Home Cryptocurrency Crypto knocking on the WEF’s door: The view from Davos

Crypto knocking on the WEF’s door: The view from Davos

by Gordon James

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week, a number of prominent leaders mentioned blockchain to be one of the many revolutionary technologies that are shaping our future. The technology has been touted as everything from revolutionising healthcare solutions and augmenting education with online learning opportunities to disrupting business models across industries. What can we expect for this new tech?

The “davos conference” is a meeting of the World Economic Forum that takes place in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF is an annual gathering of world leaders, business executives and experts from various fields.

On Friday, May 27, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, drew to a close. Nearly 3,000 individuals traveled by air, rail, and helicopter from over 110 nations to the highest town in Europe to press politicians and push and question the WEF agenda.

While the conflict in Ukraine was the focus of attention at the World Economic Forum, climate change was the hero, and economic recovery was the damsel in distress. Meanwhile, blockchain and cryptocurrencies played a supporting role, at the very least.

The industry bigwigs and “financial elites” gathered in Davos, as Soramitsu CEO Makoto Takemiya stated during a Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) session on the WEF promenade. Crypto and blockchain enthusiasts served as “barbarians” at the entrance to the WEF 2022.

This was the first in-person WEF since the COVID-19 outbreak broke out, and the number of blockchain firms in attendance was significant. Shops and cafés along the Davos avenue were temporarily turned into showrooms for businesses and big business, while cryptocurrency startups stood out.

“Back at WEF 2018, there was just one significant pro-crypto event and multiple other speakers were emphasising the bad aspects of crypto,” Alex Fazel, chief relationship officer at Swissborg, told Cointelegraph.

The Crypto House, the Blockchain Hub, Polkadot Hub, LAN Space, the NFT Shop, GBBC Central, and the Filecoin Foundation — which had turned a former Catholic cathedral into a crypto conference hall – hosted global leaders and monetary disruptors in 2022. Crypto was hard to ignore, even if it was obtrusive at best.

Crypto knocking on the WEF’s door: The view from DavosThe WEF’s Davos blockchain sites are shown on a map.

Even the World Economic Forum now has a webpage devoted to blockchain technology. In addition, at a session on the WEF main stage, bankers openly addressed digital currencies. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple Labs, highlighted in a video interview with Cointelegraph in Davos that although crypto used to be a terrible term, the trendline is now “positive.” “The existence of crypto is radically different,” Garlinghouse told Cointelegraph.

As newcomers and nocoiners (those who have yet to invest in crypto) made their initial steps into the area, Swissborg’s Fazel summed up the burgeoning crypto attitude. “The Web3 pavilions had a higher turnout than the Web2 pavilions, such as Meta:”

“During WEF 2022, the crypto area filled between 10–20 percent of the whole promenade throughout the business sector, excluding the governmental pavillions, on top of hundreds of crypto conferences, events, and parties.”

Finally, it’s clear that digital currencies have entered the mainstream when the CEO of MasterCard appears on a blockchain panel alongside Bank for International Settlements researchers and crypto enthusiasts to openly debate the demise of SWIFT and the rise of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). 

The importance of blockchain as a focus point of the WEF, according to Thierry Aryz Ruiz, CEO of AgAu, is self-evident: the problem centers around how the world’s elite controls innovation. “With CBDCs and more regulation, we may see darker uses of Blockchain as a weapon of control,” Ruiz told Cointelegraph.

Ruiz is supported by Daniela Barbosa, general manager of Hyperledger and a WEF veteran. The World Economic Forum is clearly enamored with blockchain technology. She does, however, argue that we should not be “frightened” of CBDCs. In a forthcoming Cointelegraph Youtube interview, Barbosa decodes the emotion. Here’s where you may sign up.

Crypto knocking on the WEF’s door: The view from DavosHyperledger and Cointelegraph general manager Daniela Borbosa.  

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) were created to remove money from the state, not to empower fiat money. Nonetheless, the World Economic Forum, blockchain, and cryptocurrency are becoming more intertwined. At the WEF, Ruiz elaborated: “Great brains collide into one other, really with good intentions.” However, in light of future regulatory worries, he warns that “if left unquestioned, they may build the route to hell.” Ruiz adds a word of warning:

“The epidemic has shown that individuals are willing to give up their freedom in return for a false feeling of security all too frequently.” We must never forget that such a transaction would very certainly end in the loss of both.”

During a Cointelegraph-moderated panel discussion on decentralized finance (DeFi), Sam Yim, a 1inch network consultant and former banker, highlighted that regulation is a speeding train. “You can either get aboard or get out of the way.” Regulation of the crypto realm is on the way, for better or worse.

On the plus side, regulation may assuage the fears of the inquisitive and the cautious about the space’s rigidity and endurance. For several WEF participants, it was their first encounter with cryptocurrency. The Davos currency stole the spotlight at the Cointelegraph goodbye party, which was co-hosted by Polygon. Thanks to a test prototype pioneered by Ammer technologies, partygoers could spend Davos coins at the bar and have a “seamless checkout experience.”

Whether regulation stifles or encourages development, the message that Bitcoin and crypto are for everyone reverberated throughout the conference. Questions like “Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, who remains pseudonymous, might very well be a woman” were posed at an all-women panel moderated by Cointelegraph editor-in-chief Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr.

For some WEF participants, proximity to electricity and to the WEF’s regulators may be the deciding factor. Nas Daily, a Youtuber, social media personality, and new crypto convert, told Cointelegraph that he wants to be near regulators at the WEF.

Related: UN official sees’massive prospects’ in crypto: World Economic Forum 2022

“This is where the actual influencers are.” He told Cointelegraph, “They’re not in your Instagram newsfeed.” He started sharing his Bitcoin investing approach with Cointelegraph in March, and he even included his YouTube channel in the mix.

Whether it’s the “barbarians” at the gate, a future instrument at the disposal of the World Economic Forum, or a method of economic empowerment for everyone, the perspective from Davos is that crypto is here to stay. Regulation will most certainly be the hot topic when the WEF resumes its winter service in January 2023. The issue is, what will it look like?

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