The dangers of complacency in the face of unprecedented opportunity - Smith + Crown
Opinion |

The dangers of complacency in the face of unprecedented opportunity

We live in exponential times, and the blockchain/cryptocurrency industry is itself one of the best examples of this. We have been given the tools to build anything and we cannot afford to copy the exact systems we set out to remake.

2018 will be a year of dramatic change.  We live in exponential times, and the blockchain/cryptocurrency industry is itself one of the best examples of this. From the pace of chip development in the asic race, to the growth of capital moving into ICOs, to the development of technologies, frameworks and tools that build upon each other, we see example after example of innovation moving at record speed.

Given these changes, it becomes increasingly and fundamentally critical to publicly state, discuss and reinforce the tenants and goals that inspired so much of the foundation for this work. Blockchain technologies represent a fundamentally powerful set of tools that we, as human society, have never had before. These include the ability to programatically and trustlessly manage and allocate capital, to build entire economic systems, to experiment with governance and even societal organization at multiple scales. Far more than this are being developed and launched at an increasing pace.

As an industry and community, we stand on the frontier, the edge where once impossible ideas can now be discussed in concrete terms and then implemented. This should represent an opportunity so powerful and so exciting that our dialogue, news, forums and chatrooms should be overrun with discussion on the next potential implementation. It should be a time of bold collective imagining of what the future could and should be.

Instead the noise of speculation, meme-based investing, get-rich-quick schemes, technical trading for dummies, and even just price discussion have begun to dominate too many conversations. Smart contract platforms allow for trustless computation and distributed applications. ICOs and tokens sales are powerful for the fact that they allow for the early engagement of users to support and participate in projects they believe have real use and should move forward. Tokens are powerful in representing not just value, but also utility, rights, and properties. When the only concern becomes investability for immediate returns then we lose the core aspects that brought us this entire movement, technology, and industry in the first place.

It is also this short-term, price focused mentality that gives rise to the panic when prices drop so precipitously (to their levels 45 days ago). When social media seems to panic, popular press dusts off their crypto-is-a-bubble content and adds some I-told-you-so overtones. It’s difficult to speak to the complexities of the industry and far easier to talk about prices, panic and the “death of Bitcoin”, all of which further reinforces the perception that blockchain technology is nothing more than a new way to trade.

It is the responsibility of those in the community – especially those with multi-billion dollar warchests and visible roles – to help shape the culture, ideals, and dialogue of the space. This can all become Wall Street 2.0, a new silicon valley, or it can be something all on its own – something where “disruptive” and “world changing” ideas are actually disruptive and world changing. We’ve gotten so used to faster food delivery, a better juicer or a valet service somehow being framed as innovation that it can be hard to imagine an industry where impactful and transformative ideas are the standard against which notable endeavors are measured.

It cannot be overstated how potentially powerful these technologies are, but it’s also not easy to overstate how disappointing it is to see announcement after announcement that someone’s extraordinary windfall wealth of 10s or 100s of millions of dollars (or more) will be going into a new hedge fund dedicated to making more money. With this fund, they’ll look for easy pre-ICO money and engage to even a lesser extent with the companies they are supporting than the much (and often rightfully) maligned VC industry we often hear the same types of people rail against.

With the massive influx of capital into the hands of people who have been supporting these technologies, where is the application to innovative structures, endeavors, institutions and foundations? We have the tools and the ideas to develop completely new forms of organizations and solve dauntingly complex problems, with no shortage of opportunities to apply them. (To clarify there isn’t anything inherently wrong with a fund, venture or trading group, and there are some that provide important, thoughtful and valuable contributions. It’s when the roar of profit-seeking hype takes center stage and begins to drown out the conversation around everything else.)

We have been given the tools to build anything and we cannot afford to copy the exact systems we set out to remake.

Our hope in writing all of this is twofold:

First, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to all those creators – the individuals and teams who have not lost sight of what is possible and who are too busy building the future to capture day trading gains or throw a blowout party while they’re still pre-product. It’s the quiet ones who save their energy for doing instead of marketing that will be writing the story of the industries they’re working to disrupt. These are the people that excite us, that we work to support and collaborate with, and who we are excited to see as they move forward.

Second, we want to extend a welcome to the countless people who are joining the industry every day. You join at an exciting moment. We want to provide a simple message – the most important part of this industry and movement is not profit. These technologies are not simple, nor are many of the applications easy or deployable overnight. As fast as everything is moving, patience, research, curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism are required. There is no more exciting movement or technology to be a part of, but it takes work and time. This is a community that will reshape the world, no matter how much the market swings in seven days.