumers.

Add in a ledger that’s kept public, where everyone is free to look up any past transaction (in appropriately anonymized form, of course), and you have a system that is secure, transparent, and immutable—an ideal technology to build a financial system upon. Such systems exist today, and they are called public blockchains.

Better bang for your buck

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying banks and other financial institutions are inherently untrustworthy. They employ strict audit procedures consisting of checks and balances to create their own immutable system. Unfortunately, all of the overhead costs associated with these measures are passed straight on to consumers.

Blockchain technology can bring the same benefits, but at a lower cost. Transactions on a decentralized distributed system are inherently immutable, transparent, and secure. Compared to standard audit practices, implementing decentralized DLT on a blockchain can substantially reduce the overhead of maintaining an immutable, distributed ledger.

Knowledge is power

At the end of the day, as users, we are concerned with ease-of-use, security, and out-of-pocket expense. While distributed systems have brought convenience and more security, there’s still room to grow.

Decentralized distributed systems have clear advantages—both in terms of security and cost. With a better understanding of decentralized tech, we can finally get what the hype is about and maybe even save a buck.

About the author:

Pramod Madabhushi is the VP of Engineering at BlockRules, the blockchain fintech company developing the first comprehensive blockchain securities platform. BlockRules envisions a world where all investments and financial instruments are tokenized and traded globally by anyone. To realize this vision, BlockRules has created a decentralized distributed platform that can enforce securities regulations for primary and secondary market transactions. BlockRules technology sets a new standard for the 21st century public offering, bringing traditional securities offerings to a globally connected investor base.