Joseph Lubin: where Blockchain takes us next

The Blockchain is widely seen as the next wave of online technology — but can it live up to the hype and, if so, when?


A fireside chat about Blockchain, the reason for its popularity, and what we can expect from it — and when.

  • Joseph Lubin founded and co-founded several companies including the Swiss-based Ethereum, a decentralized cryptocurrency platform. With his latest company ConsenSys, Lubin’s aim is to develope the next stage of the Internet, which he refers to as Web 3.0.
  • Astrid Maier is Senior Writer for ada, the new German media brand around technology and digital life. Prior to this Astrid led the tech as well as the companies desk for WirtschaftsWoche, Germany’s leading business magazine.

Why is everyone so excited about blockchain?

People understand that once blockchain matures, we’ll be able to build things that will radically transform human life for the better. And people like to jump into things like that. We’ve seem irrational exuberance in the price of Blockchain-based currency and tokens, and a correction to that.

It’s possible that there’s more value in Ether than Bitcoin, because you can build things with Ether. But if you look at the peaks each time there’s a cycle in the price, they’re higher every time. Cryptocurrencies will be important and interesting in our society, but they’re only a narrow slice of what blockchain can do. There are all sorts of cryptocurrencies, but there are also many crypto assets and tokens which have more useful uses.

Blockchain’s potential

One thesis is that the internet is somewhat broken right now. It’s taken us so far over the past few decades. But it lacks digitally scarce assets and an identity construct. Because of that lack, different companies have defined our identifies to suit themselves. Those identities get stored by them and monetised by them, often without adequate security. Companies understand us so well, that they can addict us to their services, and sell our attention to corporations.

The Decentralised Identity Foundation is seeking to create a decentralised identity system. It will allow us to fully control our public identity on the blockchain. We can encrypt it and selectively provide it to others. Health and financial information are things we should be in charge of.

Also, there’s an emerging business model around tokens, that doesn’t look like investment. It’s marketed to people who use it, rather than trade it. It’s a utility token.

Lubin’s company is a little over three years old. They advise companies and build products for them, and work around Etherium. The blockchain space is about two things: working with existing organisations, to allow them to work better, and also building the foundations of Web 3.0. There’s fungible and non-fungible tokens, and bunch of infrastructure work happening to enable that future. It will enable more direct communication between artists and creators and their audiences, without the intermediaries that have risen on the web.

Joseph Lubin & Astrid Maier

What’s the delay?

Like the web, it will take us time to make it easy enough and scalable enough to be available to everyone. Part of the delay is working with regulators around the world to do this properly.

Civil is interesting – particularly to Maier – because it could enable sustainable and ethical journalism. Traditional journalism has been eroded by private equity and hedge funds buying them publishers, gutting them, and turning them into channels for the same commodity information everyone has. As a professional journalist you can stake your journalism reputation on the platform. If you are seen as being unethical, you can be challenged, removed – and there’s an appeal committee, if needed. The aim is a high quality list that newsrooms want to be on, and people want to check out.

Blockchain has the potential to be a new organising principle for societies. It’s better than the slow-moving, top down hierarchical approach. That’s why its become a movement, because its exciting. The internet ended up enabling centralising technologies and traditional financial markets. This technology should give people more autonomy and disempower intermediaries.

Is there a danger that, as we lock agreements and contracts into the blockchain, that we end up restricted by the technology? Could it be abused? Yes, but it is being built in a way that learns from the problems of the past.