Diversifying the blockchain

It’s common knowledge that the tech and financial industries are not diverse and inclusive places. So when you combine the two and out comes blockchain, what you get from a diversity viewpoint isn’t pretty.

“The consensus is that because blockchain is so niche and it’s mostly early adopters who come from tech and finance, that it’s actually less diverse than those industries that are already struggling to be representative of the population at large,” Raine Revere, co-founder of blockchain education startup Maiden, told me on an episode of the CTRL+T podcast.

In purposefully simplistic terms, blockchain is a technology that allows two untrustworthy peers to make a verifiable transaction without intermediaries. The technology wipes out the need for an intermediary, such as a government, a bank or a company. Using cryptography, people can make these peer-to-peer transactions with less risk of their data being compromised. And in a “well-designed peer to peer system,” Revere said, there are reduced costs for the end user as a result of not paying intermediaries to keep your data safe and coordinate all of the transactions.

What’s cool about the blockchain is that it’s very infrastructural. That means the products that run on blockchain still look like web apps or mobile apps.

“It’s not going to change the way the web feels,” Revere said. “It’s an underlying change. Not everybody gets that.”

Revere co-founded Maiden in part because of the lack of diversity in blockchain. The company’s mission is to diversify the blockchain industry, be that through teaching basic investing to smart contract development.  She wants to ensure this potentially revolutionary technology is understandable and accessible  to those who have historically been on the margins of society — people of color and LGBTQIA people.

“Our hope is that by seeding the community in this nascent phase with more inclusivity and more diversity, that we’ll end up with leaders and makers in the new economy who keep the little people in mind and who are building technologies that aren’t just going to make the rich richer, but actually leverage the full potential of this technology,” Revere said. “And that companies behind them are diverse and inclusive themselves so that there’s multiple perspectives and a lot more intelligence happening. So all of that is something that we hope to institute and effect primarily through education.”

Maiden is in its early days, but Revere says the company plans to help people understand what the blockchain is and how it operates, while steering them away from more complex topics that the average user doesn’t really need to know, like how mining works. In fact, Revere says that’s a mistake a lot of people make when trying to explain the technology.

They’ll “say something about decentralization and then go into describing how mining works,” Revere said. “Well, you don’t need to understand TCPIP in order to use your iPhone, to use the internet, even though that’s the foundation of it.”

“On the same hand, the average user really doesn’t need to understand mining or protocols that are at a low level,” Revere said. “So because this field is so tech oriented and engineering oriented, the resources that are out there are too technical for the average user and it’s disorganized.” […]

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