Where will the blockchain be in five years? A spirited debate about the role of blockchain in the enterprise between ConsenSys’ Joseph Lubin and Blockchain Capital’s Jimmy Song turned into a Twitter bet.

Lubin predicted that within five years “we’re going to see an internet of different blockchains,” with solutions for scalability issues emerging this year.

Song predicted that in five years most blockchain projects will fail but bitcoin (BTC) will become sounder money… More and more of the world will store their value in it. That’s the major thing that’s going to change everything.”

“I’ll bet you any amount of bitcoin you’re wrong,” Lubin countered.

***

What are the pros looking for? Lisa Cheng, the founder of Vanbex Group, Etherparty and Vanbex Ventures, said that “it comes down to the project making sense.”

“If there’s a strong team [that] demonstrates execution,” that’s important, Cheng said. 

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Outside the Consensus meeting site, a group calling itself “Bankers Against Bitcoin” protested Monday, holding signs reading, “Paper checks use less electricity.”

Although the group’s banners included links to its website (http://bankersagainstbitcoin.org/), the “protest” was actually the brainchild of bitcoin mining company Genesis Mining, which coordinated the fake gathering to reinforce the disruptive potential of cryptocurrency.

“As you can probably tell, this protest is meant to be a joke,” the ersatz website now reads. “But this joke today is going to be the reality in the very near future. This protest is representative of what will happen to those industries and companies that fail to understand times have changed.”

***

Discussions about interoperability focused on the myriad challenges of connecting different blockchains, protocols and currencies. But Litecoin Foundation creator Charlie Lee reminded Consensus attendees of the greater issue.

“The user isn’t the cryptospeculator, the user is the world,” Lee said. Pointing to the internet, he said,We built a system that created a more fair and decentralized session and evolved it into a system where 10 companies provide the on-ramps to the system… This is a second opportunity to go back to the drawing board… a globally owned and operated infrastructure operated by the crowd that uses it.”

***

As part of touting the growth of the blockchain economy in New York City, James Patchett, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, rattled off a wide range of statistics. The number of blockchain job postings in the city have increased nearly tenfold, while venture capital has skyrocketed to $200 million. But one growth metric was particularly relevant: “The number of people who can concisely explain what blockchain is has increased from two to four!” he said, eliciting laughs.

***

Consensus may have been home to the world’s first “blockchain-enabled beer dispenser,” a vending machine using identity technology from Civic to verify patrons’ ages. While it was a centerpiece of attention and selfies during lunch on Monday, the technology also generated a request from the Consensus stage.

“Next time, please include rosé and champagne,” IBM’s Bridget van Kralingen said.

***

Cryptic Labs’ Dr. Whitfield “Whit” Diffie and other early cryptography innovators who were the inspiration for today’s decentralization movement were the focus of attention during a Monday afternoon session. “They not only invented the most important [development] in crypto” in centuries, but they also “wrested control of it from the government and made it part of humanity’s heritage,” said Zcoin’s founder and CEO Zooko Wilcox.

James Rubin contributed to this report.
Mark Toner
Mark Toner is a Washington, D.C., writer and editor. He has covered business, technology, media, education, and healthcare for a wide range of trade and industry publications.