Things have been a bit quiet around this blog in recent times as I’ve been involved full-on in a number of projects. Without doubt the most significant of these was the first Scottish Bitcoin Conference which took place in Edinburgh last weekend.
- to act as a beacon to attract the community which seemed pretty disparate and more used to conversing behind a screen than in person.
- to bring industry thought leaders to Scotland to inspire and network with people who didn’t have the time or budget to travel to conferences around the world.
I had no idea when I’d get a chance to pull this together in practice but the idea seemed clear (in my head at least). After a chance conversation with Jamie Coleman at CodeBase and organiser of the Turing Festival following a talk that I gave on Bitcoin to their startups in the incubator, it was clear that he shared my vision. And the wheels were set in motion…
Thanks to many people buying into this same vision, I managed to get a fantastic set of folk to Edinburgh to speak – including Jon Matonis (Bitcoin Foundation), Wouter Vonk (BitPay), Sveinn Valfells, Garrick Hileman (LSE), Lui Smyth (CoinJar), Daniel Masters (GABI), Mark Lamb (CoinFloor), Max Steele (Coinometrics), Nick Lambert (MaidSafe), Scott Maxwell….the list goes on.
The day might have been bootstrapped but it wasn’t cheap to put on. I’m immensely grateful to each of the sponsors who supported the day – partly because of the financial contributions, but also, crucially, because it showed that certain key organisations within Scotland are acknowledging that there is something of real significance starting to build in this sector. So hats go off to ScotlandIS, MBM Commercial, Johnston Carmichael, Signarama and CoinDesk.
And of course, in addition to the speakers, there are many other individuals who helped hugely. I hesitate to name anyone in person as I invariably then have to miss out others whose support was no less necessary. But huge thanks have to go to London CoinScrum organiser Paul Gordon, Pamir Gelenbe and Gulnar Hasnain of CoinSummit, Andy Smith, Ryan Smith, Peter May, Matt Monach, Christopher de Beer, the Bitcoin Manchester guys…..the list goes on and on…
Now that a few days have passed after the Conference, I’ve had a chance to think about what we’ve discovered – from the obvious (we’re still way too male-dominated as a community) to the more complex. I’m proud to have been involved in pulling an event together which brought so many curious minds into the same room together. It’s striking that so many people share concerns about the viability of the financial system that we’ve collectively built whilst simultaneously being hugely positive and optimistic about what the future could bring.
And even more striking (putting aside the not insignificant issue of gender disparity for a second) was the fact that there was no stereotypical ‘Conference attendee’. Many people in that room held different, and often conflicting, political and ideological beliefs (left, right, middle, nationalist, unionist, crypto-anarchist, capitalist, whatever). The labels were irrelevant. The only defining belief that was shared by everyone in that room was that a very simple one – that technology could be used to destroy the one shared enemy of inefficiency.
I opened the day with a few thoughts of my own about the current position. With the Conference taking place under a month before the country goes to the polls to take arguably the most important decision in its modern political history, I believe that there’s actually another far more important narrative at play. And that’s the fact that more people within this country than ever before are questioning the relationship that they have as individuals with both the currency and the state – in many cases for the first time in their lives. My point? Given this background, the result is less important than the fact that the collective societal lethargy has lifted.
I believe that the emergence of technological solutions such as Bitcoin provide us with the opportunity to forge a future in which we can build more resilient, equitable and – yes – consequently, even more valuable systems. There’s a collective responsibility to go out and seek answers – and where those do not yet exist, to create them as part of this new paradigm shift towards an increasingly decentralised society.
With a uniquely Scottish perspective, it is of critical importance that we build awareness and understanding around an often misunderstood topic to give us a solid foundation before we can really start to develop things to the next stage. In the UK, and Scotland, we have a great opportunity to build on the progress today. As things stand, we have a (UK) government that is engaging with the Bitcoin community on various levels. We are not simply seeing the more reactionary, knee-jerk reactions to entrepreneurship in the field of digital currency that are so visible in many other countries across the world. We’re not in the worst place to take advantages of the opportunities that are arising. In fact I’d argue, in Scotland, and in Edinburgh, we are in fact in one of the best.
Bitcoin can’t be killed. But the more people that we can bring with us on this journey from an early stage, in which we explore all of the potential that blockchain technologies provide us with, then the greater the collective benefits will be for all. We’re still at an early stage in the development of the technology but make no mistake – things are moving – and fast. Here in Scotland we sometimes forget just how important the contributions to the world have been from individuals in this country in the past. We have a proud history of being a nation of innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs; a hostoric pedigree of financial leadership; and a growing entrepreneurial network that is necessarily global in outlook.
Thanks again to everyone who got involved. We’ve now drawn that line in the sand. Where will we all be when the second Scottish Bitcoin Conference rolls around?
Here’s a few speaker photos from the day:-