New York Blockchain Week Begins With Fewer Lamborghinis

Even with the resurgence in the price of Bitcoin, there likely won’t be any Lamborghinis on display at this week’s crypto and blockchain conferences. Attendees can instead expect sound baths, meditation and lunch from food trucks paid via digital coins.

That was the scene at the Ethereal Summit in Brooklyn, one of the first during this year’s Blockchain Week, which tends to draw visitors from around the world. It’s a markedly different atmosphere from just a year ago, when participants at the Consensus blockchain conference displayed luxury cars as a reminder that crypto enthusiasts were building wealth despite a more than 50 plunge from record highs set six months earlier.

“I felt like I needed to take a shower after that,” said Yorke Rhodes, co-founder of blockchain at Microsoft. “That was an interesting experience.”

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Wait, Did Blockchain Just Get A Little Hipper?

Blockchain Week NYC 2019, which is centered around the annual Consensus Conference, is in full swing with various panel discussion, keynotes, endless presentations, pitches, parties, exclusive cocktail events and more. Much of the discussion echoes last year's larger narratives expanded cautiously with the endless mantras of "slowly coming out of winter" followed by "slowly coming out of the bull market" as repeated by the crypto-block devotees.  Nearly every speaker is more amped than the next and possessing some inside track and superhuman knowledge with the hindsight always being 20/20 in terms of past errors and crashes of the new industry. Thus what seems to be needed now to take the arena to a new and expanded level is a bit of an infusion of innovation, and we may be starting to see hints of that during a recent event.

Now in its third year The Ethereal Summit, produced by Joseph Lubin's company ConsenSys, certainly offers the standard panel on smart contracts, regulations and is heavy on stats and engineering jargon, however, a welcome addition is that of discussion around innovation and blockchain art.  Naturally, early attempts at applying blockchain technology to the art world, whether it be the possibility of collective ownership of expensive fine art pieces or crypto wallets that take on an art-like quality of design, have been brewing.  But the Ethereal Summit has gone as far as to support such efforts in a couple of ways.

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pressShawn LeeForbes
From Crypto Winter to Crypto Weirder

Captain Kirk and neo-Dadaists. Repugnant markets and legendary cryptographers. “Digital couture” auctioned by CryptoKitties developers. Distributed autonomous art organizations. A keynote speech looking back from 2047 at the near-apocalypse of 2026, from which we were saved by a new, fully tokenized economy. Yes, that’s right: NYC Blockchain Week has begun.

Where to begin? I suppose with context. This week’s series of cryptocurrency conferences kicked off with “Ethereal,” hosted by ConsenSys, a company/incubator/studio mostly devoted to decentralized software and services built atop the Ethereum blockchain … although they also acquired an asteroid-mining company last year. Subsequently, they laid off 13% of their staff, in the depths of the notorious “crypto winter” that followed the crypto bubble which ended abruptly last January.

You read it here first, though: we are now moving from crypto winter into crypto weirder.

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The Big Question at Ethereal Summit NY: Is DeFi Enough for Ethereum?

Ethereum’s true believers think the world’s second-largest blockchain can still be all-encompassing. Others think a more-focused path would be best.

That was the tension on display at Day 1 of the ConsenSys-organized Ethereal Summit NY, a Blockchain Week gathering held at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Friday.

“Ethereum’s going to eat everything,” Ameen Soleimani, SpankChain founder and summoner of the MolochDAO, said during one panel.

Earlier in the day, Messari founder Ryan Selkis offered a counterpoint. If ethereum, he argued, truly reinvents finance, that would be plenty.

“If you think about ethereum as programmable money and decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, that’s probably good enough,” Selkis argued.

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The Prophets of Cryptocurrency Survey the Boom and Bust

Not long ago, I was in Montreal for a cryptocurrency conference. My hotel, on the top floor of a big building downtown, had a roof garden with a koi pond. One morning, as I had coffee and a bagel in this garden, I watched a pair of ducks feeding on a mound of pellets that someone had left for them at the pond’s edge. Every few seconds, they dipped their beaks to drink, and, in the process, spilled undigested pellets into the water. A few koi idled there, poking at the surface for the scraps. The longer I watched, the more I wondered if the ducks were deliberately feeding the fish. Was such a thing possible? I asked the breakfast attendant, a ruddy Quebecer. He smiled and said, “No, but it is what I tell the children.”

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Praying to Satoshi at the Blockchain Art Expo

I BENT DOWN, rested my knees on a prayer cushion, and began typing into a small computer. In front of me were dozens of candles, flowers, Japanese lucky cat figurines, and several wallet-sized picture frames. They held photos of Vitalik Buterin, the Canadian programmer who cofounded the computing platform Ethereum, as well as of Dorian Nakamoto, a man in his 60s with the same last name as the founder of Bitcoin. He was misidentified as its creator by Newsweek in 2014; because no one knows what the actual Satoshi Nakamoto looks like, the California man's image has continued to serve as a stand-in.

At the altar, a message on a small computer screen prompted visitors to write prayers to the real Nakamoto, which were then algorithmically transformed into random private keys, which were in turn used to guess the password that unlocks the Bitcoin inventor's abandoned cryptocurrency fortune—estimated to be worth over $8 billion. I entered in a halfhearted prayer, waited a few beats, and was greeted with a message: "I'm sorry my child. You are not the chosen one. Have more faith in the HODL. Spread the good word of decentralization."

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pressShawn LeeWired