On the 22nd of this month I had the pleasure of attending the blockchain conference titled “Die Blockchain-revolusie: Wat Bitcoin en sy tegnologie vir jou beteken” hosted by AfriSake. As soon as I walked through the doors it was apparent to me that this wasn’t going to be anything like the previous conferences I had attended. The professionalism of AfriSake was immediately evident to me as I strolled through the Atterbury theatre perusing the agenda whilst sipping on my glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The topics covered seemed to be targeting genuine real-world issues that blockchain could solve. This, in contrast to the numerous talks I have previously attended in which speakers would pitch quick schemes of how to make millions in cryptocurrencies. What follows is my summary of the days events and the important take home messages I got from each Speaker.
Radical Economic Technology: Why blockchains are important- Piet le Roux
Piet set the scene with a thought-provoking discussion around how technology has changed the world and how it will continue to change the world. This included examples from the industrial revolution up to more recent events such as the creation of the London Stock Exchange. He very cleverly spoke about the power of networks and how trade networks in the past had so much power that some could rival governments. He went on to mentioned that AfriSake has a remarkable team that can take a glimpse into the future and truly see the potential in upcoming technologies. He concluded by stating that AfriSake were not there to say ‘invest in bitcoin’ but rather to show its members this new technology and the possibilities it could open.
What is a blockchain? – Philip Loots
Despite admitting how nervous he is of big crowds, Philip Loots delivered an amazing and easy to understand explanation of blockchain technology. Covering all the basics in a way anyone could grasp Philip began his discussion by highlighting the current need and reliance we have for trusted third parties. He then introduced the crowd to Yuji Ljiri, the man who gave the world the triple entry accounting system. Using a great car sale analogy, Philip described how the Satoshi Nakamoto used the concept of this accounting system to write the Bitcoin white paper and later develop the Bitcoin Network.
From State Money to Private Money: Why Bitcoin is Important – Dawie Roodt
One of my favourite speakers at the conference, Dawie Roodt, delivered a witty and informative speech on Money. Starting off his discussion, Dawie explained the current state of our economy and how it’s not looking good, or as he put it “we are in very very deep trouble”. He went on to explain the beauty of money and how as nations have developed across the globe, money has allowed us to decrease the cost of transacting and trading with one another. He provided a brief description of the history of money and how the money cycle works in modern economics. Using the idea of ‘Atterbury Rands’, Dawie presented one of the best examples I’ve heard to explain Bitcoin in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. Like Philip, Dawie emphasised the importance of trust in traditional financial systems and how the Atterbury Rand (or Bitcoin) could guarantee this trust and essentially eliminate the need for trusted third parties. Dawie believes that we are at the beginning of a revolution of money and that he predicts that we could possibly see banks disappear and if this were to happen would we need monetary policies?
The technological revolution behind Bitcoin and blockchains – Andries Brink
Andries Brink began his presentation by telling the crowd a story of a king who had many problems and a very wise man who had many answers to the kings’ problems. For solving the kings’ problems, the wise man placed grains of rice on a chess board and increased the number of grains exponentially across each square. Andries used this analogy to explain the power of exponential growth. He explained how technology has experienced the same level of growth and how circuit power has dramatically increased over the years to ultimately provide us with massive computational power in the palm of or hands. He ended his speech with my favourite take home message of the day – “Think, Discuss, Do”. Andries explained how to key to widespread adoption of new technology and specifically Blockchain technology is to engage with one another, really think about what this technology can do and act on these thoughts.
Devcon3 highlights – Cornelius Gouws and Schalk Dormehl
Another one of my favourites of the day were the highlights and insights Cornelius and Schalk delivered to the crowd from their experiences of Devcon3. They began their discussion by introducing Ethereum to the audience. Very cleverly, they contrasted Bitcoin and Ethereum by comparing Bitcoin to the Nokia 3310 and Ethereum with Android. What they meant by this is despite the Nokia 3310 being an incredible device that has all the functionality one would need, Android truly changed the game and provided users with the functionality they didn’t know they would need. Next, they told the crowd about the interesting people they met at the conference such as the katalonien and liberland people. My favourite part of their talk was their introduction to Ethereum’s ZK-SNARK technology and the possibilities and anonymity it provides. In addition to this they also spoke about one of my favourite blockchain technologies Raiden Network.
The political economic implications of Bitcoin and the internet of money – Chris Becker
Chris Becker from Investec started his talk with a brief explanation of the revolution of money. What I found fascinating is how he addressed the power of networks and how Metcalfe’s Law could be applied to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. He described how tech start-ups such as Facebook, Uber, and Air BnB all capitalised off the power of networks and went to question why the same laws could not apply to the financial industry. If we have global social networks why should we not have a global financial network? He described Bitcoin as the social network of money. Of all the speakers Chris went on to show graphs of alternative crypto currencies such as Monero and Dash and how their number of users increased exponentially like that of other social networks.
The Sun Exchange: Private Electricity with Blockchain technology – Abraham Cambridge
The last speaker of the day was Abraham Cambridge, the CEO of an incredibly innovative Blockchain start-up called The Sun Exchange. The Sun Exchange allows users to buy individual solar cells on the blockchain and obtain revenue from them. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Abraham after the event and asked if Speckle could interview him at a later stage so keep an eye out on our blog to find out more about this amazing venture.
After the conference ended, the audience had time to eat and drink the refreshments provided and mingle with one another. Overall AfriSake hosted the best blockchain conference I’ve had to pleasure to attend. I would like to personally thank Piet le Roux for inviting Speckle to cover the event and I recommend to all our readers to attend the next one they host.