May 16, 2023
Consensus is an apt name for America’s largest and most influential crypto conference.
Because crypto is so broad, so varied, that it’s hard to believe you could get such an odd collection of 14,981 misfits under one roof, for one purpose.
The divides between many viewpoints stretched beyond the normal political and social camps seen here in America.
I met a man who doesn’t trust the government or banks, and he sees crypto as the safest custodian for value. I met a young black woman, a fashion designer, who said she’s tired of seeing big labels steal designs from her and her community, and so she wants to tokenize her designs so she can preserve ownership. After her comments during a Q-and-A she finished by raising her fist in a sign of Black Power, which gained a haphazard mix of applause, frowns, and shrugs from the audience.
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I met app designers from Central America who see crypto as the only safe way to send remittances from the US back to their home countries. As anti-immigration laws continue to tighten, and the gulf between sides continues to grow, these hard-working designers just want to make sure there’s a safe way to send money back to their families.
I met anarchist designers who think governments and institutions are outdated — only peer-to-peer collaboration and commerce, with a completely decentralized structure, will survive societal collapse. I met game designers from South Korea who couldn’t care less about the philosophy of crypto but want to see a gaming marketplace where you can buy cool weapons and armor for immersive gunfighting games. (But despite their appearance as young tech bros, they gave me a traditional bow when offering me their business card.)
I met a real-world tokenizer from London who told me the 2008 Financial Meltdown was a conspiracy planned by the ruling elite to bilk America from its savings. The pandemic was a similar conspiracy. Big Banking? Conspiracy. Mortgages? Conspiracy. The US dollar? Conspiracy. He saw Bitcoin as the one and only safe haven for tampering — and he wants to put the deeds of London flats on the blockchain so the government can stop its meddling — you, and only you, should have the power to be the custodian of your home. (I also suspect he was a bit high on cocaine, fulfilling the stereotype.)
I met human rights activists who see the anonymity of decentralized communication as a way around autocratic regimes everywhere from North Korea to Russia. They also included Israel on their list, which provided an interesting contrast, given that their booth was right across from yarmulke-clad Israelis who were there to promote next-generation cybersecurity.
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I met representatives of The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which was there to remind everyone that cryptos are commodities, and that they will be regulated as such. I did NOT meet the representatives sent by the IRS (nor did I try!).
I met Jon Heder, the actor of Napoleon Dynamite fame, who admitted he knew nothing about NFTs, but after designing a few for some friends and lending his voice to a blockchain-based game, has decided he’s “here to stay.” And then I met volunteers from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which had a booth to promote donated NFTs that were available for auction to raise funds to treat children with cancer.
And yet, while the philosophies and goals were so different, there was a remarkable amount of unity. Every last attendee, regardless of their background or place of origin, had traveled to Austin, Texas, because they believed these new blockchain technologies can preserve their place in the world. That they can protect the value they’ve worked for. And that they can unlock humanity’s creativity.
This is the takeaway that impressed me the most: in a world that’s fractured and divided, crypto has become an unexpected nexus of connection. Crypto now represents $1.19 trillion. And while that’s down from the $2+ trillion we saw during the last crypto boom, it’s a reminder of how large this audience is — and how fast it’s growing. Despite all the contractions in the space, its current rate of growth has it on track to hit $2.6 trillion by 2026.
That’s the power of consensus. And as its collective value grows, so will ours.
Editor, Daily Profit Cycle