No doubt you, one of your friends or family have caught wind of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Interest has exploded over the past five years or so, surging recently by the meteoric rise and subsequent downfall of bitcoin’s price last Winter . I’m no exception to the trend, it’s caught my interest as well so I’m hopping on the band wagon and writing a cryptocurrency article.
Although I’ve been following bitcoin lightly for the past 4 years or so and have been researching cryptocurrency and blockchain more in depth, I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are plenty of more knowledgeable people out there, such as my colleagues, who can explain how this technology works and it’s practical applications . Instead this article focuses on millennials views of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. To this end, I interviewed five of my fellow Millennial Innovation Council (MIC) members to get their perspective on the space. Some were new to the field while others more experienced, so the below responses give a well-rounded, albeit small, window into how millennials view cryptocurrencies. Once again to be clear; this is not an article explaining what cryptocurrency or blockchain is or how it works, it’s an attempt to shed insight into how a fast paced generation views a disruptive technology. Meet our interviewees and enjoy!
How long have you been following cryptocurrencies? What interested you in the first place?
Christine Hwang: I first heard about cryptocurrencies around 5 years ago in the news. This prompted me to do more research which led me to bitcoin. It was really cheap back then so I bought some, totally forgot, and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover them in summer of last year. Since then I’ve invested in other cryptocurrencies, such as stellar since it had use cases working with Deloitte and IBM. NANO and VChain are two other investments I made that comes to mind.
Malena Lopez: I heard about bitcoin about 4 years ago just before graduating, since then I’ve had it in the back of my mind. I worked in DC researching new technologies, so of course I kept getting exposed to news surrounding cryptocurrency and blockchain. When I got joined Capgemini I found the MIC Digital Media Lab, and through that I’ve been trying to increase diversity in the cryptocurrency space. Through my efforts at the Digital Media Lab I was able to raise enough funds for a few members and myself to attend the 2015 Consensus in NY. Consensus is an annual blockchain technology conference. Following that conference, I began to invest.
Timothy Yuen: In 2013 I started seeing a lot of news articles about the Silk Road which led me to research cryptocurrencies. After all who wouldn’t want to use their computer to make free money? At least that’s how I saw it back then [laughs]. Back then there were still some places you could get bitcoin for free, at my most I had a half of a bitcoin. I’ve been following it since then.
Jeffrey Kim: Interesting enough I heard about bitcoin in the summer of 2017 through random Facebook videos my friends were sharing. Then I saw the “get rich quick” articles popping up left and right so I followed it through to see if it was a scam. I’ve gotten more involved in the past year or so, having more conversations inside and outside of the MIC. Hearing from people who have actually invested in cryptocurrencies has given me a personal perspective I was missing; their hopes, fears, and mindset. I’ve resisted investing myself until I see more use cases, and I feel it’s too volatile at this time to invest.
Victor Li: I’ve been following it seriously since September of 2017. My friends told me about it at first and after some research I started investing. Actually I used to want to be a pro poker player, so maybe that’s why investing in bitcoin was a natural jump [laughs]. Besides that I’m just excited about blockchain as a technology and what it means. While I’m certainly no expert, the beauty of this space is that you can spend some time reading up about it and it won’t take you long to become more knowledgeable than a lot of people out there. The field is still in it’s infancy.
If I’m someone who wants to invest in or use cryptocurrency, how important is it that I understand how blockchain works? Is a general theoretical understanding enough, or should I be able to actually code and contribute?
Christine Hwang: Investing in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is just like investing in the stock market, you have to be smart about it, don’t go in blind. Without background knowledge it’s just gambling. I do think it’s important to at least understand the basics of how blockchain works, why it’s important, as well as being aware of fraudulent or sketchy coins.
Malena Lopez: I think it really depends on what your goals are. If you’re investing in coins it’s typical to see information on how that coin will somehow outperform the others, which is promotional of course. You really have to do your homework on what to invest in. I think it’s important to understand what blockchain is and its advantages at a high level, but you don’t need a deep understanding of the inner workings to start investing. It’s relatively early so the community is still building resources, and there’s certainly an opportunity to share your knowledge back to the community while you are developing it.
Timothy Yuen: I’d say it depends on your perspective. If you’re looking to develop on the blockchain of course you’re going to have to understand it. I think the barrier to entry is pretty low right now, it only took me a week of following tutorials intensively and now I’m building a decentralized application. But if you’re just getting into cryptocurrencies to make money and don’t do any research it’s analogous to betting on penny stocks, basically you’re gambling.
Jeffrey Kim: What you need to understand isn’t necessarily the technology, but rather the application. For example, when I use the internet I don’t really understand how TCP/IP works, but I do understand there are things like safe websites to visit and unsafe websites that could harm my computer. Similarly, even if you don’t understand the underlying mechanism of a coin, you should understand the risks buying into it as well as using different exchanges. There are complicated scams going on, so you have to gather knowledge to protect yourself.
Victor Li: Anyone who wants to invest should at least have a high level understanding of blockchain technology. In addition to that they should be researching each coin itself to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it’s trustworthy. This probably wasn’t the case for most investors who flocked to this field due to the price spike of bitcoin last Winter. My advice is to do your research and treat it like you’re investing in a startup; it’s not just the product or idea you’re investing in, it’s the team behind it. Who are the founders and developers, what are their values and mission, and are they reputable? I think that’s important to know.
What are some use cases you know of where bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies are being used regularly? What’s the current utility look like?
Christine Hwang: To me the technology is useful and has a lot of potential, but as far as actually using bitcoin or ethereum to pay for everyday goods? I think that won’t happen for quite a while.
Malena Lopez: First, I think we’re shifting away from bitcoin in general, we might start to see more local coins appearing with a dedicated purpose. For example, the government of Venezuela issued a token (the Petro) to tackle some of its economic issues. Another example I’ve come across is certain Hispanic communities exchanging cryptocurrencies in lieu of international payments and money transfers since traditional bank fees on these services are too high. Personally, I think we need to take the mentality that cryptocurrencies are really more of an asset to invest in rather than electronic money used to pay in every day transactions.
Timothy Yuen: This may be a niche case, but I know in 2015 you could pay with bitcoin on the game marketplace Steam. They ended that in 2017. Other than that, the eCommerce site overstock.com accepts bitcoin. Those are the two examples that pop into my head. In general I think it would be difficult to get people to use cryptocurrencies the same way they use cash nowadays. It’s just not that accessible, however that may change as I often see services popping up to make it easier to use.
Jeffrey Kim: Honestly, I’m not aware of many. I believe I heard that a small nation, the Marshal Islands, switched their national currency from dollars to a cryptocurrency called Sovereign. These types of use cases are quite interesting, I mean there’s a clear trend of many countries transitioning to a cashless society. Is it such a jump to imagine them replacing it altogether with a cryptocurrency? Regardless of the utility or adaption of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, it’s clear that blockchain applications are here to stay, and has been proving its worth in the supply chain industry.
Victor Li: I don’t think there’s widespread adoption anywhere, it’s mostly speculation at this point. There are a few barriers in place right now, for example using bitcoin for everyday purchases isn’t practical because there are often transaction fees. And the market is so volatile right now. If a cryptocurrency managed to have fast transactions, no fees, and solve for stability, then it may become the big currency to break through these barriers.
The elusive Satoshi Nakamoto; do you have any theories on who that might be?
Christine Hwang: No, it seems like chasing after smoke so I don’t bother.
Malena Lopez: No and I’m not concerned about it, but I guess I can understand why people would want to know. If I had to guess maybe Nick Szabo? He came up with BitGold back in the 1998 and has been really active with the community.
Timothy Yuen: Honestly I think it’s just some random person, someone who had a great idea and released it to the world. I’ve heard some people say it’s Elon Musk, but that’s silly. I doubt it’s anyone particularly famous.
Jeffrey Kim: No theories, but I did hear a funny story. Apparently, some zealous fans were investigating and found a Satoshi Nakamoto located in a small rural town in Japan. They flocked to him to ask questions, but it just turned out to be an old man, no doubt very confused from the attention [laughs].
Victor Li: No and I don’t care. I think there’s a portion of the community who’s looking for some kind of god head speaker, but for the betterment of the overall technology I think it’s better Satoshi stay anonymous. Let’s take Vitalik Buterin, a co-founder of Ethereum, as an example. Vitalik is seen as a good leader for the community, his voice has a lot of influence. So depending on what he says, writes, tweets, whatever, that may drive the price of Ethereum up or down. I don’t really like that, it opens up more paths for scams and frauds to manipulate investors.
Since this is the Millennial Innovation Council, what do you think is the relationship between millennials and cryptocurrencies or blockchain?
Christine Hwang: To be honest I think millennials are chiefly drawn to bitcoin because of the hype and the possibility to get rich quick, older generations may be more skeptical and cautious. Besides the financial aspect, I do think a lot of millennials agree with the mission of moving to decentralized networks. Personally, I’m passionate about the prospect of applying blockchain to the music industry. Record labels and streaming platforms often negotiate unfavorable deals for the artist, there’s opportunity to connect artists directly to fans without having to worry about creator rights with a blockchain system.
Malena Lopez: There’s something I noticed about millennials – we like to get things done. If we see a faster or more efficient way of doing things we hold on and run with it. That’s why I think millennials are interested in blockchain and cryptocurrencies; it’s new, engaging, and hones in on the learning curve aspect that millennials like. Also, millennials are concerned about the ethics of a company so I think the transparency and trust building that decentralization demands appeals to that side of their personality.
Timothy Yuen: Yeah definitely, I think it fits in well with the anti-establishment and paranoia some millennials feel, especially with all the data privacy scandals and discussions going on. A lot of early adopters and advocates were paranoid of the government infringing on their privacy, the anonymity that decentralization and cryptography offer is still a driving force for developers on big projects.
Jeffrey Kim: I can see a shift in the future from centralized to decentralized systems being stewarded by millennials. It seems there’s an emerging distrust of central authority figure among my peers. I’m sure a big reason for this is the 2007 financial crisis, driven largely in part by irresponsible subprime mortgage lending from banks. The whole Occupy Wall street movement following that exemplifies this frustration and distrust. Decentralized networks gives more power to the masses, so I can see it being welcomed. But I don’t think central authorities will give up their power easily, the government will try to regulate and hamstring the technology, but I’m not sure if they’ll be able to keep pace with the rapid innovation that comes from the field.
Victor Li: Anecdotally I can say my peers are excited about cryptocurrencies and blockchain, maybe because they’re in tune with disruptive technology innovation and want change. To me personally, blockchain represents a means to a more efficient society by cutting out the middlemen/central authorities. Think of all the inefficiency employees may experience in traditional organizations, from hierarchical red tape to political squabbles, how could we cut that down with blockchain? A decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) might get around that, unfortunately the only example I know of, aptly named The DAO, who had a vulnerability in their smart contract which resulted in millions of their funds being siphoned and the eventual hard fork of Ethereum. Despite that, the possibility is interesting.
Is there any other advice or last words you’d like to leave with our reader?
Malena Lopez: One of the blockers millennials are facing when it comes to blockchain is access to conversations on the scale that we want. There needs to be more diversity and inclusion of young people who are passionate about this field and who are going to champion this technology as it develops. There’s so much going on right now so I would recommend my fellow millennials to simply get involved in the conversation any way you can.
Timothy Yuen: If you have an interest in developing blockchain based applications I really recommend getting involved. There is opportunity to learn and a lot of opportunity to teach. Many projects are open source so you can contribute as well and get that experience.
Millennial Innovation Council
The following article was submitted on behalf of Capgemini NA’s Millennial Innovation Council (MIC) Employee Resource Group (ERG). The mission of MIC is to engage all employees to strategically position Capgemini in raising its future generation of talent in a changing business environment and an evolving world. By understanding the living situations of millennials Capgemini is putting themselves in a position to attract and retain talent.
This article was written by Scott Smith. Scott has worked at Capgemini for around year as a business analyst in the NA FSSBU. Scott, although to hesitant to invest in just yet, is excited to see how cryptocurrencies develop. He looks forward to sharing more interesting articles.