What is a blockchain centre in this exploding new world developing in front of our eyes? When eight months ago I set out into a journey to open a blockchain centre in Canberra I had a clear vision in my mind of what I wanted to achieve. This led me to meeting some amazing people and changed my thinking in a lot of ways, but I see that a part of what I tried to achieve has been lost and I would like to explore why and if I should go back to the original vision. I will try and keep it short although there are a lot of ways of doing this and the conversation always overextends and complicates itself depending on who you are talking to.
Eight months ago I thought I got it now – I understand what blockchain is and the potential it has to achieve big changes. I don’t come from a tech background and I had to justify my opinion and my knowledge to a lot of government officials as well as business leaders who were only looking at my linked in profile or social media. It made it even harder when trying to set up a meeting through email or a phone conversation. Setting up meetings became a lot easier when I was put in touch with a few other enthusiasts who had been working in IT, data center managers and government employees who had their own vision of what blockchain was at that point in time and we registered a not for profit organisation – Canberra Blockhain Centre. Somehow it gave me more legitimacy.
When I tried to explain my position on anything blockchain related people valued my response and I have had answers to most of the questions unless it goes into finer programming details. I got my credibility through events I organised and ended up as a go to person to talk to for people with ideas locally – some call them entrepreneurs and I ended up in the same category. Even though I connected a lot of people with ideas to the right tech or people for what they are trying to achieve I still give my advice for free and all the time spent on making partnerships and finding grants to make it happen is all volunteered even after I left my full time job to pursue the path of making a blockchain center happen.
Why I set out to open a blockchain centre? It was mostly to educate the masses and make information freely available just in case this tech ends up going against the people it was created to serve. Transparency if implemented correctly is an amazing thing and can be used to better everyones lives, make business more efficient and save time maybe eventually leading to UBI as one of advantages. In the face of that when I see $1Billion AUD commited to IBM by Australian government to implement blockchain in the government departments and announcements of Australian National Blockchain being build it doesn’t fill me with confidence. I see these announcements as very important at the same time if majority of people don’t even know what blockchain is or don’t care it will have massive implications. I am sure there are plenty of governments looking into similar solutions and maybe you have seen similar announcements being made by your government and you didn’t think twice about it or thought that is great or this is bad none the less you already know what are the capabilities of the tech and you are in the know.
Lets remember what the Internet cafe did to the internet boom. It used to be places where people gather and talk about tech at first as no one cared about the internet, then it became a place where you go to read your emails be it spam or an email sent by one of two friends who are using it, later they were everywhere especially in the countries where PC’s where not affordable and limited to a few privileged families. IRC chat became addictive and was the first social media platform used widely in Lithuania where I am from. Internet cafes became the normal part and a necessity of every city especially while traveling. Well everyone knows about internet now and it is used freely in most places around the world through wi-fi or mobile services and the internet cafe boom is finished as every cafe is internet cafe now. No one knows exactly how internet works, but everyone trusts it will be there when you need to check on your friends or book a ride or buy groceries. We ended up creating massive global corporations and trusted them with our data without clearly understanding that we are giving consent to it. Hacks happen and people start raising their voices now and making sure their opinions are being heard. Governments only a few years ago started creating laws on how to deal with the internet.
My title is Blockchain centre the new internet cafe? I truly believe it is. We are at the stage where people who care go to meetups and events as well for advice or meet like minded people. The broader community is either not interested as it sounds way too complicated, haven’t heard of it and don’t want to talk about it as they heard it was used to buy drugs, or not interested because they lost a lot of money buying something they didn’t understand. When I asked about mass adoption a few weeks ago at a meetup not organised by me one of bps answered with a question what do you mean by mass adoption? I didn’t go into detail as I would have to explain all of this, but seemed like he took offence just by my question I guess it gets asked a lot. Mass adoption can happen in a few ways in my point of view:
- Tech progresses and everyone is using it without the knowledge that they are on blockchain.
- We take it upon ourselves to explain what it means to be on blockchain and what it brings to the table hence bringing people with us.
In the first instance we are playing with fire and the governments and corporations will use it as they please until people catch on to what actually means to be on blockchain and start asking question if ever. There are conspiracy theories why facebook was created, but it doesn’t matter why, what matters is how it is used now. This one example shows how something if done well could benefit or harm the society depending on peoples understanding of the tech and how it is used.
In the second instance more people understand and start questioning governments and corporations why they are using blockchain and how it will affect their personal privacy data, business, jobs and social security how it can be used to progress or suppress everyones liberties. It is up to everyone to push governments to be more transparent from the start and find out what is going to change, but if people don’t know the basics they will not know what questions to ask.
My idea originally was to create a space for people to walk in from the street to find out what blockchain is and how they can get involved or why should they be interested. As I didn’t have the funds to do it I have had to look for partnerships and government grants. I got stuck in the perpetual loop of meetings explaining tech to the people who should be able to find the information easier than that and selling the technology, hence my idea of information hub became startup hub, incubator and accelerator program, educational courses for business, meetups and events for the community. Information on its own is not important to know it has to be turned into business. I have said it as well as many of you said it that no one knows how email works, but they still use it. I think this is not email and we should take more responsibility to actually explain how it can be used or misused.
Thanks if you read it till the end, I am still going ahead, working on and looking for partnerships for Canberra Blockchain Centre as an incubator cause it is the only way I can see a path to get funding to do more broad knowledge sharing to the masses. Would like to hear if you think the chicken or the egg is more important in this case? I think everyone is doing a lot of community building and doing their best, but maybe the question is as well do you think it is important that people actually understand the technology we are all promoting?