The future of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is hotly debated, with different actors bringing their opinions to the table. The World Economic Forum focuses on public-private cooperation to shape policy on a range of issues, including cryptocurrency and blockchain.
BeinCrypto spoke to Sheila Warren, the Head of Data, Blockchain, and Digital Assets and the Deputy Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We wanted to find out how she brings all these stakeholders together and what the future of crypto could look like.
Blockchain and the World Economic Forum
BIC: What is the goal of the World Economic Forum (WEF) blockchain platform?
Sheila Warren: We are a policy and governance-focused institution. So the general theory of the C4IR (Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is that of policy, regulation, governance.
All of this stuff really tends to lag technology for a variety of reasons, some of which are very reasonable reasons, some of which are not really good reasons.
How do we create more agile methods of regulation that can effectively regulate, accelerate benefits for innovation, but also mitigate some of the risks of technology? So that’s kind of the overarching theme, if you will, of the C4IR.
What we try to do is make sure that we bring together to form and fashion multi-stakeholder communities, public-private sector, third sector, academics, other experts, to really provide a nuanced view of what’s happening in this space.
What I think the most important thing has become for us, and what I’m really proud of is our kind of brand and voice in this space is very much that of what I call pragmatic optimism.
So we are definitely bullish on the tech on crypto over the long term but we’re very practical, and we have no skin in the game. We are one of the very few truly neutral organizations that are opining on things here with regularity and with conviction and with authority.
I think it’s turned out to be extremely important in this space. A lot of what I do, frankly, is trying to cut through the hype. Try to cut through, nonsense, to use a polite word for it, and just try to stay there.
There’s a lot of noise in this space, a lot of froth. That doesn’t mean there’s not also true signal. It doesn’t mean something really exciting, isn’t also happening. Those can both be true.
So we try to kind of carve a straight line forward and I think we’ve been pretty unerring. I think it’s to provide nuance, in a world ecosystem that is not exactly prone to nuance, I would say that’s my fundamental goal.
BIC: What has the biggest challenge been in working on blockchain policy with the WEF?
SW: A lot of people have come to this with black and white views. That’s gotten better. I think over the years, at least in some spaces, I think most people now address bitcoin, for example, with some nuance. But that was not the case.
The first two years I was in this role, it was: Yes or no, good or bad, evil or dark or light. It’s very, very black and white. You see this with NFT’s. Now people are like, “these are great, these are the most important thing that’s happened ever” and other people are like, “this is so dumb, it’s gonna vanish in two seconds.”
So it’s a matter of kind of moving through the fads in this space and saying something here is true, what is that thing? But I think the hardest thing is that there’s so much money to be made.
Therefore, people have very strong agendas that are backing for reasons that aren’t always transparent, that aren’t always obvious. They’re very hard to tease out. Part of our job is to cut a path through all of that and focus on the true signal. So it’s tough.
Crypto, blockchain, and the pandemic
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