In snowy Davos this week, the halls buzzed with a pair of words that have to grow to be nigh impossible to escape at such topflight functions: blockchain and cryptocurrency. Seemingly everyone weighed in around the subjects.
Cryptocurrency, the additional controversial from the two, had its fair share of detractors. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin mentioned he was focused on people utilizing Bitcoin as well as other cryptocurrencies for “illicit activity.” UK Prime Minister Theresa May urged governments to take the criminal dangers “very seriously.” And International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde exhorted that “the way in which [cryptocurrency] conceals and protects income laundering and financing of terrorism, is just unacceptable”-while adding, hopefully, “there might be innovations coming out of those movements.”
Blockchains, however, drew heaps of praise. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz lauded the technology as “a true piece of genius.” Lagarde was known as it “fascinating.” And billionaire investor George Soros extolled the virtues, saying blockchains “can be put to optimistic use,” including by “helping migrants to communicate with their families and to help keep their funds safe and carry it with them.”
I didn’t attend this year’s Globe Financial Forum, but just some hundred kilometers north of the Alpine retreat I hosted a panel on digital identity and fraud at Münich’s Digital Life Style conference. One participant, Timothy Ruff, co-founder and CEO of Evernym, a startup that’s creating a blockchain for identity, spoke eloquently regarding the technology’s prospective for humanitarian aid. His remarks held special significance in the Bavarian city, where an influx of migrants from war-torn Syria-many lacking official government documents-have located refuge.