On 24 Oct 2018 Wednesday – Colbert & I travelled to the Palais de Nations (which means Palace of Nations) to attend the United Nations Blockchains for Sustainable Development in Geneva, Switzerland.
This event is significant for a few reasons.
(1) It is the first time stakeholders, entrepreneurs & policymakers from all over the world gather in the United Nations to discuss in an open manner where this technology is going to bring us; the potential, risks and changes.
(2) This event focused on Sustainable Development – how this new technology can help make the world better than we found it.
Inside the Walls of the Palais de Nations
We arrived the grounds of the United Nations early. As expected, security was tight and after we got our passes, we headed towards Room XX in Building E where the main event was to be held.
We might have been a tad bit too early. But by being the earliest ones there, we were fortunate to bumped into Stephen, one of the lead organisers, and was rewarded with some photo opportunities in an empty Room XX.
Room XX is known for its majestic ceiling art piece. The colourful stalagmites that form the unique ceiling texture symbolises the beautiful yet dangerous and chaotic world we live in and how we, as a human race, hold the ability to create both good or harm around us in this shared planet called Earth.
While the main event starts at 10 am, we had the opportunity to listen to some presentations by 3 organisations who have already been interfacing with the United Nations prior to this event. They are Bancor, Consensys and FairFoods.
Galia co-founded Bancor, a project that helps smaller community currencies to have liquidity so that they are supported while their adoption is still low and growing.
Vanessa leads Consensys, a software development foundry for the Ethereum blockchain and also the Blockchains for Social Impact Coalition. One particular slide that sticks to mind was one that maps out the blockchain projects that already have started making significant impact to daily live measured against the 17 UN Sustainability Goals.
The statistics shows it takes one and a half years on average for any project to begin seeing results.
Real work has already begun and we can learn from them.
The Main Event
The main event was divided into three parts:
- Where are we now
- Where are we going
- What do regulators think
And each speaker, forum panelist had to something impactful to say. Here are some of the highlights the generally sums up the event.
(1) Blockchain is neither good or evil.
“Blockchain is only a tool. Like a kitchen knife. You can ban a kitchen knife. But it would only move things backward in the kitchen area.” – Changpeng Zhao (CZ), CEO of Binance
(2) But it does have the potential to do a lot of good.
“2.7 billion people live less than $2 a day, 60 million are displaced, 1 billion live without an identity. Blockchain alone may not solve all these problems, but it can be one piece of the puzzle,” – Vanessa Grellet, Executive Director of Consensys
“Very few technologies have more potential for disruption and excitement than blockchain… if you are somebody who cares about making the future a little less uneven.” – Chris Fabian of UNICEF Innovation
“€5 million will be awarded in January 2019 to the Top 5 most promising Blockchains For Good projects.” – Eva Kaili, European Parliament Member for Greece
(3) Regulation cannot keep up with innovation. It moves too fast.
There are 2 types of leadership. When the normal leader sees a tiger, he gets eaten while devising a plan. Entrepreneurial leadership jumps on the tiger and rides it. That’s the leadership we need today” – Helen Haiyu, Blockchain Charity Foundation by Binance
(4) But regulation does matter.
We can regulate based on first logical principles. It does not matter whether it is fiat (traditional money) or crypto, some actions are just clearly bad e.g. get-rich-quick schemes & money scams.
“Blockchain is a technology that should neither be treated with naive optimism nor dismissive skepticism.” – Professor Jem Bendell.
Back in Malaysia, things are picking up on the blockchain space. Regulators are starting be more active. But on the world stage, things are moving a great speed. We have an opportunity to innovate and add value in this fast changing ecosystem.
Change is uncomfortable. But it will happen. The only question you have to ask yourself is: