A look back at the London Blockchain Conference 2023
It may sound cliche, but optimism was the overriding feeling I remember in the London Blockchain Conference 2023 speeches and on the faces of the wide range of attendees, from insiders and experts to curious strangers to blockchain. Perhaps infectious optimism is more appropriate. It seemed to swell around the great halls of the QEII Centre, a fitting venue for several reasons.
The conference center is owned by the UK Government and run by the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities. There are few more ambitious and optimistic ideas in recent public policy in the UK than the idea of ’upgrading’, a political policy first articulated in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto aimed at reducing economic and social imbalances between different areas and demographics groups across the UK
This has – perhaps unsurprisingly given who was spearheading the policy – largely been a failure, but the idea of reducing social imbalance is irresistibly compelling, and one that permeates the blockchain world as well. This was on full display at the London Blockchain Conference 2023.
In contrast to the sour and defeated faces that walk the halls of the Houses of Parliament today, the excitement of those across the road at the QEII Center was refreshing as they heard about the opportunities technology could offer to communities around the world.
Whether it was the head of emerging technologies at the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), Houman Haddad, who spoke about how blockchain can, and is, revolutionizing the humanitarian sector, a panel discussion on what micropayments can mean for financial inclusion in the developing world. and third worlds; or a lively debate about the benefits central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) could bring to global banking. Optimism was on the agenda.
Being just a stone’s throw from Parliament was also fittingly in keeping with the conference’s outreach theme, another key takeaway from the three-day event. A lot of panel and speaking time, especially at the business strategy stage, was devoted to what blockchain can do for businesses outside the ecosystem. Big tech’s slow adoption of the technology was a talking point, as was the usefulness of the big block BSV blockchain for smaller businesses and individuals who might otherwise not have considered investing in blockchain solutions.
The generally upbeat tone was, perhaps surprisingly, not dampened by recent industry events, and there were no undisputed elephants in the room. Speakers did not try to avoid the crises and scandals in the digital asset space in 2022 and into this year – FTX was mentioned by many speakers.
Instead, the London Blockchain Conference 2023 devoted much of day two to conversations about the future and benefits for the digital asset industry of improved regulation and governance worldwide; The European Union’s regulation of Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) received particular praise.
One panel that stood out in this regard was a discussion on how to regain customer trust after a year or so, which has given the industry a bad rep among investors and lawmakers alike. The broad consensus from this four-person panel of industry insiders (including Andrei Kirilenko, a former chief economist for the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission) was that embracing regulation, rather than running and hiding from it, is the best and only way forward.
If one were to look at the digital asset industry from the outside, through the lens of newspaper coverage, Twitter beefs and bankruptcies, one might get the impression that it is a space in turmoil, blindly ping-ponging from one disaster to the next.
If one had taken this image into the London Blockchain Conference 2023, it would have been quickly dispelled. After three days at the QEII Centre, my impression was that, at least in certain corners of the digital asset industry, excitement for the technology has not been deterred, innovation continues and, combined with law and regulation, there is good reason to be optimistic.
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