Why blockchain is important?
The internet was the mechanism for democratisation of information. It has given everyone the ability to access information wherever they are in the world on whatever device they choose to use. When the internet was first being developed, we didn’t have the computer processing capability to actually secure the internet. By the time we got the processing ability to implement the necessary cryptography to secure it, the foundation had already been laid.
What impact do you see blockchain technology having?
The world now wants a lot more than just information. Information plays a critical role in the world in which we live, but with an insecure system we cannot do much with it. Blockchain is a security layer amongst other things. It’s going to operate the internet and deliver what I call the new internet. Take the internet that you have right now and add security, trust and transparency, you can now do anything you want with it, you can run elections on it, you can manage financial systems, and the list goes on. The internet has affected everyone’s lives and every business on the planet, this will do the same and so much more.
Today, a lot of it is still theoretical because the technology is still a prototype; we are just leaving that phase now and starting to see scalability. The internet wasn’t useful to people until they had an internet browser, search engines, sufficient content, things to buy and stuff to do. It took more than 20 years until the internet was actually useful to people. Things are going much faster now, and I think we are now entering that phase where real impact is going to happen.
How long do you think it will be before we see this technology in our everyday lives?
I’m an optimist, so I’m focused on the positive. I believe it’s going to happen faster than anyone would think, because in the same way that it used to take 10 years to get to a billion users, then five years, then three years... We are soon going to see technology impacting a billion lives in a year. Everything is going faster and faster.
Cryptocurrencies have been the most visible use of blockchain; does the volatility worry you?
Most of the utility we see today has been around speculation. But that speculation is also important. Until you have a sufficient amount of liquidity in the system, most of the other big ideas that we often talk about can’t happen. Americans for many years would come to me and ask “Brock, why would I want bitcoin?” because they’ve read some news story that was sensationalised. I’d be like “You shouldn’t, it’s not for you. You have a piece of plastic in your pocket that allows you to pay for things. You’ve rule of law, you’ve got faith in the system. This isn’t going to change your life”. Is bitcoin a good currency? No, it’s too volatile. People want stability. Bitcoin is a better store of value. Bitcoin is gold 2.0. Precious metals were the primary form of money for 2,000 to 5,000 years. We are still at the beginning of this journey. Look at the internet. In 1995, the internet was only used by criminals, and in 2000, after the bubble crashed, everybody said there is no business to be had on the internet. Big ideas and changes like blockchain and cryptocurrencies take time to happen. We are now just getting into the phase where these systems are going to be easy for everyone to use.
Do you see blockchain as evolution or revolution?
I aspire for evolution because it’s not chaotic. I want to see change that’s beneficial to everyone. It’s going to happen in one way or another, but let’s do it in the right way if we can. And the right way is inclusiveness. Obviously, innovation is always disruptive, but you can include people in disruption, and you can allow the old systems to be a beneficiary of the change. In reality, if you want to affect change thoughtfully, it needs to be inclusive. The old doesn’t have to die for the new to win. If you want to affect change quickly, it has to happen from the inside, it has to be inclusive of everyone. Otherwise, they’re going to fight it.
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What role do governments have to play in this new decentralised world?
Governments and regulators have a big role to play. Regulators move slowly and so should they. That is their job, and most of them are intent on doing their jobs right, which is to protect consumers. If you want to see a real change in the world, you have to have buy-in from all the major participants. I spend a lot of my time educating governments and regulators because if you want sensible and good regulation, it requires well-informed regulators. If you want governments to make good decisions, you need a well-informed government.
Governments are now competing around the world; they are recognising the potential of the technology and the benefits it provides to their constituency and their people. They are embracing the technology and, in some cases, taking two steps forward and one step back because new things are always confusing, and it’s hard to know what to do. But you know when it’s right, when you understand that you can do something that can positively impact the lives of others. Who wants to be the person who said no to improving the lives of billions of people?
Who will blockchain technologies impact the most?
The status-quo is working for those on top, but I believe the developing world is going to be the biggest beneficiary. What most people don’t realise is that billions of people on this planet have limited or no access to financial tools whatsoever. They don’t have their basic human rights or needs being met to live a prosperous life. Blockchain is democratising the global financial system; every human being on the planet is going to have equal access, and the least fortunate billions of people are going to be the biggest beneficiaries. These applications will raise the poorest out of poverty, or at least give them the tools to do so, which they haven’t had up to now. Today, the only way they can do this is by winning the lottery.
Malta has been coined the Blockchain Island. What’s your impression of the country?
Malta is the equivalent of a start-up nation. It’s one of those countries that embrace change, but Malta is not alone. Malta is demonstrating that it is ahead of the pack. But then if Japan and other large countries were not taking any steps back, there wouldn’t be any room for Malta to jump in. The technology is indisputably game changing and is beyond proven by every major academic and institution. The only question is who will be the winners? It will be determined by those people that choose to be leaders, and Malta is taking a leadership position.
What’s the final message you would like to share?
Give, share, love. The world needs people now that are doing more than looking after themselves. If you have been blessed with abundance, you’re living a comfortable life, it’s time to give a shit. Give and take go hand in hand, just taking doesn’t make the world sustainable. You need to give more than you take.
Brock Pierce is an internet entrepreneur turned crypto billionaire who is listed as number nine on Forbes Richest People in Cryptocurrency. He is Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, Founder and Managing Partner of Blockchain Capital and advisor to many of the most influential players in the blockchain world.