BERLIN, MARCH 1-4 2018
From magic rings to virtual cats to entirely new models of democracy, programming at Blockstack Berlin presented compelling visions of a possible future where a decentralized internet could course correct our current centralized state. Important topics like trust, transparency, and control were the driving forces behind talks that helped attendees imagine the possibilities, considerations, and responsibilities of ‘building the new internet’.
If you took a heaping scoop of passion, a healthy dose of hope, a dash of hard lessons learned, a pinch of conspiracy theory, and a real belief in the possibility of technology and the early promise of the internet, you’d have a cocktail that probably tastes a lot like Blockstack Berlin, a Signature Fund Event.
Luminaries from the crypto world descended on Berlin to talk about their projects, share knowledge, and most of all, give us a glimpse of the future they imagine is possible.
Santiago Siri shared his journey from the ragged political streets of Argentina, to founding the Democracy Earth Foundation - a vision and platform for democracy that quite literally makes him the target of his own government and explores what the earth might look like when (not if) we move beyond geographically based nation-states. Yet another presenter, Melanie Shapiro, shared her hardware company’s idea for the future of identity management and ownership with a video that seems right out of a sci-fi script.
Edward Snowden spoke to the future of this movement and community as well, urging everyone in the room and crypto community at large not to form ‘crypto-tribes’ and instead to work together as what is still a tiny minority of the human population.
“You see these tribal battles happening in the cryptocurrency space, where they pick out a flavor, they pick a team, it’s a like a team sport and whoever uses anything else is the enemy. This is an enormous mistake...We need more teams, we need more projects. We need more users...and if we do not have broad sort of public familiarity use, that’s willing to defend not just their coin but everybody else’s, we’re going to run into real problems.”
Later in the day, this important conversation of not only the future that we could create, but should create, continued. Dr. Steven Waterhouse of Orchid Labs spoke to the risk of surveillance and how decentralized technology can address centralized forms of power and control - referencing books such as ‘The Circle’ which paints a painful picture of a dystopian future overly influenced by powerful companies with all of our data.
Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures cautions of blind belief in the decentralized web, noting that “new technology grows the space of the possible”, both the good and the bad, urging the community to take responsibility. He contrasted the good, like self-sovereign identity options, with bad examples, like the rise of dark money. In his words, “just because it’s decentralized, doesn’t mean it’s good” and that we should take an active, intentional role in examining use cases we want to see more or less of as we’re building these possibilities.
Continuing into the afternoon, George Glider urged us to ‘dis-enthrall ourselves’ with an emphatic demonstration to start his talk, ‘Life After Google’, that included literally removing his shirt. He drew parallels from Martin Luther’s revolution that led to the Renaissance, to the current revolution in cryptography, noting that all revolutions are information revolutions. He believes in the ability of new forms of enterprise to help reclaim personal sovereignty, going on to explain that blockchain technology is ‘not merely cash, it’s a warrant for truth’ and that because it’s immutable ‘no top down system can manipulate the record and put you in jail’.
Last but not least, the Blockstack App demos highlighted that the future spoke of during the day is well beyond theoretical, with companies working on problems from refugees without identities (Symmitree) or connections to a decentralized alternative (Graphite) to the behemoth that is Google Docs. These and others presented their progress and early success in the marketplace in their pitches.
The activity didn’t stop when the Axica Center closed though, with many of the same attendees and others from Berlin’s blockchain community making their way to a packed room at Betahaus for an all weekend Blockstack Hackathon. Read more about the Hackathon here.
The perspective shared about the imminent future of our digital (and thereby real) world was both heavy and hopeful, painting the possibilities and our potential role in it. To enjoy the full experience, we invite you to watch the entire event in full and look out for future events where you can join Blockstack and the broader crypto community.