Blockchain, digital currencies, and DLTs have been at the forefront of conversations this past year. During 2019 we’ve seen consistent growth throughout the entire industry landscape driven by new enterprise implementations & business models, increased venture funding, and decentralized application (DApps). These trends show no signs of slowing down if anything will continue to speed up and further integrated into our daily lives.
This transformation to Web3.0 and a more decentralized world will require new ways of thinking, interacting, and doing business at scale. I sat down with Samantha Radocchia, an expert in the industry and author of Bitcoin Pizza: The No-Bullshit Guide to Blockchain to get her perspective on our decentralized future.
Q: What began your journey into the world of Bitcoin and Blockchain?
Samantha: It’s been a wild journey, that’s for sure. Long story short, I grew up in a household where computer gaming was celebrated. Whether it was my dad admiring the graphics in Myst in the early 90s, my brothers and I playing World of Warcraft or Age of Empires into the wee hours of the night or competing in what could be called early esports on Saturday mornings in a clan in Tribes 2, you could say we were pretty into it.
I became sort of a self-taught developer/hacker from all that gaming, so when I went to college, I was much more fascinated by the study of human behavior and social engineering than I was the technical engineering. I studied Anthropology of technology, and for my thesis, which I ultimately continued into graduate research, I convinced the department to let me study a virtual world called Second Life. This was 2009. While I was living “in-world,” I opened a t-shirt shop to sell t-shirts to other avatars in exchange for the in-world currency, Linden Dollars. It was through the course of research that I became aware of Bitcoin as well as the concept of virtual/digital/ cryptographic assets as many people were exchanging their Linden Dollars for USD or BTC via these makeshift peer-to-peer exchanges. I ended up founding a few companies along the way, but it wasn’t until around 2013 when I reconnected with some folks in the industry around a loyalty product, and then ultimately, enterprise blockchain for the supply chain.
Q: Furthermore, what drove you to write a book about our decentralized future? What will readers get out of reading it?
I’ve had such a unique privilege in working at the cutting edge of technology for a lot of my career. Whether it was starting a business in A.I. (artificial intelligence) and Machine Learning before those were terms to then being one of the first companies to use blockchain technology beyond financial use cases. What I’ve seen, now more than ever, is that there is a lot of uncertainty and often fear around our narrative of the future. We see sensationalized media and fear around automation. We see Black Mirror episodes about killer drones or social credit scores gone AWOL. We see dystopian films and terminators. So the question is, is this really the future we want to build? I think that as we have expanded into a connected, global civilization, we have also opened up a lot of trust gaps. We filled those trust gaps with institutions — whether that be governments, banks, retailers, auditors, you name it. There’s a much broader shift taking place from centralized present to decentralized future, and that is a shift in mindset more so than it is a shift in technologies. I wrote the book so that readers could understand the broader socio-cultural, geopolitical, macro shifts taking place and understanding why this technology is important, not necessarily what it is or how it works.
It is my belief that this is truly a unique moment in human history. We might not be able to see what’s coming yet, and it might not take a linear path, but in time will get there. We’re all taking part in building a new social operating system, the operating system of the future. A better future. A future where we restore connections with ourselves, with each other, with our environment, with the products we consume and everyone has the power to shape that future.
Q: Why is blockchain so crucial to the future of enterprise and business as well know it?
Let’s think about blockchain as a technical manifestation of a much broader shift, a shift bigger than buzzwords such as “digital transformation,” a shift that also encompasses technologies such as blockchain, IoT, AI/ML, robotics, genomics, a shift that represents the convergence of these exponential technologies and ideas at this unique moment in time. We’re experiencing seismic paradigm shifts on the socio-cultural, geopolitical, financial, and environmental levels. Blockchain and, more broadly, decentralization are simply technical manifestations of these broader ideas. To me, they represent, at the very least, the continuation of Satoshi’s much-needed conversation about the shifts from centralized to decentralized, from opaque to transparent, and from a culture of distrust to trust. So why is this important to the future of enterprise and business as we know it?
Let me give you an example of one totally unrelated technology: The airplane. You don’t necessarily know how an airplane works, do you? I mean, you might know about the forces of lift and thrust, of weight and drag, but you aren’t thinking about the nuts and bolts of the rudders and ailerons unless of course, you are a pilot or the mechanic. But what you do know is that once the airplane was introduced, and the accompanying infrastructure was built (airports, air shipping companies, etc.), the world changed and business that you would never have expected, like airplane catering companies, were born.
We can do this exercise over an over again for any new technology that has been introduced and the accompanying social changes it represents written communication/language, agriculture, the lightbulb, the printing press, mobile phones, open-source, jet propulsion. The thing is, this particular technology and shift to decentralization touches every industry and gets to the very nature of what it means to trust, what money is, who governs systems.
Q: What are three key factors that every executive should be thinking through as they prepare their business for a future driven by Blockchain and Digital Currencies like Bitcoin?
- Blockchain and Digital Currencies are first and foremost, a shift in mindset. If you want to harness the power of them, you need to think of them as more than just a ledger and apply the thinking of decentralization to other areas of the business such as business model design.
- Blockchain and Digital Currencies are giving us a glimpse into the future of work and organizational design. Your organization of the future will most likely be distributed, potentially decentralized. The concept of salaries and non competes might cease to exist. Your employees will be free agents contributing to a number of projects based on connectedness and vibrancy of the community.
- Don’t do a pilot just for the sake of a pilot or for marketing benefit. Seek to begin by solving a real problem. If the technology is the right solution, then great, but also be open to the combination of other technologies available.
Q: Where do you think blockchain will have the most significant impact in the next 3–5 years?
? Financial Services — Cryptocurrencies, Internet of Value, Decentralized Finance, Open Banking, Financial Inclusion
? Supply Chain — Not only in making supply chains more efficient but also in ushering a shift from Supply Chain to Demand Chain, where blockchains will interface with technologies such as 3D printing and vertical farming in order to produce consumer products on demand, on location, with I.P. protected on a blockchain network.
? Governance — New governance structures, new incentives, voting fairness
? Future of Work — New org structures such as DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations)
? Gaming / Entertainment — Virtual Worlds, Tokenized and Interoperable Virtual Assets, Fractionalized Physical and Digital Assets
If someone is a newcomer to the world Bitcoins and Blockchains, what are two or three key things they should know to prepare for what’s ahead?
- Read the Bitcoin White paper
- Keep an open mind. Learn how to unlearn. The best businesses and ideas come from revisiting first principles and designing from the present, not what the past has told us.
- Maintain an abundance mindset. Many people I speak to think open systems are at odds with closed systems, competition, and scarcity. Well, they are. But also think about the tremendous amount of value and opportunities open systems will unlock. Collaborate to compete.
- The nature of your business and daily life will inevitably change. If you’re a factory owner who produces auto parts in one location and is fearful about the change, embrace it. Perhaps you will now own a globally distributed network of machines that produce parts on location, as needed. Perhaps you charge fees for maintaining and securing the I.P. and design files or machines themselves. Point being, change doesn’t have to be scary.
Q: What has you most excited about our decentralized future?
Honestly, I’ve never been excited about incremental change or retrofitting existing systems. What really gets me going is the concept of transformational evolution — completely new ways of thinking, leading to entirely new systems. We are at a crossroads where, for the first time since the industrial revolution, or arguably earlier during the agrarian revolution, we are revisiting the nature of money itself, asking hard questions about nation-states, corporations, finances, food, money, data, knowledge, and more. We all have the privilege of taking part in this transformational change, whether it be in our daily lives, our businesses, our relationships and we all have the responsibility to build a better — more sustainable, more equitable — future.