Category Archives: Technology Law

Gilder’s Life after Google

Even though one online reviewer called it “[a] random walk through Silicon Valley without any goal, valuable information, conclusions or anything other than what would fit a gossip magazine”, Gilder’s book provides a grand thesis with very deliberate underpinnings.  There are certainly many other books and articles out there that better inform regarding blockchain.  Nevertheless, Gilder explains exactly why blockchain will in the future help cause Google lose its digital stranglehold.  For that, his book largely stands alone.

Gilder has had close access to the elite tech digerati for decades. There is no denying he knows what and who he is talking about. The writing style, however, will not be everyone’s cup of tea.  For example, applying a straw man style, he often builds up only to take down later in the book. This can easily be frustrating to readers.  Also, an imagined meeting with Satoshi Nakamoto – the pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin, can either be considered a highlight of the book or downright hokey based on one’s literary taste.

To Gilder, Google’s downfall largely rests on its giving away free products without fully understanding how this zero-sum system neglects the value and impact of consumer time on Google’s $30 billion dollar Siren Servers – a Jaron Lanier term used to convey the eventual death spiral of a company blinded by its 75,000 server farm.  Gilder reminds:  “Without prices, all that is left to confine consumption is the scarcity of time”.

Interestingly, Jaron Lanier as well as Peter Thiel feature predominately in this book as the existential fodder for much of Gilder’s musings. The true sparkle, however, remains pure Gilder – including his view that Google’s fall is precipitated on the behemoth’s not fully understanding true wealth can only be a product of knowledge.  As Gilder suggests, “wealth is not a thing or a random sequence. It is inextricably rooted in hard won knowledge over extended time.” How he eventually connects the many dots found in the book is worth the read despite the haphazard approach.  And, despite valid style criticisms, given so few are walking down this exact path, Gilder’s trailblazing can only be lauded.

Using pokes and outright direct digs on failed exercises of socialism and a “World Saving” Artificial Intelligence fealty pursued by Elon Musk, Gilder’s libertarian bent thankfully expresses a brighter vision where creativity and humanity win out.  He is on point – just ask Tim Berners-Lee about his startup, Inrupt to get additional perspective on Google.  And, the trust layers exemplified by Blockstack and Hashgraph are certainly aiming to tear down the current global ecosystems founded by the Tech Lords of Cali.  Ultimately, in futurist Gilder’s vision, individuals win when they can more easily trust and be secure in their interactions.

Those seeking an actual name for the specific Google killer app will be disappointed. This book does not tell its readers which business vision will launch the “killer app” required to actually break the status quo.  Readers are provided with an abstract roadmap lacking in specific directions because that specific app has not been publicly announced yet and will likely not be released for another 24 months.

Consensus 2018 blockchain event exceeds expectations

After attending the largest early adopter tech conferences conducted over the past thirty years – from Internet World, VR World, COMDEX, CES, RSA, Game Developers Conference, etc., it is easy to say Coindesk’s recent Consensus 2018 Conference – the foundation for NYC’s “Blockchain Week”, was one of the largest gatherings of early technology adopters and backers ever packed in a single location.  Almost beside the point, Consensus 2018 was also easily the largest blockchain event to date.

Despite exceeding pretty much all expectations, it was not, however, without some controversy.  Noticeably absent from the event was Vitalik Buterin as well as any Ethereum presence other than a scheduled announcement and booth presence for the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.  The visionary Buterin boycotted the event given disagreements with the sponsor and a purported grievance with the  $2,999 price tag  – despite the fact Mr. Buterin himself could have bought tickets for all 8400+ attendees if he wanted.  Buterin’s thought leadership and insights were certainly missed so hopefully next year there will be some sort of peace accord that brings him back into the fold.

According to the emcee for the event – a Brit anxiously pacing up and down with the obligatory iPad seemingly issued to all tech conference emcees, half of the attendees hailed from outside the United States.  In fact, meals and private meetings were enjoyed with folks visiting from South Korea, Australia, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Brazil, Berlin, Hong Kong, Vancouver, and Toronto – and that was only on the first of two attendance days.  Unlike what was shown by the early days of the web ecosystem, this gathering more than anything concretely demonstrates that any decentralized ledger future will be shaped by those outside the United States as much as by persons located within its borders.

The caliber of the audience – more so than the speakers, also demonstrates that the financial and professional institutions who missed out on the web ecosystem’s early brick laying are avoiding past mistakes.  Sensing just how disruptive things may soon get, they were out in full force – with Deloitte leading the Big Four charge and the purported naysayer JP Morgan having a sophisticated presence from New York and London.   Notwithstanding the fact the exhibit hall was stacked with ICO and ICO-wannabee companies that will likely go away in a few years, foundational companies were front and center promoting the tools and business models needed before blockchain can be digested by the masses in any meaningful way.

While companies wait to “cross the chasm”, investors are taking sides by investing in token economies and novel ramp up technologies.   And, after the speculative sheen has faded, the lasting result will be efficiencies in commerce one could only have dreamt about a few years ago.    Simply put, the “trust protocol” that will eventually be layered on top of our current digital ecosystem will create new opportunities for pretty much any company willing to listen and adapt.