As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s Director of Curriculum Dan McArdle, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in New York City on April 27-29, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Peter Kirby of Factom.
Dan: Can you tell us a little about why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies?
Peter: I’m a long time entrepreneur and student of finance markets. I first got involved with Bitcoins at the end of 2012. I bought some early and sold enough to take my Fiance to southern France. It was a great introduction for both of us. Later in 2013, I was an early contributor to a Bitcoin mining company in Austin. It was a complete whirlwind and gave me an opportunity to learn manufacturing, procurement, and logistics in this very specialized niche.
Dan: How is Factom different than proof-of-concept projects such as ProofOfExistence.com? What is Factom’s ultimate vision?
Peter: Factom takes the proof-of-existance idea and expands it very broadly to any type of data structure. Existence proofs are a moment in time. Factom organizes these into unlimited chains over time, so you can construct a proof-of-process. This allows you to build much more sophisticated systems like real time audit, and tamper-proof record keeping. Think of an existence proof as a single unmodifiable photo and Factom as a tamper-proof documentary.
Dan: Factom has chosen to layer on top of the Bitcoin blockchain, whereas some other “Bitcoin 2.0” services opted to create completely separate systems. What benefits does using the Bitcoin blockchain specifically give Factom users?
Peter: The Bitcoin Blockchain has 400+ petahash in computing power securing the system. That’s many many orders of magnitude beyond any other blockchain. By piggybacking off the Bitcoin Blockchain, we’re taking advantage of all of that tremendous security and immutability rather than trying to create and incentivize a proof-of-work system ourselves. We also deeply believe that Bitcoin’s value is tied to it’s long-term utility. So the more utility it provides for systems like Factom, the more valuable it will become.
Dan: Inside Bitcoins has brought together many of the best minds in the industry. What do you hope to learn, discuss, or accomplish at Inside Bitcoins New York this year?
Peter: We’ve been to Inside Bitcoins events in Singapore, Berlin, Vegas, London, Paris, and even Tel Aviv. We really enjoy these events because it brings together the community. This time around, we’re connecting with customers of our Factom tokens (Factoids) and answering questions about the future of Blockchain Technology.
Dan: As digital currency technology evolves, what are you looking forward to seeing develop in the next 1-3 years? And what’s your long-term (5-10yr) outlook?
Peter: To quote David Johnston – in 5 years, 1 billion people will be using Bitcoin, most of them won’t know it. In 2015 some major financial and government institutions will announce a commitment to Blockchain Technology pilot programs. In the next 1-3 years, we’ll see a convergence between the Internet of Things and Blockchain Technology. Tools like reputation engines, identity management, and machine learning will be managed through blockchains and the promise of connected devices will take place in these distributed systems.
Past 5 years, it’s really hard to project. The internet changed so many things that were impossible to predict in 1995. I imagine most business applications will have a tamper-proof blockchain technology back-end (just like they all now have an internet back-end). I imagine that our accounting and audit systems will take place in real time using blockchain technology. I believe that governance systems will become much more transparent and accountable. That’s probably good for all of us. Blockchain technology gives us the opportunity to create systems that are safe, secure, private, and honest.
Dan: What do you see as the greatest challenge for the industry as a whole?
Peter: We need to move beyond the “Bitcoin fuels crime” perception. The early world-wide-web was plagued by stories about porn, crime, and drugs. It was an lazy, sensational storyline and it was very sticky. The web needed to be rebranded as “the internet” and given a more grown-up tone that was largely introduced by companies like GE and IBM embracing it early.
Bitcoin could use a bit of rebranding too. A lot of major institutions have latched on to the “blockchain technology” storyline because it means they can discuss an exciting technology without getting in the weeds about MtGox or Silk Road.
Dan: What’s your best advice for growing the ecosystem? How can we educate more people as to the benefits of digital currency and achieve greater adoption?
Peter: I saw a great Reddit post where a user reminded fellow bitcoin enthusiasts that people who wanted to know about Bitcoin WEREN’T asking how the technology works. New users don’t need to understand mining. New users don’t need to understand the nuances of cryptography. New users don’t need to know the history of exchanges or volatility. We as an industry need to demonstrate the simplicity of this amazing tool. We need to practice good old fashioned show-and-tell.
Dan: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Peter. Looking forward to a great conference.
Peter: Thanks again, Dan!