The Blockchain Debate at ‘Inside Bitcoins’ Seoul

Last week, at the ‘Inside Bitcoins’ conference in Seoul, a group from various bitcoin and blockchain backgrounds took part in a discussion entitled ‘The Blockchain Debate’, with Jonathan Mohan, founder of BitcoinNYC, moderating. On the panel were:

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After introductions, the first topic up for debate was the focus of the discussion on blockchain, as opposed to bitcoin. Takemiya opened the discussion by stating that he believed blockchain can be a new type of data structure – a new tool – with massive advantages over traditional distributed databases and immutability. Hugely beneficial for financial institutions, although he believes bitcoin is still fascinating technology. Beikverdi followed this by saying that it would make bank databases obsolete, with the higher security and resistance to hacking and data loss. Jerry, however, was of the opinion that bitcoin was crucial to the blockchain and should still be on the discussion as it was essential to have a monetary aspect to blockchain to make it too expensive to change the ledger. Gardner highlighted the comparison of bitcoin to the internet of money and described blockchain as the internet of value. Whilst he believed having P2P electronic cash was invaluable, he thought that blockchain’s ability to decentralize everything was even more so. Generally, blockchain was seemingly more valued than bitcoin by the panel.

Next up for debate, Mohan mentioned the use of private and public blockchains, especially in regards to banks, asking if private blockchains had any value. To begin with, the majority of the panel were of the opinion that there was little to no point in using a private blockchain, with McDonald, Takemiya and Jerry saying that there was very little value. They questioned whether it added anything that wouldn’t have been possible with digitally stored fiat currency or ATMs, although Takemiya mentioned that consortiums could find some use in them. Beikverdi disagreed slightly, saying that the technology was better and it could improve infrastructure but in the long run public blockchains were would be the one to succeed. In contrast, Gardner declared that the panel had beautifully misrepresented private blockchain opportunities! The true benefit of private blockchains, he believed, was to allow banks or companies to have a testing ground to try out the technology before diving straight into the technology, agreeing with Mohan when he compared to the internet vs. intranet. Although the other panellists said Gardner had a point, they were still of the opinion that the future was firmly with public blockchain.

Mohan then asked what the speakers would say to people looking at R3 or private blockchains. Jerry joked that if it didn’t connect to the public blockchain they would be better off just using gift cards, whilst Gardner mentioned that the bitcoin community believes that bitcoin could become a single global currency whereas economists believe that such a possibility would stagnate the global economy. Bitcoin and blockchain shouldn’t necessarily replace everything, but instead add where necessary.

Scalability issue concerns were then raised by Mohan, but Jerry was quick to state that solutions were being worked on and he confidently asserted his belief that in the next few years bitcoin would reach hundreds of thousands of tps. Beikverdi pointed out that there were scalability issues with the internet in the beginning but that if people wanted to scale something, they would. Takemiya also suggested that one option could be to have blockchains for different areas which then merged, helping the problem of scalability.

To conclude, Mohan asked for some closing remarks. Generally the panel were of the opinion that you had to pick the right ledger for the job at hand, whether it be private, public or other traditional forms, but for blockchains, bitcoin had the most sophisticated ecosystem. However, to finish, Gardner urged the audience – and the panel – not to underestimate the banks and other blockchains. They exist for a reason!