Author: Wang Yanhua
Alex Tapscott has been spending the last four months revising the bestseller book Blockchain Revolution that he wrote with his father, Don Tapscott.
The preeminent father-and-son pair released Blockchain Revolution two years ago to critical acclaim, and it quickly topped non-fiction charts and helped millions understand what the next big technological thing is.
But blockchain is an industry that has seen radical changes in the past two years. So not long after the book was published, the Tapscotts felt the need to refurbish it.
The updated version appeared on 12 June, and Alex Tapscott has just finished his book launch in New York, at Microsoft Technology Centre.
Block Asia caught up with Alex Tapscott in Singapore to pick the brains of the prolific speaker and writer.
Q: What are you busy with at the moment?
A: I’ve been revising Blockchain Revolution, the book that I wrote with my father. There’s going to be a book launch in New York. It’s going to be a big event, and I’m very excited about that.
For the past year and a half we’ve been building up the Blockchain Research Institute as well. It’s one of the biggest, most well-funded think tanks in the world that’s focused exclusively on blockchain. We have as our members companies like Tencent, IBM, Pepsi, and governments around the world. We are doing research into 70 different areas.
Q: Why are you re-releasing the book?
A: Two years have passed and a lot has changed in the industry in two years. We want to see for ourselves, what we got right, what we got wrong.
The world really changed significantly, and there were areas that we did not cover at all because they did not exist two years ago. We spent very little time talking about, for example, digital identification, smart contracts, and crypto assets.
Q: If the world has changed so much just in two years, how are you going to ensure the relevance of your updated book?
A: You hope that when you write a book like this, it will be relevant for at least 5 years. You have to acknowledge that certain books do have a shelf life, when it comes to books about new technologies.
The solution to that is to either write a new book, or you write a book where the examples might be different, but the ideas will remain valid.
There are books about technology from the 1980s and the 1990s, about the digital economy paradigm shifts. Even though technology changes a lot, the ideas and insights are still valid decades later. That’s our hope for this book as well.
Q: What are some of the changes to the book?
A: When the book first came out, the value of the market was 10 billion dollars. Now it’s worth 30 times as much. My father and I ended up writing 25,000 words of new material, which is about 75 pages. That makes up two new chapters. So the book is being re-released with two new chapters covering all the things that have happened in the past two years.
Q: Who is the target audience of Blockchain Revolution?
A: It’s for anybody who’s curious about the future of the world. Blockchain represents the second era of the Internet, and that’s going to transform every single industry. So if you are curious about the future you should read this book.
Q: How did you enter the blockchain scene?
A: I learnt about Bitcoin for the first time in 2013. I didn’t think too much of it, and then in 2014 I started to spend more time looking at it. Basically I became convinced that this was something important.
This got me wondering about the underlying technology. If blockchain could enable a new form of money that was peer-to-peer and digital, could you create other assets with it that use the same technology.
I used to work in investment banking. I’ve dealt with a lot of stocks and bonds and other financial assets. Once I connected blockchain to what I was doing, I was like, “Oh my gosh! There are so many opportunities to change things.” So I quit my job, and the rest is history.
Q: Which areas in blockchain excite you the most?
A: Three areas: securities, proof-of-stake of mining, and crypto collectibles.
Q: Like Cryptokitties?
A: It’s not just the kitties. I’m interested in what the kitties can do and what they represent. I’m interested in the idea that you can have a unique digital asset that’s totally scarce, and it can be valuable. It can be a Cryptokitty but it can be lots of other interesting things. You can have a digital asset that represents an asset in the real world too.
There are a lot of unique assets in the world that we can apply crypto collectibles or non-fungible token technology to. And it fixes these markets, makes them more efficient, and opens up new ones. That’s what makes it really cool.
Q: Crypto is still all very new. Things that are illegal in traditional securities markets are largely unregulated in crypto. What are your views on that?
A: Right now regulators are still trying to figure out all these stuff is. I think in a lot of parts of the world, they’re being proactive and they’re trying.
There are some regulators that are doing a pretty good job, like Singapore. Singapore is the first place to create different standards between utility tokens and securities. Most regulators have not made that distinction. To them, all tokens are securities. You can’t maintain that and hope to have an industry that’s thriving.
People need to know what the rules of the road are. But the way it works is that technology moves faster than regulation. When that happens it creates this gap of uncertainty. We need to narrow the gap. But we also want to make sure that regulators aren’t creating rules that are awful, and that we are creating the rules that benefit everybody.
That being said, I don’t think that regulation is the biggest challenge. I think scaling and usability are bigger issues.
You need to have dapps that people like to use and actually makes things better than the way they used to be. To be clear, there are a lot of things that crypto is better for. It’s better for moving money across borders, it’s better for raising money, for lots of stuff. But the dapps that everyone is promising and is talking about, they need to come into existence.
So regulations will come about in conjunction with the quality of how the industry is growing.
Q: What’s your view on Bitcoin? It has been quite a controversial topic, with some people firmly believing that there are only Bitcoins and shitcoins.
A: I think Bitcoin will be remembered as the most important cryptocurrency. I think it will continue to become more valuable. But its relative value, compared to everything else, will decline. It’s a single-purpose technology. If you look at the world today, currencies are significant large asset classes. I think that protocol level tokens and securities tokens are eventually going to dominate the entire ecosystem because of size, and that’s ok.
There are two branches of opinions on Bitcoin. The first one says that Bitcoin is the first cryptocurrency, it’s got the network effect, it’s got durability, it’s been battle-tested. Therefore it will be the currency of choice. I buy it. I think that’s very possible.
The other one says that everything else is shit. All other things will be built on Bitcoin, including applications and smart contracts.
Q: But Bitcoin is also not very scalable, right?
A: Well, exactly. It doesn’t make any sense. Why can’t you build technologies on solutions that are tailor-made for certain problems? So on the currency side, it will be the most valuable of the currencies, sure. But is it the only blockchain technology that’s worthwhile? No, of course not, I think that’s ridiculous.
Q: What about the split between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash? Do you think that damages the credibility of Bitcoin?
A: Not really, I think most people in the real world do not know about the fork, or the existence of Bitcoin Cash. Forks have communities, and their communities will continue to sustain them.