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The Future of Money with Bitcoin and Blockchain

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Inside  the  DCU FinTech Innovation Center   (a Workbar partner location and financial technology incubator) the emerging technologies of bitcoin and blockchain have already emerged.  Havell Rodrigues, CEO/Founder of one of the Center’s Member Companies,  Adjoint,  and Jason Morton, the Center’s Entrepreneur in Residence,  are experts in blockchain and discussed how this technology  is shaping the  future of money.

bitcoin and blockchain

Bitcoin and binary.

“Blockchain is the future of the internet, or what the internet-of-value could be.” When Rodrigues describes blockchain’s potential he warns me that it gets  pretty technical  pretty fast. One of its more well-known applications of it is   bitcoin,  a digital cryptocurrency.  No one controls it, no one prints it out, and there will only ever be 21 million of them in “circulation.” Doubtful as it may seem,  bitcoin does have the  properties of currency:  scarcity, fungibility, divisibility, durability, transferability. From its humble beginnings in cryptography circles circa 2008, bitcoin’s popularity  exploded along with the need for anonymous e-commerce transactions on  Dark Web sites like the Silk Road, and now  giants like Overstock.com and Microsoft accept them.   But the real magic of bitcoins is made possible by the “Distributed Ledger Technology” behind  blockchain,   a kind of “incorruptible” digital ledger that lives like an irrefutable electron- everywhere and nowhere at once.

bitcoin and blockchain

Blockchain is “distributed” ledger technology.

As Rodrigues puts it, “This is the next level of value creation and exchange.”

So why is it called blockchain? “Well, ‘Block’, is used because transactions are reported in blocks in a  database, which provides immutability through the concept of ‘chain’, the concept of ‘hashing’. Essentially the system creates a hash of the underlying database, a new block is added to the database, and then blocks are chained  together where all participants have guarnatee of immutability of data. No one can go back in time and change previously recorded data. You change the data, you change the hash- it won’t match hash that everyone else has.” Because this  system is open-source and updated  constantly, it’s too  ubiquitous  and too fast to hack.

bitcoin and blockchain

Bitcoin transactions per day.

It’s also catching on. “Financial institutions have taken a big step forward, doing proof of concepts and experimenting with private blockchains to see what it can do. They have seen the business value of this technology, especially in its role of reconciliation of financial transactions, and are going into production mode,” including the DTCC. “I’ve got a bullish optimism with blockchain, or what I prefer to call Distributed Ledger Technology,” he says, before walking through a range of applications that eventually veer towards sustainability and the sharing economy.

“Blockchain  removes inefficiencies, enables new business models, and drives down costs from the system of investing. There’s  less paper trail, but a clear audited digital trail. Put entire communication trails onto blockchain, with smart contracts automating work flows, and make this info accessible only to relevant counterparties or to regulators.” 

bitcoin and blockchain

Legal Status of bitcoin

Jason Morton is taking time off from being a math and statistics professor at Penn State to focus on his startup, and he waxes pragmatic and political  when discussing blockchain. “One of the most interesting things to watch now is how  [blockchain]  interacts with the regulatory and geopolitical environment.  By now it is clear that political instability – be it India’s currency recall  or Trump’s rapid actions on trade and international relations – benefits blockchain technologies due to their role as a hedge and  their permissionless nature.”

While lack of regulation leads to  heightened risk and uncertainty, Morton maintains that  restrictive regulation keeps too much money on the sidelines, choking business models before they can develop. Because the new administration is in the midst of a rollback of Dodd-Frank and other components of  regulatory frameworks, “This   seems like an odd time to aggressively regulate public blockchain  initiatives, so it is likely we can expect a period of lassiez-faire for blockchain while the focus is elsewhere.”

While this bodes well for blockchain’s future and acceptance, Morton warns that “the relatively high level of regulation we have experienced was likely a two-edged sword for blockchain technologies.” On the one hand, it has increased demand for tokens (such as bitcoins) but it has also kept a lot of people from wanting to get involved in public blockchain projects due to concerns over regulatory risk. “So  a reduction in regulation could go either way. The need for token-based  crowdfunding may be reduced… or, blockchain-based  mechanisms could have the freedom to become the dominant platform.”

With the FinTech sector enthusiastically  exploring its applications, blockchain is primed for  “disruptive” innovation. As Rodrigues puts it layman’s terms, “The system is safer and better than emails and faxes, which are sadly still used today. You could have Uber or Airbnb decentralized; you could have peer to peer real  sharing economies using this underlying technology.”

Mass collaboration and advances in coding are replacing intermediaries like governments and banks, and the revolutionary shift triggered by blockchain will be a crucial component of the Internet’s Next Big Thing. And if you stand in the right place, you can already see it coming.

 

Workbar operates seven coworking locations in the Boston area (Boston,  Cambridge,   Somerville,   Arlington,  Norwood,  Brighton,  Danvers) and several other network  partner locations  throughout the state. Want to keep up with the World of Workbar?  Subscribe to our newsletter  for the most up-to-date information about our upcoming events and community news. You can also follow us on  Instagram,  Facebook,  LinkedIn  and  Twitter.

Dave Gentry  is a fan of progress and recess. He believes in Olde English, new fortune cookies, and he answers to #davertido.

 

By Dave Gentry