We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!
This week, our 6 Questions go to Kim Hamilton Duffy, director of identity and standards at Centre Consortium — an open-source technology project designed to create a more inclusive global economy.
Kim is a leader in the emerging decentralized identity field and has architected successful open-source projects such as Verite, Blockcerts and the Digital Credential Consortium toolkit.
1 — Which countries are doing the most to support blockchain, and which ones will be left behind?
Rather than assessing this through the narrow lens of whether certain crypto transactions are taxed, I think about whether countries are supporting innovation in blockchain — and, more broadly, decentralized architectures — in a collaborative, responsible, sustainable way that can benefit individuals and businesses.
A repeated theme: Regulatory clarity is key for individuals and businesses to build and innovate confidently. But this must be based on nuanced, balanced approaches that pull in a range of stakeholders — technologists, regulators and privacy experts — and must be sufficiently future-proofed to accommodate emerging technology. Anti-patterns — that is, examples of approaches that are uneven, overly restrictive or reactive — include banning specific implementations or types of mining.
2 — What is the main hurdle in the way of mass adoption of blockchain technology?
It’s split among interoperability, usability and trust.
Fortunately, we’re moving beyond the discussion of which blockchain will “win,” understanding that different blockchain characteristics may be best suited to different use cases. But this underscores the importance of interoperability — and for this, open standards and protocols are key.
The other aspect is the need for improved usability and trust, which are interwoven. Despite the transparency enabled by blockchain-based technologies, the technical barriers to entry and overwhelming amount of information to absorb make those benefits unrealizable to many. Determining how to prioritize the user experience to convey trust (as an analogy, you can think of the “browser lock” icon signifying a secure connection) will be critical to success.
3 — Have you ever bought a nonfungible token? What was it? And if not, what do you think will be your first?
Yes! The first NFT I minted/bought was a Crypto Coven… and then I ended up minting and buying a few more. I fell in love with the aesthetics and thoughtfulness of the project. It was clearly a labor of love — so much care went into generating the design elements, attributes and mythology that formed each individual witch. Even the contract code was beautifully written.
Also, its Discord is an incredibly positive, supportive place, with some of the best Web3/Ethereum technical discussions as well.
4 — What’s the unlikeliest-to-happen thing on your bucket list?
Being swarmed and tackled by a grumble of 100-plus pugs is probably near the top. A more modest goal is getting a pie in the face, a la 1970s slapstick comedy. Yet somehow, this hasn’t happened yet.
5 — If you didn’t need sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I’d spend extra time writing. Decentralized identity standards and technologies are new, and it’s hard for people to get access to information through an objective, not commercial or vendor, lens. While the technical specifications are available, these are not accessible to broader audiences. More critically, these don’t provide context and tribal knowledge from the many years of deliberations that went into design decisions.
The risk in rolling out transformative technologies understood by a select few is that they cannot be adapted and refined with other experts (privacy, regulatory, etc.) whose input is essential to adoption. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the boundary between technical solutions and what’s required for real-world adoption, and I’d like to make more time to write about this.
On a more personal side, I’d spend at least four hours a day practicing the Bach Cello Suites.
6 — What’s the future of social media?
I feel confident that we’re on a path toward more decentralized underpinnings of social media networks, where your data, connections, reputation and experience are increasingly under your control — not under the control of a company that’s incentivized to treat you as the product.
Christine Lemmer-Webber, a leader in decentralized identity (especially integrating capability-based approaches), has also been a pioneer of decentralized social media efforts, including Mastodon and ActivityPub. This work is continuing and thriving through efforts like BlueSky.
The challenge, of course, will be identifying sustainable models to support such networks. This introduces an exciting opportunity to develop new approaches that do not rely on aggregating huge data silos — instead, ones that respect privacy and informed consent.