Daily Bits May 28th, 2017

I’m back from Consensus 2017, which was intense. Fascinating panels, charismatic individuals and more ideas than one can possibly absorb… My only regret is that I didn’t have time to talk to more people. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Check out the recaps on CoinDesk. The videos should be up next week.

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Benedict Evans writes about how we can figure out if a technological innovation is a fad or is the beginning of something:

“Imagine if you had seen the Wright Brothers’ Flyer in 1903. It was small and flimsy, and it could only carry a single person a few hundred meters. But it was a theoretical breakthrough, and it was entirely clear that it could be expanded upon to get to something that could carry several people several hundred miles, and perhaps more.”

It doesn’t sound as obvious as it should be:

“The question, then, is not whether something works now but whether it could work – whether you know how to change it. Saying ‘it doesn’t work, today’ has no value, but saying ‘yes, but everything didn’t work once’ also has no value. Rather, do you have a roadmap? Do you know what to do next?”

Benedict totally nails one of my main concerns about current blockchain initiatives, especially in banks – that we’re trying to use a new technology to do the same old things.

“This is how generational shifts work – first you try to force the new tool to fit the old workflow, and then the new tool creates a new workflow. Both parts are painful and full of denial, but the new model is ultimately much better than the old.”

If he’s right, we will end up with new processes, paradigms and attitudes towards finance, data handling and communication. There are signs that it’s happening, but unfortunately most of the innovative applications out there (I’m thinking of Brave, Storj, Melonport, Civic and the like) are probably before their time. If they can hang on until the zeitgeist catches up, they’ll be industry transformers. If not, someone else will build on what they did, a few years down the line.

“One way to solve this problem is to try to separate the fundamental capability that’s being proposed from the specific uses. Edison thought that sound recording would be good for sermons, not music, and it’s hard, and perhaps impossible, to tell what people will use the new thing for. But sound recording and one-to-one and one-to-many sound transmission were much more fundamental changes than the ability to listen to a sermon on demand. What mattered was seeing the value of the capability, not predicting any particular applications.” (emphasis mine)

I’ve written elsewhere that I thought that the emphasis on decentralization was ignoring the possibility that we don’t really want it. But perhaps I’m the one that’s missing the point. It doesn’t matter whether or not we want it. The question is, now that we can have it, what shall we do with it?

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Balaji S. Srinivasan and Naval Ravikant published an epically insightful overview of digital tokens on Medium.

“The most important takehome is that tokens are not equity, but are more similar to paid API keys. Nevertheless, they may represent a >1000X improvement in the time-to-liquidity and a >100X improvement in the size of the buyer base relative to traditional means for US technology financing — like a Kickstarter on steroids.”

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Chris Burniske of ARK Invest shared on Twitter is Token Summit presentation on ICO valuations – technical, but illuminating. One thing is calculating estimated future value if the asset has a market price. But what if it doesn’t yet?

The thread starts here.

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TechCrunch gave the best explanation I’ve seen on why messaging app Kik’s decision to issue an ICO is such a big deal. Apart from being the first mainstream service to use this relatively new crypto financing method, it reveals an innovative strategy for incentivizing the ecosystem of developers.

“Most people are aware that a token sale (or ICO) is used to generate funds, but what is often less understood is that holders of the coins that are sold gain ownership of the means of production, or indeed the total output of the decentralized system. That is where Kik believes it can build an ecosystem that rewards developers financially without having to resort to advertising.”

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This looks like so much fun (via Motherboard):

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