As members of the Global Blockchain Association, my colleague Erik Min and I were recently invited to attend the organization’s Future of Money conference in D.C. In January, we headed to the congressional auditorium in the U.S. Capitol, energized by the prospect of surrounding ourselves with other like-minded blockchain visionaries. We were eager to share our expertise and learn from our peers. On the whole, the event and all of its spirited discussions did not disappoint.
U.S. Congressman Darren Soto hosted, and his chief of staff kicked off the event with a passionate talk about the future of cryptocurrency regulation and the importance of the U.S. taking a leadership position in defining global priorities around digital assets. He explained that while many cryptocurrency and blockchain bills have been introduced to the federal legislature, the current aim is not the passage of a new bill, but rather forcing awareness. Champions are currently focused on educating their fellow senators and representatives about the space, and proposing guidance for principles that will eventually be incorporated into new laws.
Along these lines, I found the talk track around the concept of balancing innovation against regulation particularly intriguing. It’s common for companies to take a wait-and-see approach to adopting new technology, allowing time for laws that regulate the technology’s use to come into play. We’re seeing this a lot with cryptocurrency and blockchain. But the conversations at the conference offered a different option: run toward disruption and allow that innovation to drive and guide the legislation. This includes charging head-on with blockchain and cryptocurrency projects that transform typically untouched processes like voting, banking, medical records and other highly sensitive areas.
The thinking is that if we push the envelope, regulators will be forced to respond, and parties can then course-correct if certain activities are out of bounds. As consultants advising our clients on these very initiatives, we’re committed to striking a balance across innovation and risk management.
Many of the technologies and ideas that were presented at the conference were impressive and inspiring. We met one company investing a tremendous amount of time and money into developing a dashboard and design UI that makes it easier for non-experts to build blockchain products and systems. The fact that a product like that is on the cusp of coming to market drove home another point I’ve been vocal about over the last year: very few people understand the technical ins and outs of blockchain, but maybe they don’t need to understand the technology to utilize it for transformation. Soon, we’ll reach a point where buyers can deploy and reap the benefits of the technology, without needing to deeply understand how the connectors and other technical pieces operate with each other.
We also participated in discussions around blockchain hacking, and whether advancements in quantum computing will make it possible to hack a blockchain, thus making the technology obsolete. One of the most resounding points made was that while quantum computing may just be around the corner, so are advancements like quantum encryption. We worry about the risks today and in the future, but in reality, technology is always changing, keeping the “good” and the “bad” in general balance.
Like with all other disruptive technologies, in blockchain and cryptocurrency, the leapfrog game of new challenges, new advancements and new laws, will continue as the space matures.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.