The Public-Private Blockchain Singularity Might Be Closer Than We Think

Nearly a year ago, at Consensus 2017, I bumped into blockchain lawyer Marco Santori, who made an interesting observation.

The industry was in a transition phase, as the “blockchain not bitcoin” talk of 2015 and 2016 was getting old and cryptocurrencies were about to come back with a vengeance, fueled in part by the initial coin offering (ICO) boom. So, both the enterprise blockchain and crypto sectors of the industry were well represented among the crowd of 2,700 gathered in New York.

But Santori remarked that neither camp seemed to be talking or interacting much with the other. They had essentially become two separate industries.

And understandably so. The enterprises, particularly the regulated financial institutions among them, were afraid to touch bitcoin or anything like it with a 10-foot pole, given its past associations with dark markets and other illicit business.

The crypto enthusiasts, for their part, were perhaps bitter about the condescending attitude that “blockchain 2.0” types had taken toward bitcoin, the very innovation they claimed inspired them.

Early adopters who believed this technology could change the world for the better were also a bit underwhelmed by the enterprise crowd’s comparatively prosaic goals (e.g. making a bank’s back office operate more efficiently) – and skeptical that a “private blockchain” could even work.

So perhaps the bifurcation was inevitable. But I suspect there might be just a little more cross-pollination at Consensus 2018 next month.

Shades of Satoshi?

Consider some of the stories on CoinDesk last week.

First, an executive from the energy giant BP said it’s open to working with companies that have done ICOs and and that it might even consider using a public blockchain one day.

The next day, executives from the insurance giant Allianz told CoinDesk’s Ian Allison about an internal token they’ve been developing to move money between its many global subsidiaries.

Granted, the project uses a proprietary blockchain from a startup called AdJoint. But it has a token nonetheless, so it doesn’t quite align with the old saw “I don’t care about the currency, I’m only interested in the technology.”

Further, the Allianz executives were frank about their hope that it could one day reduce the company’s reliance on the legacy banking system – a faintly bitcoinesque aspiration…

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