An autumn dinner discussion at the London Capital Club under the Distributed Futures banner, sponsored by Z/Yen Group and The Cardano Foundation. The gathering was designed to "explore issues of interest to global stock exchanges and other trading platforms”.
The evening was held under the Chatham House Rule. There was an eclectic mixture of guests, some from the blockchain/distributed ledgers world, some from more traditional finance plus some representation from regulatory and academic circles. Issues for discussion included trading technology, ICOs & ITOs (initial coin offerings and initial token offerings), smart ledgers & disintermediation, plus politics, geo-economics and social reactions. The aim was to identify areas worthy of further research. The resulting fizzy conversation was prefaced with Aperol Spritz aperitifs.
There was a great deal of discussion around digital security and cryptography generally. The resulting suggestions for further research included some generic questions around sovereignty and governance of platforms, e.g. “usability, understanding and acceptance” of platforms and “taking back control of our data”. Also geopolitical questions such as, “should we look at what Russia and China are doing to understand the future in these areas?”. Plus meta questions, e.g. “is this important enough topic” and “are these emerging platforms really a means to a better end”, plus questions around the possible use of deontic logic in such platforms, e.g. to regulate permissions and obligations.
Still, there was a great deal of conversation about tokens and cryptocurrencies specifically. Some participants were concerned about the cost (e.g. energy use) of tokens. Other wondered whether digital currencies should be backed, e.g. with fiat currencies and/or whether mechanisms for convertibility simply need to be improved. Are cryptocurrencies potentially most useful as transactional, commercial currencies or will they be preferred as stores of value or a mixture of uses? What are they being used for primarily at the moment? Do distributed ledgers without underlying currencies allow for transactional secure e-trading without the “friction” of cryptocurrencies? What does “friction” actually mean in this context? How might distributed ledger exchanges be genuinely interoperable?
Others mused used on whether ICOs/ITOs are Ponzi schemes and how we might tell. Even if not Ponzi schemes, some felt that the volatility of prices and soaring supply might be a warning sign of an impending crash in conventional finance. Nevertheless, the tone, on the whole, was upbeat. There was a sense in the room that the emerging technologies and techniques have the potential to be, if deployed well, a great force for good. The agenda sheet for the evening included a quote that seemed even more apposite as the evening concluded:
"The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed."