On October 2nd I attended “Economist Disrupt” in New York City. The event was focused on the future of finance and held panels from a wide range of industry leaders. Although the Crypto markets in particular have been in a bear market for most of 2018 because of a wide range of factors such as BitMex shorting, lack of adoption, and regulatory uncertainty, the Blockchain space continues to develop and events surrounding Blockchain keep happening every month all over the world. New York City has not been a very hospitable place for Cryptocurrency but it is still one of the leading centers of finance. The panels took place from 9am until around 6pm and focused on Data, AI and Blockchain, with a few comments on Bitcoin and Ethereum. What drew me in the most were the discussions on Blockchain technology.
“This fall marks ten years since the Lehman Brothers collapse – the straw that broke the global financial system into shambles. Now, ten years later, regulatory and technological changes have transformed finance. New laws designed to rebuild confidence in the system inadvertently gave rise to the ecosystem of fintechs that, among other changes, challenge the fundamentals of a highly regulated financial system. Financial technology has empowered customers and led to greater financial inclusion around the world.”
Panelist from Banking, Blockchain and AI.
Lawrence Summers the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus of Harvard University believes we are moving in the direction of deduction of regulation. He believes the biggest risks are generalized complacency, long lag and over adjusting, and geopolitical uncertainty. He believes we should have a more systemic flow of capital. I like to hear from these sort of people regarding economic development but we did not hear much about Blockchain. What he said could be applied to Bitcoin as it has helped people in countries like Venezuela, but he did not bring this up.
Kai Fu Lee, the author of “AI Superpowers” gave his stance on data. He said China is the Saudi Arabia of Data and that China is moving in the direction of a cashless economy. WeChat and TenCent rule Chinese payments. Kai believes that China is taking the lead on the implementation of AI and will exceed the US in revenue and market value. He believes mobile payments are more important than artificial intelligence. On a side note, when I was in China I did not have a problem paying with cash, whether it was a cab ride or convenience store. Kai believes that being a late mover for China has had its advantages. It was also very interesting to hear his perspective on the future regarding education, loans and AI replacing doctors and how the only role human doctors will play is an empathetic guide. I laughed at that statement. Lastly, he says convenience now outweighs privacy in China and Chinese gladly accept this.
Oliver Hughes of Tinkoff Bank says they are focused on AI, Fraud, Risk, Biometric Data, Facial Recognition and Voice. On this panel was also Elizabeth Kelly of United Income, Avid Motjatabi of Wells Fargo and Kathryn Petralia of Kabbage. Filtered, my general impression of this panel was that they seemed most concerned about Biometric data, AI and the collection of data. They didn’t comment much on Blockchain.
The Blockchain Advocates
Several leaders from the Blockchain space spoke such as Mike Novogratz of Galaxy Digital, a fund that invests in Blockchain assets, Perianne Boring who is the founder of the Digital Chamber of Commerce, Sandra Ro CEO Global Blockchain Business Council, Amber Baldet founder of Clovyr. What was most interesting to me were the people not interested in Blockchain at this conference. The moderator asked the audience to vote what was most important – AI, Blockchain or Quantum Computing. Most people raised their hands for AI, very few for Blockchain and maybe 1 for Quantum Computing. What they fail to realize is that AI/Data can be integrated with Blockchain. The representatives from several major banks had very little interest in Blockchain and were most interested in the collection of data and biometric data. Overall it was a great insight into what the leaders of finance think about the future of finance and worth the time spent there.