NEW YORK (InsideBitcoins) — Technology industries are always on the verge of world domination or sudden collapse. Biotech, nanotech, robotics, AI and yes, cryptocurrencies, all live in a state approaching euphoria one day, followed by utter despair the next. Groundbreaking innovations are matched by earth shattering failures. There is no dearth of “news” to report.
And so it was at the recent Bitcoin & the Blockchain Summit in San Francisco. Like many bitcoin conferences, one speaker enthuses the audience while the next confuses.
Tales of technological limits, encroaching regulation and wary consumers can leave even the most enthusiastic devotee a bit deflated. But at the end of the one-day bitcoin-by-the-Bay conference, attendees were left with a rousing call to arms, led by Andreas Antonopoulos.
Antonopoulos is a security expert, entrepreneur and high-vis bitcoin advocate. With the rigid countenance — and hairstyle — of a Star Trek TOS Klingon, Antonopoulos paced the stage and made his case for bitcoin, sans graphics or gamification — just a man, a mike and massive conviction. The audience put away their smartphones, stowed their MacBooks and drank it in.
The currency is a joke, but the technology…
His first target: the media.
“The media is refining the message, saying ‘The currency is a joke, but the technology — I don’t know, maybe there’s something there,'” he said. “Bitcoin is a currency, bitcoin is a network, bitcoin is a technology and you can’t separate these things. A consensus network that bases its value on the currency does not work without the currency.”
Bitcoin’s greatest strength: it’s dumb
Then he dug into the reasons why bitcoin works, saying bitcoin is a dumb, transaction-processing network. “That is one of its strongest and most amazing features,” Antonopoulos proclaimed. It’s a dumb network that supports smart devices, pushing all of the intelligence to the edge.
“That means if you build a new application on top of bitcoin, you can operate the end devices and you can build an application, and you don’t need to ask for anyone’s permission to innovate. It’s innovation without permission. It’s innovation without central approval.”
Compare that to the current banking system, he said – built around very smart networks absolutely and tightly controlled to deliver very specific applications to very dumb end points. Services the bank decides to give their customers.
“When Visa innovates only Visa wins. If Bank of America makes something new and snazzy, they do it competitively and at the exclusion of every other bank that didn’t implement that feature. Bitcoin is a common resource whose use increases the value of that resource at the exclusion of no one. The power of pushing intelligence to the edge, of not making decisions in the center, moves the innovation into the hands of its end users.”
The worst year in bitcoin
And as far as 2014 being the ‘worst year in bitcoin,’ Antonopoulos says that’s only if you were paying attention to the price. In fact, the year saw the deployment of two remarkable technologies: multi-sig and hierarchal deterministic (HD) wallets.
“Give us two years. Now what happens when you throw 500 companies and 10,000 developers at the problem?”
“The companies that invented and deployed those two features did so in 2012 and we reap the benefits today. And in 2014, during ‘the worst year of bitcoin,’ 500 startups received $500 million in investment generating tens of thousands of jobs — and none of that innovation has come back yet, because they just started. Give us two years. Now what happens when you throw 500 companies and 10,000 developers at the problem? Give (it) two years and you will see some pretty amazing things in bitcoin.”
Antonopoulos finished with a prediction.
“You put an open, decentralized ecosystem: open source, open standards, open networking and the intelligence and innovation pushed all the way to the edge — put that against a closed system, controlled by a central provider, whose permission you need in order to innovate and who will only innovate at the exclusion and competition of all of the other companies — and we will crush them.”