If you are looking for cryptocurrency predictions this ain't it. This is just a blog post about my trip to Phuket where I had a rendezvous with a cruise ship full of blockchain people. My life will never be the same, and apparently neither will yours.
The meeting point was at Paradise Beach in Phuket, Thailand. The 600 guests, most of them blockchain enthusiasts, investors and industry professionals, arrived in shuttle boats from the MS Mariner of the Seas. I arrived a few hours late in a pink took-took, just missing John McAfee's morning session.
Understanding blockchain, mining and crypto
I felt a bit out of place. After 10 years of gaming conferences I am used to finding familiar faces but here there were none. To be completely honest I didn't really understand what blockchain, mining and cryptocurrency meant until late last year.
Around that time I read the Q3 sales numbers for All-in Translations, and my interest was quickly piqued when I learned that one of our top clients in 2017, was a company primarily working with mining.
Bitcoin skyrockets, then plummets
Prior to this, the first encounter between All-in Translations and cryptocurrency occured when we translated a website into a dozen languages, and the company wanted to pay us in Bitcoin. We accepted. Unfortunately most of these Bitcoins were sold shortly after, but not all.
Almost coincidentally we had left €200 worth in our cryptowallet back in August, and by mid December this was worth about €12000. A few days later, after seeing this video, we sold half and since then the Bitcoin price has plummeted about 50%. (I am not sure how much influence the video actually had but it's funny.)
Nevertheless, since I was spending the winter on an island in Thailand not far from Phuket, to be close to our Asian expansion, it was an easy decision to purchase a ticket to Coinsbank's Blockchain Thailand when I saw it announced. I figured I would learn more, and also test the waters - since the intention of All-in Translations is to include blockchain, cryptocurrency and mining as subjects we specialise in*.
I found a stool in the tropical beach bar. Beer was only served in the VIP section, so I settled for a Gin Tonic. The next speaker, the last one before lunch, was Andrew J Filipowski. He is a Polish American technology entrepreneur born in 1950 in Chicago, currently the CEO of SilkRoad Equity.
2017 Disruptive Technologies
I couldn't help noticing Mr. Filipowski's resemblance to Willie Nelson. He even had a calm and warm voice. The stage gave me the feeling of being at a music festival. Everything was modern, everything except the on-screen presentation which looked like a school project from the 90s.
It was a document, probably made with PowerPoint or MS Word, and the list of bullet points was so long that the bottom part was reflected on the edge of the stage under the screen. The title was 2017 Disruptive Technologies and I will never forget what Mr. Filipowski had to say. It was perhaps the most interesting presentation I have ever witnessed at a conference. It was like catching a glimpse of the future.
Mr. Filipowski seemed extremely knowledgeable and experienced. There was clearly no doubt in his mind that the scenario he described would occur. That much was obvious. He spoke in capital letters when he said “this WILL happen”. In fact, and as he pointed out, a lot of it is happening already.
Robot driven cars and organ printing
What particularly caught my attention was the way he explained how certain things are closely connected. For example robot driven cars. They will drastically reduce the number of accidents as the element of human error is largely removed. And with much fewer deaths in traffic, the amount of organs good for donation will be practically zero. So what to do? The technology of growing or even printing human organs already exists.
Robot driven cars will also reduce the need for car mechanics, and I wouldn’t suggest taxi driving as a career path for my children either. Insurance sales person? Car insurance will practically be free. In general Filipowski expressed concern about the reduction of jobs on a global basis.
“But one of the bright minds in your generation will solve this problem. Personally I don’t have a solution. Maybe even old people can learn how to code just a little bit. This I don’t know”, he said.
The energy consumption of Bitcoin(!)
Filipowski is convinced that we can achieve 100% renewable energy production with blockchain. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Most people don't know how much energy is consumed in the process of mining digital currency. To give an example, the entire Bitcoin network consumes more energy than the country of Iraq. It also consumes more energy than Peru and Hong Kong, and a bit less than Singapore and Portugal.
This is according to an article in digiconomist.net which I read just before Christmas. It was very enlightening but I felt it was a bit one-sided. For example this sentence:
"With the help of these numbers, it is possible to compare both networks and show that Bitcoin is extremely more energy intensive per transaction than VISA (note that the chart below compares a single Bitcoin transaction to 100,000 VISA transactions). Of course, these numbers are far from perfect (e.g. energy consumption of VISA offices isn’t included)".
It just seems unbalanced to go into depths about the energy consumption of the Bitcoin network but to dismiss the energy consumption of VISA offices with half a sentence between brackets. It's obviously in the interest of banks and the establishment to hinder the expansion of cryptocurrencies, but at the same time it's in the interest of anyone that owns some cryptocurrency to get more people to buy it, so it is important to be critical of your sources here.
An interview with a crypto/esports expert
To balance it out I interviewed an old colleague of mine from PokerStars, Lars Lien. He is now the CEO of Luckbox.com, a Malta based company which is creating a licensed platform where you can bet on esports using cryptocurrencies.
All-in Translations: Are you concerned about the energy consumption involved here?
Lars: The current energy consumption is abhorrent and is a gigantic waste of resources that could be better utilised for other purposes. Bitcoin is unfortunately plagued with a governance structure that is not conducive to structural changes, which also affects other aspects such as quarrels and self-interest among core stakeholders on what should be done to improve its transaction capacity and speed. We are currently seeing the emergence of a large number of alternative technologies built around the same philosophy - trustless distributed ledgers - taking advantage of other methods of creating consensus/trust around transactions such as “Proof of Stake”, utilising other algorithms to share, spread and confirm transactions are legitimate, or by offering additional functionality such as smart contracts and proof of asset ownerships. These mitigate or eliminate the resource consumption issues and instead make people put up large “interest bearing” deposits that are lost in case they do not conform to consensus.
All-in Translations: I am suggesting internally that we should continue to accept payment for our services in cryptocurrencies but people are a bit skeptical. Are there many companies doing this? And since Bitcoin for example can be exchanged for euros, what is ultimately the difference? Is it merely that of the exchange rate? Are there ways of accepting payment in different cryptocurrencies without this causing a headache for our accountant?
Lars: You absolutely should. There is a tremendous market opportunity for All-In Translations by participating in this market, due to your established global reach and excellent reputation. There will necessarily be complications, but services such as BitPay will let you invoice clients in your currency, but accept cryptocurrency as payments which are then automatically converted to fiat. There is also an argument to be made that the financial system is changing - Bitcoin with all of its issues offer significantly faster (and typically cheaper) transactions than are possible with traditional international payments. With the economy of traditional currency overloaded with debts, modern currencies may be a good hedge against another financial crisis. One thing to be mindful of, however is the resistance and outright hostility many banks have to cryptocurrencies as the democratization of payments and ability to directly own your own currencies threaten their very existence.
All-in Translations: Clearly you have a strong focus on language localization. Has this focus been a contributing factor to your success? And if yes, in what way?
Lars: Our goal is to be a global operator. We’re a platform dedicated to esports, which is massive across the world. Clearly, we need to be able to engage and communicate with people in a multitude of languages as these are our potential customers. Community will be a huge part of how Luckbox grows and retains customers - players need to be able to talk to each other and our staff. Even before that, though, is our crowdsale - the project is being supported by contributors from across the world. But for that to happen, we need to be able explain what we’re doing and, more than that, the nuances of a quite complicated process and what makes us trustworthy and the project credible. So while we do not yet have a large array of languages available, the fact that we WILL have it, and that we are working with a reputable partner makes a lot of difference.
So what's next with All-in Translations and our cryptic... sorry I mean crypto adventure? We already have several clients lined up so the agenda now is to:
♣ Find and hire more translators and writers that understands this better than me.
♣ Examine the language used and look at how we can convey it in a meaningful way, perhaps avoiding an excessive amount of Anglicism. "The bible" on how to localize texts related to blockchain, mining and cryptocurrencies has not been written yet and we intend to be first to market here.
♣ Figure out if and how we can make it easier for companies to use our services by accepting payment in cryptocurrencies.
PS: Did you know that the first bank we used in Malta struggled with spelling and incorporated our company as ALL-IN TRANSACTIONS? You can read more about that (and get advice on how to apply for a job with us) here. But what's in a name, right? Well, we have a feeling that vergecurrency.com might have some challenges in the French speaking parts of the world. After all we are talking about digital, not genital, currencies.
*The same goes for esports, which also seems to be a natural progression from iGaming, which will of course remain our main focus.
A DICTIONARY OF TERMS USED IN THIS ARTICLE
♣ Cryptocurrency: A specific form of digital currency which utilizes encryption technology (or ‘cryptography’) in regulating the creation of currency units and verifying the transfer of funds between parties. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized and do not rely on intermediaries like banks. As such, international bank transfer fees are not imposed on global transactions.
♣ Digital currency: A currency which exists exclusively in an electronic format (i.e not in a physical form). Some digital currencies are considered legal tender by governments, while others are recognized only by their users.
♣ Blockchain: Best described as a public ‘digital ledger’, the Blockchain is a continuously growing record of crypto transactions. The nature of the Blockchain means attempted modification is extremely difficult, as changing one ‘block’ in the transaction chain requires the changing of every other block to which it is connected. Blockchain is managed by peer-to-peer networks and typically allows for transactions to remain anonymous.
♣ John McAfee: An influential computer programmer who founded McAfee Associates, the company behind the first successful anti-virus software.
♣ Mining: A term to describe the process of adding transactions (or blocks) to the Blockchain, which subsequently creates a record of the transaction.
♣ Cryptowallet: An online wallet where one can securely store their digital currency. A cryptowallet is typically connected to a regular bank account or debit/credit card so that the digital currency can be exchanged into one’s local currency.
♣ Bitcoin: The most popular and valuable cryptocurrency, and the most famous form of decentralized currency. Bitcoin is open-source, meaning the software’s source code can be accessed and modified by anyone.
♣ Bitcoin network: The peer-to-peer network which operates according to cryptographic protocol and allows for transactions between Bitcoin users.
♣ BitPay: An international payment service provider focused on Bitcoin. BitPay is the largest Bitcoin payment processor of its kind.
♣ Smart contract: A computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and enforces the adherence to a contract, allowing for credible transactions peer-to-peer without the need for a third party.
♣ Disruptive technology: A new technology which becomes a game-changer for an existing industry, by rendering previous technologies irrelevant or unnecessary. A disruptive technology might also refer to a technology which is so ground-breaking it created an entirely new industry.
♣ Proof-of-stake: The concept that Bitcoin users have more mining power depending on the number of bitcoins they have in their possession. The more bitcoins a user has, the easier it is for them to mine more bitcoins. This lessens the burden of the traditional time- and power-consuming mining which is described as 'proof-of-work'.
♣ Crowdsale: A crowdsale generates funds for a project in its development stage and awards contributors ‘tokens’ that can be used in relation to the project once it is completed. One might donate to a crowdsale because they believe in the pitched product or service’s potential, and because they want ‘tokens’ to spend on that product or service once it is launched.