Last week, economist Nouriel Roubini tested his arguments against cryptocurrencies at the Milken conference, only to ignite a verbal brawl on stage. On Thursday evening in Brooklyn, the whole audience was hostile.
Speaking to a packed room of blockchain believers in Williamsburg, and sitting across from Joseph Lubin, the co-creator of No. 2 cryptocurrency Ethereum, Roubini tried starting with an icebreaker.
“Great being here today where everyone, like me, is a crypto-skeptic,” said the professor from New York University’s Stern School, a line that drew one or two nervous chuckles but mostly silence. “Just joking.”
Though Roubini would go on to call cryptocurrencies “nonsense,” the debate in Brooklyn was mostly civil, unlike at the Milken Institute conference last week in Beverly Hills, California, where the moderator called for a time out. Lubin and crypto believers see the financial world moving away from centralized control, with digital coins underpinned by blockchain ledgers enabling transactions and collaboration.
“We’re not trying to move into a radically decentralized world right away,” said Lubin, chief executive officer of Consensys Inc., which is developing applications using Ethereum blockchain. “The internet has transformed society but it didn’t happen instantly, and the internet is broken because there’s no identity construct and there’s no money construct. We’re fixing that.”
Roubini, famous for foreseeing the 2008 financial crisis, predicts a revolution in the other direction: centralization, with authorities using technology to reduce risk, protect consumers and hone efficiency…