It was certainly an exciting first day at d10e Bucharest, where thought leaders and innovators in blockchain gathered to project a vision for a more equitable and purposeful future. Many connections have been made, and the stage has been set for another year of progress.
A common refrain throughout the conference was that aspirations alone aren’t enough to trigger a shift in organizational structures. Fortunately, many bright minds have used this week as an opportunity to congregate and outline steps for the future of decentralization and further anchor it in reality.
“It is like possessing a missile system with 100% accuracy, but you’re choosing to float it on a system of old rafts lashed together.” – John McAfee, CEO of MGT Capital Investments, future former bad boy
Following a warm welcome from Emcee Naomi Brockwell, the Bitcoin Girl herself, the sixth edition of d10e was kicked off by John McAfee. The CEO of MGT Capital Investments and legendary antivirus pioneer, McAfee’s professional accomplishments have incontrovertibly shaped both the cybersecurity and software industries. Not one to blindly idealize, he discussed the frustrating limitations of developing advanced security systems on existing operating systems. McAfee emphasized that increasingly advanced security systems, however sleek, are functionally limited by the operating systems on which they run.
Later on, McAfee made cautious predictions about the future of information security and privacy. He wryly noted that national governments were lucky enough to not trouble themselves with the inconvenience of bugging their citizens, seeing as the masses gladly accomplished the tasks themselves through mass adoption of personal smart devices. However, I don’t think this was meant to be interpreted as resigned cynicism. Quite to the contrary, his talk emphasized the importance of remaining fully present and active in a rapidly-changing world, leaving the audience with a sumo wrestler’s portion of food for thought.
“Experiences are greater than ownership. Ownership is what binds us into the consumption machine.” – Crystal Rose-Pierce, Co-founder of Sensay
Crystal Rose Pierce, Co-founder of Sensay, later took the stage to address the future of automation and artificial intelligence. She posited that as automation is expected to replace repetitive jobs, people’s livelihoods will become decreasingly dependent on manufacturing, which is expected to usher in an era in which experiences are valued more highly than possession of material goods.
Detachment from goods, and the willingness to let others make use what one is not currently does not need is the mentality shift driving what Rose-Pierce describes as the “collaborative society”, introducing this term as an alternative to the often misconstrued “sharing economy”. An energizing talk, it is very exciting to see that our world order is moving away from the hegemony of consumerism towards one in which relationships and experiences hold higher value.
“How can we built the cities of tomorrow, these great enclaves of prosperity?”
– Thibault Serlet, Co-founder of Startup Cities Foundation
Co-founder of the Startup Cities Foundation and global nomad, Thibault Serlet, explored creation of policy enclaves and novel political ideas as a way to build the cities of tomorrow. In his talk at d10e, he shared valuable lessons from his travels through economic and/or political city-states around the world. He also has met Liechtenstein royalty in gas station parking lots, but that is a story better told by Thibault himself – that is, if you can catch him before he sets off on his next adventure.
A globetrotter who has traveled from Monaco to Hong Kong, Serlet shared compelling insights into the power of fostering economic growth in small geographic areas. The talk included a brief overview of several historical case-studies, such as the introduction of Special Economic Zones in China, citing that China imported capitalism and made it hugely viable by first implementing it on a local, city-scale level. In addition, he pointed out that while city-states have been used as an instrument of human progress for millennia, money can only go so far. He encouraged the audience to explore how decentralization can be applied in order to rejuvenate this level of societal organization, maintaining that it holds great promise for the future.
Later in the evening, attendees dispersed into roundtable sessions which provided a more intimate place for individuals to network and dive deeper into a specific area of interest. Discussion topics varied at each of the tables, with industry leaders facilitating conversations ranging from holacratic organizational structures, speculation on Bitcoin insider trading, and decolonization.
“There are many ways for [applications of blockchain] to fail, but there are even more opportunities for it to thrive.” – David Orban, Founder of Network Society Ventures
Keynote speaker David Orban also moderated of one of the roundtable discussions, in which attendees deliberated over the broader applications of blockchain technology. He remarked that while Bitcoin is the original blockchain success story, the options for expansion were promising:
“I of course love Bitcoin as it is, I’ve been in the Bitcoin world for almost 7 years. However, as far as it is concerned, far more people are talking about the blockchain and realizing its applications. Bitcoin is just one application of it, and there are many more ways to leverage the blockchain.“
“As long as a solution is tied to a person, it is tied to an ego. That ego can be very benevolent and progressive, or it can be autocratic and authoritarian, trumping all decisions.” – Tom Thomison, Co-founder of Encode.org
Tom Thomison led a roundtable on self-organizing groups which rapidly progressed into a dynamic discussion. Founders from different companies shared their experiences with introducing self-organization into their company. One founder in particular had a recent experience introducing a natural hierarchy into his workspace. He accomplished this by bringing several engineers on board for a project, and having them work outside a hierarchical organizational structure. He then observed which engineers took initiative and were empowered by their work, and placed them higher up in the hierarchy, placing the others in appropriate positions within the company. This yielded him interesting and satisfying results and the individual sharing this experience expressed a readiness to further encourage natural hierarchies to flourish in the work structure.
Thomison also used the roundtable as an opportunity to dispel common misconceptions, especially that decentralization necessitates a flat organizational structure. He drew the distinction between flat organizational structures and holacracy, arguing that while a flat organization is not sustainable, holacracy is because it still incorporates naturally-arising hierarchies into its structure: “I have been living holacracy for many years, I know that self-organizing groups with a purposeful mission work.”
On the morning of Day 1: event speakers and attendees were gathered outside the Sheraton Hotel for the Bucharest city tour, and we soon found ourselves in conversation while waiting for the bus.
Within moments, the inevitable conference question came up:
“So why did you come to d10e?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, I answered.
“To shut up and listen.”
Roughness aside, I stand by what I said. Zero fat on that statement.
I came, I saw, I listened- and I can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow.
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Written by Valentina Nakic, for d10e