At the current annual meeting of the world economy in Davos, crypto topics are only a secondary frequency this year. This trend is becoming apparent after the first two summit days. Nevertheless, blockchain technologies do not disappear completely from the screen. Above all, smaller players and the organisers themselves are using the big stage to push forward new technologies. An interim balance.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) was launched this year under dark auspices: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a slump in economic growth. Numerous heads of government of the most important economic nations are already canceling their forecasts in advance. The hope of multilateral agreements for the summit seems to have died before the start.
And the crypto industry also looked rosier. The past year had brought not only progress in development, but above all a dramatic slump in share prices.
Crypto topics as a marginal phenomenon
The view of the bottom of the valley already gave a hint of it. While the Bitcoin was still worth three times as much last year and blockchain technologies were still a hype topic on everyone’s lips at the last summit, a lot has changed in Davos since last year. The “Blockchain” and “Krypto” lettering from 2017, for example, have disappeared from the streets of the Alpine town. The theme has also almost disappeared from the official agenda of this year’s annual meeting. This confirms a first finding: in Davos, crypto themes are no more than background noises this year. The flood of spectators, as we know it from the past year, did not occur at this year’s crypto debate.
Critics see themselves confirmed this week by the trend. While voices from the scene, such as Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse or Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire, hold on to the view that crypto currencies are “transformative” and “fundamentally decisive for the future of mankind”, scepticism prevails in Davos.
Despite the picturesque alpine harmony, there has been no lack of admonitory words about the crypto-industry so far. For example, PayPal boss Dan Schulman and Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff have been hailing their usual criticism. In an interview with US news magazine CNBC, the economist stresses that there is a “zero chance that crypto currencies could at some point replace traditional money”. Jeff Schumacher, founder of investor BCG Digital Ventures, is sure that Bitcoin will soon become worthless.
Conciliatory tones come unexpectedly this week from JPMorgan-Chase driver Jamie Dimon. In view of the slump he feels “no satisfaction”, he explains in an interview. He had already predicted an imminent end to the Bitcoin in 2017, causing a sensation and not least outcry.
Despite all the criticism, the blockchain as a “real technology” has real potential, says Dimon. For Davos, this reflects a second insight: despite the apparent looking-away – the blockchain has by no means disappeared from the screen.
Opportunity for Blockchain promoting agencies?
On the one hand, the stage in Davos was primarily used by supposed secondary actors to present themselves and their projects to the world. Elizabeth Rossiello of the payment service provider BitPensa, for example, promoted the possibilities of cryptography for the exchange of African currencies. IT service provider Cognizant, on the other hand, organized a panel discussion with Reuters on the potential of the blockchain in healthcare.
On the other hand, it was the organizers themselves who showed enthusiasm for new technologies and the spirit of the future. After the WEF organisation, together with the consulting firm McKinsey, had already pointed out the blockchain potentials in the field of food safety on Tuesday, 23 January, the Forum is using the summit for a unique pilot project. Under the leadership of the environmental organisation WWF, the Blockchain platform OpenSC is responsible for catering for the summit participants. In this way, business leaders and journalists will be able to trace their fish back from the catch to the plate.
In addition, the organisers made a name for themselves with the announcement that they would continue to expand their tech commitment. Golf Emirate and Blockchain Hub Dubai will in future be home to a Davos-sponsored research centre on the “fourth industrial revolution”. From here, the Swiss will push ahead with the development of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain in the region. Dubai, the biggest blockchain winner of the summit to date, can thus imagine itself as such. In the run-up to the summit, WEF President Brende had already warned that the race for new technologies would bring with it a “new Sputnik moment” and thus the danger of being left behind.