🎤 Interviews Cyril Gilson

NEM’s Latin America Head: “In the Next Bullish Wave We will Surely See NEM in First Positions”

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“We have the full confidence that the Blockchain of NEM has the best performance in the market”: Pedro Gutierrez
NEM’s Latin America Head: “In the Next Bullish Wave We will Surely See NEM in First Positions”

Head of NEM Latin America Pedro Gutierrez on the strengths of the NEM platform, its competition with Ethereum and specifics of doing business in one of the most promising regions on Earth.

Systems Engineer by education, Pedro Gutierrez has a long career in business entrepreneurship in the hi-technology area, he participated in the boom of dot com as a category manager in deremate.com, the first online auction site in Latin America- 2001 to 2003.

He participated in a pioneer online auction project in Latin America, then created the first online-based dental franchise in Venezuela that has become highly successful also in the neighboring Colombia. In 2016 he founded SynergyCriptoAdviser, a company that offers cryptocurrency consulting and training services.

In 2018 he was named the Latam leader of NEM.IO foundation and sees his major task in s publicizing Blockchain technology and NEM in industry, commerce, education institutions and government in Latin America and Spain.

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Cyril Gilson: How big is the NEM Latin America community, what are their main centers, who are the main players?

Pedro Gutierrez: Latin America has a population of almost 700 mln people, which makes it one of the most important regions in the world for the adoption of new technologies. We have opened 12 countries in only five months of operation, among which we must highlight the actively growing communities in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Our main competitors in the region are Ethereum and Hyperledger.

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CG: How the decisions are being made in your community?

PG: The decisions within the NEM foundation are made by the members of the council and the founding members evaluating all the positive or negative repercussions that such actions may generate for the community in general. Members of the NEM council are elected by the community every two years, and the destination of community funds is defined by public votes made by the global NEM community.

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Regulation

CG: What is a regulatory climate in Latam like, as it comes to the cryptocurrency regulation, and what countries are moving ahead of others? When the regulatory clarity can be achieved?

PG: I believe that the regulatory climate in Latin America is very imprecise, if not null and this is very much tied to the ignorance on the part of the governments of these technologies operate. This does not mean that all countries are equal in this regard.

There are countries like Mexico that have already taken a big step with the approval of fintech law for the legal use of certain cryptocurrencies within the country, and cases like those of Colombia where the president-elect for the next 4 years mentioned that he would implement technologies such as the Blockchain to avoid the evasion of national taxes.

I believe that these steps, although small considering the size of the ecosystem, are just the beginning of a great technological revolution in Latin American countries that strive for more transparency.

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Latam perspectives

CG: What industries in Latam have specific interest in NEM, who are you working with? What explains their interest?

PG: Currently the greatest interest has come from governments and universities in different countries, with which we are currently in a process of conceptualization of the use cases in various areas. They serve as references for problems that need to be resolved locally and that way we later arrive to their implementation. We continue with the efforts to extend the range of interest to other sectors.

We have the full confidence that at present the blockchain of NEM has the best performance in the market, guaranteeing over time its greater participation in the Latin American market.

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CG: Are Latin American investors different from investors elsewhere?

PG: More than being different I think that Blockchain technology companies have an arduous task of showing investors the great advantages that the use of these technologies would mean without leaving aside the cryptocurrencies for their industries, the benefits in terms of automation of trust, of performance in the processes, of autonomous collection system, of machine-to-machine communication among many other things.

Naturally, it is important to reach agreements with industries and respectable investors that will show others the way thus achieving the implementation of these new technologies. We still do not have those relevant cases of use but we have seen a growing interest that is aroused by the fact that Latin American football stars like Messi in Argentina support crypto projects and stars like James Rodríguez of the Colombian team have launched their own cryptocurrency.

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NEM and Ethereum

CG: Some people say NEM can dethrone Ethereum as the premiere smart contracts platform. What maybe the obstacle to that happening?

PG: I think it's important to bear in mind that the only competition that Ethereum brings to NEM is up to the Ether’s bigger popularity for this moment.  If you compare NEM in terms of technology as a third generation Blockchain you can not only make smart contracts, but you can do them out of the chain allowing updates of the same without having to start from scratch.

Due to its adaptability to the most popular programming languages practically any developer can start implementing NEM without delays. NEM also has a number of features that are designed so that, among many other things, the developer does not have to build everything from scratch if something doesn’t work. We know that in marketing we must work hard but we must note that we work hard to deliver the best blockchain to the community. Now we work with it to make it better known.

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CG: What is the strength of NEM that is absent in other altcoins?

PG: NEM is not technology in test (Beta), it is a fully developed project in search of continuous improvement offering new and more advanced functionalities.

We have a community throughout the planet, and a defined leadership structure that allows everyone in our different regions to pursue the same ideals.

Bullish wave ahead

CG: Recently NEM dropped from the top 15 cryptocurrencies and Binance Coin has taken its place. When do you think NEM will jump again?

PG: In the next bullish wave we will surely see it in the first positions, we must bear in mind that the market in general is down and all the token have decreased their capital.

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Cooperation, not competition

CG: What do you think of main competitor for NEM now? Maybe Ripple?

PG: We are focused on making our technology known, making important alliances and at the same time increasing the usability of our Blockchain and therefore our token. I believe that all these crypto and Blockchain projects have different bets and approaches rather than competing, we focus on doing well what we know how to provide cutting edge technology to more and more people.

CG: When the launch of Catapult is expected and how can it influence the crypto industry and the coins market?

PG: Although the date of the launch of Catapult is not defined, it was established that before the end of 2018 it will be available to the community. Catapult puts the Blockchain of NEM one step ahead of all existing Blockchain. In terms of impact to the industry of this advance we are sure that the best ones like to work with the best.

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CryptoComes Women in Blockchain: Toni Lane Casserly’s Global Vision

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“The Joan of Arc of Blockchain” Toni Lane Casserly shares her vision of competitive governance, financial freedom and interdependence empowered by Blockchain
CryptoComes Women in Blockchain: Toni Lane Casserly’s Global Vision

Toni Lane Casserly has been a Blockchain evangelist from the moment she first discovered the innovative technology or perhaps the technology discovered her, in 2011.

Since then, she has been an advisor to organizations that include the Singularity University, HSBC and the United Nations; a speaker at countless Blockchain events and conferences; and the co-founder and original CEO of Cointelegraph, one of the largest media networks in the Blockchain industry.

CryptoComes spoke with Toni Lane a few days before she presented CULTU.RE at TokenFest in San Francisco. On stage, it becomes clear why the industry has given her the affectionate, quirky moniker “The Joan of Arc of Blockchain.”

The completeness and assurance of her vision, compounded by her uncompromising stance as a woman succeeding in the Blockchain industry, make her a particularly fitting subject to begin the CryptoComes Women in Blockchain series.

Building CULTU.RE

Katya Michaels: You have been involved in cryptocurrency and Blockchain from very early on and have observed this industry from a variety of perspectives. The project you are working on right now is CULTU.RE, a platform for competitive governance and self-sovereignty. Given how passionate you are about freeing humanity from the institutional constraints they were born into, what’s your view of the well-known phrase “Every nation gets the government it deserves?”

Toni Lane Casserly: I would totally disagree with that because government is a closed network. And when you create a system that is a closed network under the guise of civic participation, what you're actually doing is you're incentivizing system to system relationships over human to human relationships.

Blockchain technology redefines our ability to look at governance as a process of peer to peer engagement with a system to human stewardship as opposed to a system to human ownership.

I will never forget a time when I heard someone refer to a refugee as an economic asset. What?! A refugee is a person, a human life, another human being with thoughts, feelings and emotions. Looking at another human being and seeing their only value as an economic asset is unacceptable.

You can't have what you deserve if you are not empowered to create the world you want to see. The only way we're going to be able to do that for every human life is if we are fundamentally incentivizing people to have economic liberation through real open markets that are based on stewardship, generation and interdependence.

Blockchain evolution

KM: You have said before that the most important obstacle to governance through Blockchain is emotional maturity. Do you think the success of Blockchain implementation depends on the evolution of human consciousness or vice versa, the existence of Blockchain technology will drive such an evolution?

TLC: These are interdependent phenomena, and that's actually what Blockchain represents and it’s a core foundation of what we're building at CULTU.RE. Darwin never said “survival of the fittest.” What he actually said is that human species that will thrive and survive through the hardest times are those with the highest capacity for sympathy, altruism, compassion and reciprocity.

I believe it's not merely Blockchain technology and it's not merely evolution in consciousness. So many different things are coming together.

The rise in artificial intelligence and robotics will automate jobs that have taught humans that they are a part of a system rather than a dynamic meaningful, creative force in the world. Those jobs will be gone and new forms of economy will replace them.

We will experience another web of human interdependence through the evolution of biotechnology. We see shifts that are happening tectonically on our planet, along with climate change. All of these factors combined with the economic empowerment imbued by Blockchain are retranslating our relationship to what is really valuable — not just value as a scarce resource, but our human values and principles.

Path to mass adoption

KM: Recently, you joined the advisory board of Divi Project, a Blockchain smart-wallet platform that aims to make cryptocurrency more approachable and easy to use for the ordinary person, triggering a tipping point for Blockchain use. What are the conditions for making the entry point into cryptocurrency low enough for mass adoption?

TLC: I think, more than anything, we will see a shift in access when we experience real global connectivity. Not the opportunity for global connectivity, but actual free public Wi-Fi for every person on the planet. I do believe that is something that will happen within the next ten years, hopefully sooner.

Barriers to entry

KM: Do you think the entry point to Blockchain use and the industry is different for women compared to men, both in the Western world and in developing countries?

TLC: It’s obviously different because of the way business works, though there are some places where I would say it's not so. It’s really about how free women are in a country, and how open is the attitude toward sex because that is the primary thing that's used to oppress the female identity in society. Different women will experience different barriers based on their environment.

I am a white Western woman. I have my own challenges in the world, but I also have my own set of opportunities. There is a spectrum of entry points for women in different areas.

Depending on the cultural dynamic, women are going to have different opportunities and different risks to assess in the situations that they are entering.

For example, the risk profile in Scandinavian countries is significantly lower for women than almost in any other place in the entire world. The risk profile for someone in L.A. is going to be vastly different from the risk profile of a woman working in Silicon Valley, or someone in Europe.

The conversation that most women will experience will be vastly different than the conversations men will experience. In many instances, we have to work 50 times harder to get five times less the recognition, but it doesn't have to be that way. What it's really going to take for women to get the recognition they deserve is valuing yourself and taking ownership over what you deserve.

It's about understanding that whatever stakes are on the table and whatever game is being played, it is not your job to play the game, but you will win when you are able to redesign the board fundamentally.

Overcoming stereotypes

KM: As a woman in the Blockchain space for quite a few years now, have you noticed any difference in focus, as well as in the business approach taken by women as opposed to men?

TLC: There is obviously a difference in approach. When I go to a conference, I will meet a hundred people and some of them will know who I am because of my career in the industry, and they will want to work with me.

But I know that when men talk to me, they will ask about me, my life, where I grew up. It’s not that those questions are offensive or I find them invasive, but their interest in talking to me is getting to know me, for a potential relationship. When men are talking to men, they are thinking about making money together.

We have to realize that this is something unconscious in most of the societies around the world. It’s about surviving, which means acquisition of resources and reproduction- men are focused on the survival of the tribe and women are valued for their fertility. That dynamic still exists in most of the world at varying levels of extremes, with different kinds of cultural norms. So we are still basically primal humans, apes.

But we're getting there; we’re evolving in some ways. I feel like there are some of us who are transcending and reaching these states of higher consciousness. The situations are different, but if you understand that going in, you can generally disarm it.

Economic empowerment

KM: How do you assess the “women in Blockchain” or “women in technology” discourse right now? Do you find it engaging, or underdeveloped, or missing the mark perhaps?

TLC: To get some perspective on this, if we look at the market for ICOs, two of the largest ICOs that were ever raised were Bancor and Tezos, both of which have female leadership. I want to point out that we have seen women do some powerful and incredible things in the Blockchain industry.

Because in Blockchain people are on the Internet, it’s less of a situation where a woman is sitting down privately with a man in a close setting, putting her in a vulnerable position because of the power dynamics in the relationship. Instead, she can say, “hey, Internet here's our work, so you can look at it and if you want to invest, we are opening this up to a marketplace.”

When we are opening up these marketplace principles, it is a huge way for women to gain economic opportunity. We are changing the dynamics for investing in women and fundraising for women.

There's a huge amount of pressure behind the Women in Blockchain movement, and it's because the economic barriers for women are being lifted. It will be amazing for the entire world to see what happens when we give women financial economic opportunity and education.

The number one factor for reducing climate change across the board in the world is an education for girls and women. There’s a reason why the Dalai Lama said the world will be saved by the Western woman. These communities are growing in an incredibly strong way and we're seeing a vast amount of unity between women that are coming together in this space.

It's not about standing together to fight against what's wrong; it’s about standing together to create a future that is right. Those are the kind of movements that we need to build, movements of unity, not of separation.

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How We All Go Into Space: Aliya Prokofieva Has Mission Under Control

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U.Today spoke with Galaktika’s CEO about why it’s worth reclaiming our passion for space travel
How We All Go Into Space: Aliya Prokofieva Has Mission Under Control

Aliya Prokofieva doesn’t look like the usual suspect for the founder of a private space initiative, but upon closer inspection, it’s evident that this destiny was inevitable. Having grown up among the astronauts, engineers and sci-fi writers who were part of the community at the famous Pulkovo Observatory, she caught the space fever as a child and carried it, with purity and dedication, to the establishment of her company Galaktika.

In the last few decades, the incredible advances of technology are showing us more and more than anything is possible, but it seems we tend to be over-focused on the way new tech can improve our screen resolutions and scrolling speeds. Aliya intends to shift that focus where it belongs– space, the final frontier. U.Today spoke with Galaktika’s CEO about why it’s worth reclaiming our passion for space travel, not only for the opportunities it will create in the space cities but for the way it can change human society here on Earth.

Drops of Jupiter in her hair

U.Today (Katya Michaels): Aliya, in the last couple of years you have become a prominent player in the private space development industry, but I wanted to start at the beginning – both your mother and your aunt were astrophysicists?

Aliya Prokofieva: Yes, that’s correct. My mom was not only an astrophysicist, she was also chief constructor for the Pulkovo Observatory, one of the biggest and oldest observatories in Russia. She also worked on the observatory in Norway’s Spitsbergen and many others.

UT: That must have been a strong influence on your path as a woman in tech, having these amazing role models.

AP: Of course, although as a child I didn’t dream of being a scientist or an engineer. I am more interested in culture and society, specifically the way scientific discoveries can serve humanity. From the beginning in this industry, I have been more focused on creating something that will help people, that will endure after I’m gone and contribute to sustainable solutions that will be applicable all over the world.

UT: Did your mother also believe that it was possible for humanity to colonize space in your lifetime?

AP: You know, it’s interesting – my mother was born, grew up and worked in the Soviet Union. When she was 19, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

It was 1961 and everybody really thought, both in the Soviet Union and the US, that people would be living in space by the millennium.

There was this absolute confidence that the next decades would see massive and fully scaled space development. Not only my mother, but many scientists and engineers in the Soviet Union thought that this would be a reality. If you were to ask some of the old NASA guys who remember those times, they would say the same. So, my childhood impressions were a melding of the engineering facts of space exploration and the romantic-scientific idea of the imminent reality of life in space.

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The nearness of stars

UT: I feel like the archetype of the romantic scientist is a uniquely Soviet phenomenon, in many ways exemplified by the sci-fi works of Strugatsky brothers, and that it doesn’t really have parallels in other cultures… Do you think that’s true?

AP: I don’t believe it’s unique, because international sci-fi authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke were at that time writing the same kinds of stories as Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. However, what really is different about the Russian approach to space is the background philosophy.

Space was first explored not for the explicit purpose of scientific discovery but approached as a source of spiritual development for humanity.

The philosophy is called Russian Cosmism. It’s a phenomenon that appeared at the end of the 19th century, counting among its proponents such distinguished writers as Dostoyevsky. It was not about technology – Cosmist thinkers explored what space could mean for the human soul and eternal life, in a metaphysical way. In fact, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of the founders of cosmonautics and space travel, was inspired by the philosophy of Russian Cosmism to work on his scientific and engineering discoveries.

Swapping space travel for VR

UT: What do you think happened since the 1950s to the way space travel is viewed? It seems that humanity was dreaming of flying cars and space cities, and instead got smartphones and virtual reality. Kids used to dream of being astronauts and now they want to be Instagram influencers.

AP: I think that the main reason for the change is the fashion for particular heroes – what we are shown in social media, in films and so on. Although I don’t agree with you that kids don’t dream about being astronauts. I know lots of young people, both in the US and in Russia, who are really passionate about space and would like to have access to more information and opportunities.

I suppose what I’m trying to do is create a fashion for space – for going there and being connected with it. That’s why I decided to create this community and this space movement.

It’s not so much about technology, but about creating a real community of people who will be supportive to each other to make space real. That’s my mission.

Space playground

UT: Do you meet with a lot of skepticism? How well informed are people generally in terms of the realities of modern space technology?

AP: Generally, people think that space is something that is very far and not relevant to them. They are taken by surprise when I tell them that we are actually all living in space, already. We have the technology, but it doesn’t have the mass reach of cars or airplanes. There isn’t enough information out there, and it’s part of my mission to educate people. I mean, if you and I were chatting in the 1950s and I’d tell you that it would be possible to converse on video from any location, over any distance – you’d think I was crazy. The same thing is happening with space development, it’s just a question of greater scale.

UT: A big part of what you’re doing to make people more aware of the possibilities of space is an educational initiative here on Earth. Could you elaborate on that?

AP: That effort is in two parts. One is a virtual community platform which is a combination of social networking, project collaboration, an incubator, and a funding structure. It will also give users access to lectures, educational materials, films.

The second part is a space city prototype on Earth, an edutainment format that will be a mix between Universal Studios and the Guggenheim Museum. We are currently creating multimedia and interactive materials for the project. The goal is to make visitors really feel what it would be like to live in space.

UT: Where would this center be located?

AP: Currently we are thinking Switzerland, a location with an area of about 30,000 square meters. We would also have an area nearby for a Mars or Moon safari theme, where visitors could test real equipment. Hopefully, this kind of science center will demonstrate that space is not something distant or fearful, but engaging and fun.

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Off-world equity

UT:  Private space initiatives get investments from the big players, but when will it be possible for everyday, small-scale investors to get into the space game? What kind of returns could they hope to see and in what kind of time frames?

AP: We are in the process of creating tools that will make that possible. It’s something that I have often faced during my space journey – the financing problem in the market. Space companies are either very small startups or established giants like Space X and Blue Origin.

As a result, many great minds don’t have access to financing because most investors think space technology is really remote and risky.

In fact, space investment can be less risky than many IT startups or real estate projects.

Space technologies can be used both in space and on earth– to name just one example, solar panels were originally a space technology and are now a major part of sustainable solutions on Earth.

In our project, the fund structure is a combination of classical venture capital and investment capital instruments, accessible for institutional and large private investors, with a cryptocurrency crowdfunding framework. I discovered that there are so many people who are interested in making their impact on the future of space exploration, whether through intellectual contribution or financial investment.

We also feature different investment categories, with short-term returns within three or four years, midterm returns in five to seven years, and the long-term over ten years. Our management team can work with investors, linking different projects and bringing stable returns of at least 25-30 percent within two years, and those are conservative figures. We are implementing Blockchain and smart contracts to make these investments safe and transparent.

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May the forces be with each other

UT: We’ve been discussing private companies, but of course there are government space programs as well. Do you think private and government sectors will combine efforts? How will they work together?

AP: I believe everyone will join forces. Even now, NASA and the European Space Agency are very supportive of private space initiatives. The future will favor projects that join together public and private efforts–  governments can provide the infrastructure, and private companies contribute a solid business approach since they are understandably motivated by returns on investment.

UT: What about collaboration between nations? When you talk about your project in Russia and in the US, do you feel that there’s a remaining competitive feeling left over from the Cold War? Or is that completely in the past?

AP: I think that in general it’s gone – as you are well aware, what you read in the newspapers is usually someone’s biased agenda. In the space technology, everybody understands that countries should be supportive of each other. What I find interesting is that people are really prepared to collaborate and create joint projects, such that every country’s and every company’s competence is employed to the fullest for the common good.

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Making Marvel comics real

UT: One of the most fascinating questions about space colonization is how it will change human society, both in space cities and here on Earth. You have written about relative autonomy of space colonies as the variable that will determine community development. The first stage is a very demanding survival mode– do you think modern residents of developed countries, used to comforts, are ready for those kinds of sacrifices?

AP: I see that people are searching for something interesting, and their reaction depends on how information is presented to them. If you focus on details of technology development, financing issues and challenges that astronauts face, that can get boring and seem like it’s very far away. When you show how space directly affects people’s lives, show them space as a source of inspiration– their eyes light up.

This is especially true when they realize that they can influence this process– intellectually, financially or by direct participation. It’s like making Marvel comics real! If they can be a part of it, they are eager to step up to the challenge. The space colonization endeavor is really a new, unprecedented type of collaboration.

I think people are tired of the emptiness of social media. What’s the point of showing off and getting a few thousand followers, if that’s all that will be left after you’re gone? What they really want is to make an impact on the future of humanity and the planet, something that will last for generations.

The space city itself is more than a technological challenge. On the one hand, it’s a new economy that will provide a unique professional opportunity for every field– medical, engineering, technical, entrepreneurial, cultural. On a different level, it’s a metaphor for a new era in human evolution, a new purpose for people’s lives.

Independence from Earth

UT: You wrote that at the later stages of increased space city autonomy, these city-states will gain independence from Earth governments. Do you believe this will be a seamless process? Won’t the mother countries fight to retain their space colonies?

AP: I believe, and this is one of my goals as well, that there will be a shift in the mindset. We are still living in a very competitive society, but transitioning to a contributing society. We are used to saying, ok, these 100 acres are mine and these are yours. It’s amusing when people try to apply this dealing to space, which clearly belongs equally to everyone.

I hope that countries will be united in space, regardless of religion and politics, but the way this will turn out depends on us  – whether we’ll be entrenched in colonies separated by borders, or sharing space as human beings who are citizens of one community.

Don’t panic

UT: What is your personal dream of space?

AP: My personal dream is to inspire every human with the vision of life in space and to build the first space city. I want to make space travel as easy and approachable as buying a ticket from New York to London.

UT:  What are your favorite portrayals of space life in books or movies? Something that really reflects the way you imagine space.

AP: Actually, I am currently writing a script for my own space film, as well as a fiction book about a girl’s space journey. What I don’t like about most sci-fi movies is that they portray space as a harsh and hostile environment, while it’s a source of great inspiration and value for humanity. My favorite ones are still Star Wars and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They are closer to my idea of how life in space could be – not always friendly, but exciting and adventurous.

Here, you can listen to the Technotopia talk with Aliya Prokofieva.

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Adult Industry on Blockchain: Leah Callon-Butler Changes State of Play

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Applying Blockchain in the adult industry might just be the use case to drive mass adoption.
Adult Industry on Blockchain: Leah Callon-Butler Changes State of Play

While the adult industry has proven to be the driver of tech innovation and adoption - such as VHS and streaming - in the past, there is also a great deal of social stigma attached to both working in the industry and consuming its products, even when those activities are perfectly legal.

Among Blockchain developers and investors, too - few give serious thought to the disenfranchisement of adult business entrepreneurs and the lack of data security for users and providers. Just ask Verge, whose announcement of a partnership with Pornhub seems to have done irreparable damage to the asset…

But Leah Callon-Butler, co-founder and Chief Impact Officer of Intimate, a cryptocurrency and platform aiming to facilitate payment and trust for the adult industry, believes this to be an ideal use case for Blockchain - here’s why.

 

Social impact

 

Katya Michaels: Could you give me a brief story of how you became a Blockchain entrepreneur?

Leah Callon-Butler: I've always worked in emerging technologies and helping really early stage companies figuring out how they were going to find their first customer, across lots of industries but focused on sales and business development. When I was doing my MBA, I found that I had a real passion for the social impact.

It led me to work with a lot of really cool companies and startups, including the renewable energy industry. With that, I could see that it was completely centralized and I couldn't really see how that was ever going to change if we couldn't actually change the way that power was produced and shared with people across the markets.

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A few years later, my mentor introduced me to this case study, the Brooklyn Microgrid, which was essentially peer-to-peer energy trading between neighbors. And this had never been done before because for energy markets were always centralized power plants.

When I discovered this technology, it blew my mind. I couldn’t imagine a world where we weren’t controlled totally by centralization.

When I started to look into it, I saw that everyone was trying to apply Blockchain to everything because it was so hot right now, but at the same time it was kind of infantile and a needed really smart people around it to be able to apply it to an industry use case that really needed it.

So I got a bit obsessed with trying to find the right use case that needed decentralization. What I learned was that there was actually a lot of parallels between the issues that exist in the adult industry and what I've been working on with other projects around social impact. Particularly with things like gender equality, power inequality in the greater world, developing economies and concepts around identity and micropayments.

Actually, this is the perfect use case for blockchain where we can enable transactions, but at the same time empower people who have been neglected and stigmatized by society.

Mass adoption

KM: The adult industry has always been a driver of innovation and technology. Do you think that Blockchain for the adult industry is the key to mainstream Blockchain adoption?

LCB: There's probably no other industry in the world where you would see such a cross section of all walks of life - from workers to consumers to business operators.

This is a basic human need that is relevant to pretty much everyone across the world. Don't take it from me - one of our biggest investors, which is a large crypto fund called Alphabit, they put in over a million dollars into Intimate and they said that they were very inspired by this because this was the project that crypto had been waiting for in terms of a real use case and possibly the first to drive mass scale adoption.

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Pseudonymous reputation

KM: Cryptocurrency itself promises to provide privacy, transparency and ease of payment. What does the Intimate token do for the adult industry that cryptocurrency cannot?

LCB: This is one of the most common questions that we’re asked and I never tire of answering it, because I think we should actually ask this question of every single coin on the market. We should always be asking, in the first place, is Blockchain needed? And secondly, do we need another coin?

A lot of people confuse us with being a privacy coin. We are highly concerned about user’s privacy, but what we offer is pseudo anonymity. Where we go beyond something like Bitcoin or Monero or even just cold hard cash, is that Intimate has a reputation system.

Consumers want to be able to transact privately, but service providers and business operators need to be able to establish trust through data disclosure. How do you solve this? Through pseudonymous reputation.

Peer to peer networks are changing who we trust and why we trust them, but those existing systems, like Uber or AirBnb, despite their merits, are still centralized and controlled. There is no system that allows you to port your reputation from one platform to another.

What Intimate is doing is creating right from the start a reputation system that is industry wide. So no matter where you are transacting with various entities, you can build that reputation in one place and port it to another, but also be in control of that data.

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Voluntary disclosure

KM: One thing that I find continually fascinating about Blockchain is that it promises absolute privacy and absolute transparency at the same time. How do we make sure that what needs to be private stays private and what needs to be transparent stays transparent and not the other way around?

LCB: That's why we’re really clear about the fact that we don't provide anonymity. We've taken a really hard line on this and obviously you can't be the solution for everything.

Some people feel that cryptocurrency is designed to hide things and to help people hide their tracks. There was a certain point in time where that was true, but today some of the biggest proponents of Blockchain technology are banks and governments because they've seen what it could do to improve efficiency and transparency.

How can we take this technology and apply it to industries that people have traditionally thought of as “bad” because they've been run by underground shady characters? If we can start to bring some transparency and accountability to these industries while still applying the benefits of privacy, that is really powerful.

The point is that no one should have control over your information. So the key for me is voluntary disclosure, that you own your data and only you get to choose if and when to disclose it.

Trust and responsibility

KM: I feel like Blockchain is not just a technology, but a social construct. Do you think that people are ready to put their trust on the Blockchain, but also to take ownership of their data and take responsibility for their decisions?

LCB: That’s such a massive question. If I can relate it to what's happening right now, Mark Zuckerberg is in a lot of hot water because of the Facebook debacle. That’s actually been great for us because it makes very clear that data privacy is important to everyone, not just sleazy men who want to cover up something they were doing online.

It's great that we're having this conversation right now, because a lot of people are saying, “Hey, do you really have to right to own my data and who gave you that right and what are you going to do with it?”

But your question was, are people ready? I'd say no, they're not because Blockchain also puts all of the onus back onto the individual and that's what makes it so difficult. It seems great to get rid of trusted intermediaries, but they also provide a level of insurance and protection. If you lose your banking password, we can give you a reset button. If you lose your private key, sorry, you’re screwed.

There is also things like governments - a lot of people get upset about paying taxes, but taxes go toward paying for things that we take for granted in our everyday life, like schools, garbage trucks and police. That's why we need solutions that are gonna come in kind of halfway, take the benefits of what's there and take baby steps towards what the future could be.

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The state of play

KM: I just wanted to finish up by saying congratulations on the Golden Token nomination! What does it mean, to be nominated in that category, as Female Leader of the Year?

LCB: It means everything!

I got into this space because I saw that this technology had far greater power to be able to reimagine the state of play.

I guess I'm relatively new to this space and sometimes it's hard because you think - if I'm not a computer scientist or an engineer or a mathematician or a cryptographer, then maybe I shouldn't be here.

But I have different skills that I bring to the space and the social impact is something that I'm really passionate about - seeing more women in technology, more women recognized for what they do. Diversity and inclusion is one of the most powerful mechanisms of competitive advantage that we have.

Blockchain is a space where it's all about decentralization, it’s about giving power to the least represented and the most vulnerable.

To be nominated for an award like that is powerful for me because, let's be honest, I work in a controversial industry. Some people will not agree with what we're trying to do, but we push on despite that and we have a vision to change the world for the better.

I guess I was never one to really kind of take the road more traveled. The more that people want to push back on me and tell me that this industry shouldn't be respected and that there isn't a place for it, it only drives me more to keep doing exactly what we're doing. There's a big opportunity to do a lot of good here and that's what makes me leap out of bed every day.

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🎤 Interviews Katya Michaels

CryptoComes Women in Blockchain: Crystal Rose on Blockchain Island, Governance and Open Data

🎤 Interviews
Technologist and Blockchain entrepreneur Crystal Rose talks about open data standards, ICO governance and changing the advertising model
CryptoComes Women in Blockchain: Crystal Rose on Blockchain Island, Governance and Open Data

 

Crystal Rose is a technologist and entrepreneur who has been part of the tech community since middle school, but that familiarity has not put her out of touch with the obstacles faced by women in technology.

As co-founder and CEO of Sensay, an AI communications platform and SENSE, a Blockchain protocol that recently completed a successful ICO, she has direct experience of the industry’s challenges and prospects.

CryptoComes caught up with Crystal after she spoke on the Women in Blockchain panel at CryptoBlockCon 2018 in Los Angeles.

Katya Michaels: I heard that you started coding when you were eleven, which makes you not just a digital native, but a coding native. Do you think that being comfortable with the technology from so early on makes it easier for you as a woman in tech?

Crystal Rose: I think being in the space early and being really naive helped a lot. When I was a teenager, I discovered hackathons. At that point, it was just people getting together, creating products or sharing code. It wasn't until I was 19 or 20 that someone actually mentioned to me that I was the only woman out of a hundred people participating in the hackathon who wasn’t a sponsor or working at a booth.

After that realization, I started to seek out more women and try to understand - is it that women are fundamentally not interested in engineering? Or is it really exclusive? I think it's a combination. There is definitely an intimidation factor if you're not comfortable with the “boys club” elements of it.

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Bringing men into the conversation

KM: How do you feel about the “women in Blockchain” discourse?

CR: It's super challenging for me because I would rather not see us segregating ourselves even further. For instance, the organizers of this conference pulled me off the first panel today to put me on the Women in Blockchain panel. As a result, there were several panels with only men and one panel with only women.

I think it would be interesting if we included men on a Women in Blockchain panel to get their perspective, to understand the challenges from their side, to empower them to bring more women into this space.

Events created specifically for women in the industry are helpful for us to make connections, but we also have to take the next step- which is integrate. When I host dinners for women in crypto, I encourage men to come and participate. One good approach is to invite men, but also ask them to nominate a woman who is a candidate for the space and bring her along.

If you look at the C-suite in any industry, it is challenging for women to break through to the top level. It’s good to point that out, but without creating more exclusion. I’d like to bring the topics around to the men- ask them how they are encouraging women entrepreneurs, how they are investing in women. I want to see men step up to that conversation.

Opening doors for women entrepreneurs

KM: You are a partner with an all-women investment group, Artemis. Who are the members and what makes this experience unique?

CR: So, Artemis is 11 women from all over the world who are entrepreneurs in their own right - primarily in technology, but other sectors as well. This is a side project for everyone involved, just coming together to really understand investing in cryptocurrencies, in ICOs, and in Blockchain companies.

At this point, I consider it more of a learning club rather than a venture firm. We’re here for all the women who are entrepreneurs and are unsure in the space. We'll go through the diligence process in a really kind way and open that door.

One of the things about women is we tend to have a higher standard. Being an angel investor myself for about five years now, having people come and pitch to me, women are always more polished. But the detrimental part of that higher standard is that they might not come to the table early enough.

KM: In fact, there is research showing that women need to be extremely sure of their competence before putting themselves out there, while for men that threshold is much lower - something that has been called “the confidence gap.”

CR: Well, that research is super valid then, because that's exactly how it is with the pitches. Men might be only 50 or 30 percent there with the idea - and they give the pitch anyway. Women will only pitch an idea when they think that the chances of success are extremely high.

But when you're raising angel money, you've got to have a higher risk tolerance. You've got to say, “Hey, I want to bet on this thing and I want to go for it.” I think it would be great to see women stepping up with ideas earlier because you can validate them faster, you can get through that cycle faster and get to the next stage. We want to see women accelerated.

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Giving back for long-term solutions

KM: Have you noticed a difference in the approach taken by women versus men to adding value in this industry?

CR: I think it’s related to the likelihood of women taking high risks in things that are uncertain.

Men want a higher return, but they don't really have as much of a vested interest in the idea or the company. Maybe this is just a blanket statement, but I feel that women want to see a longer-term solution.

Men, a lot of the time, have this rocket booster mentality - I just want to get something out of the gate really fast, go to the moon, maybe it's not sustainable, maybe I've burned a bunch of fuel on the way, but it doesn't really matter. For women, it’s more of “how can I positively impact the world sustainably over a longer period of time?”

Women want to see growth and also have a harder stomach for sticking it out long term. I've seen a lot more female entrepreneurs unwilling to give up their business when it's clearly failing compared to male counterparts.

KM: You have been nominated for the Golden Token Female Leader of the Year Award. Is that exciting for you? Should there be more recognition for women, or is it just a golden star that doesn’t mean anything?

CR: That's huge, I'm extremely honored. I strive to put out a positive message and encourage everyone to ask questions and learn. Even when I stopped doing hackathons to build things, I kept going back as a mentor because I saw this need for women to be encouraged to work on something and not be afraid to fail. Out of that, I ended up doing LA Startup week, a free event to encourage entrepreneurs who either didn’t have the resources or were afraid to come out and get to that next stage. So I think recognition is huge.

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Global governance

KM: You are on the board of the ICO Governance Foundation. What do you think is in the future for this model? There seem to be two approaches- comply or insist on freedom.

CR: Or keep changing the acronym! TGE, token generation event, that's what it's called today.

The reason I wanted to get into the governance side of it is because I realized that in a global economy we have to collaborate, and understanding the global ecosystem is really important. I am fortunate to have been at the table with different governments, with Congress, the SEC, the SFC in Hong Kong. We are still operating in a world where global trade is very challenging and that is detrimental to the entire space.

The ICO Governance Foundation works on creating a governance system that everyone can adhere to and live by. In this space, you have to self-govern and have integrity, but the other side is influencing the government. We need to be the voice that says, “Hey, this is what all the companies want.”

Governance happens two ways. It's not our job to sit back and wait for rules be created. It's our job to help formulate these rules, so they are most beneficial to the companies, to the people and the government.

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Open data standards and decentralization

KM: A wider adoption of the technology should help with governance because eventually, the population will be significant enough for the regulatory bodies to work with.

CR: Yes, but I think that's going to be a really tough challenge as well. I'm excited to be at this stage because I feel like it's the dawn of the Internet. No standards have been put in place for a lot of this.

At Sensay, we’ve had a lot of trouble with our data partners when every data stream is different. So we started the Blockchain Data Alliance, which is a group of people who are all building large-scale data-driven Blockchain projects to create open standards. We don’t want to continue to silo people and have them build essentially centralized systems. The whole point is distribution and decentralization.

KM: In your opinion, which platform is currently the leader in terms of smart contracts and decentralized apps?

CR: I like to say that I'm poly-chain. I think that each one is valid for its own inherent reason, but we chose Ethereum and the ERC 20 token. You can't actually code anything on top of Bitcoin, and Ethereum is the most accessible to the most amount of people.

But now we're seeing a lot of challenges with the transaction time and with the fees for our needs. We need to be able to do micro-transactions, so we are going to be announcing in a couple of months that we're moving to the EOS chain. EOS offers faster transactions and we've been really happy with their code base.

For me personally, EOS is the clear next big winner just because the technology is good. I think you've got to bet on who is creating good technology over who is creating hype.

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Changing the advertising model

CR: I'm really happy to see that all of the ads have been banned from Google and Facebook.

KM: You're a fan of that decision?

CR: Huge fan. Fundamentally, as a company, it's against our ethos to advertise. We won't allow advertisers on our platform because that changes the quality of what we transact. Our purpose is to let humans find each other based on their knowledge.

We do have brand partners like Nike who we're working with to figure out how brands can talk to people with their permission and allow them to benefit from the interaction. We can leapfrog the process of Nike buying an ad, then the publisher, like Facebook, getting the money, with the user never getting anything other than the ad.

Instead, Nike can talk to the user directly, and if the user agrees, Nike pays them. It’s removing the intermediary. I'm sure a lot of the intermediaries are very unhappy about this, but advertising fundamentally changes the results of things.

I think we're going to watch as the current decades-old advertising model starts to unravel and I'm really excited to see it change.

KM: There is a view that the ban is not going to affect the honest players because they grow their own communities and they don't need that kind of mass advertising.

CR: I believe that fully. I wouldn't have considered spending money for the acquisition of someone to buy a token because we want people who are just interested in the product and a community that’s going to stick around with us. It's not a speculative point. It’s more like, if you love us and want to be a part of this, you’re in it for a longer game.

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Puerto Rico- Blockchain Island

KM: What's your most exciting project at the moment?

CR: Мy heart is in getting every human to become their own sovereign entrepreneur. And that's what our original mission with Sensay was - to connect people together to freely share their knowledge and get a value for it.

I’m looking at communities of people now and my biggest passion is Puerto Rico, where we are doing Restart Week. Having seen what kind of impact Blockchain can have on a place that is in need of literally every resource - that's a really big mission.

Of course, there are serious challenges that don't get solved with the Blockchain - like power lines broken and roofs ripped off by hurricanes. But when you have things like money being donated to charities and disappearing, or food never being delivered, that does get solved with something like a transparent, immutable ledger system.

I think this is our first time seeing such a massive scale social impact project. We're bringing in not only resources and people and talent, but also capital in a meaningful way.  

We're helping to create laws that are friendly to people who want to run businesses, to help improve the system.

It would be really great if we could see Puerto Rico become an example of how the Blockchain industry can be applied collectively, all in one place - a kind of “Blockchain Island.”

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🤷 Opinions Cyril Gilson

How to Prevent Attackers From Hacking Blockchain Nodes: Professor of Cryptography Opinion

Opinions
“It looks like no one really tackles this problem right now- but they should”
How to Prevent Attackers From Hacking Blockchain Nodes: Professor of Cryptography Opinion

Sebastian Gajek is Professor of Cryptography and Information Security and founder of Weeve, a startup in the Berlin ecosystem that brings IoT and Blockchain together. We talk with Mr. Gajek about cybersecurity and vulnerabilities in crypto industry and community.

Cyril Gilson: What can be done to prevent from happening someone hacking nodes in Blockchain, the problem similar to what happened with EOS?

Sebastian Gajek: The recent attack against EOS is about using vulnerabilities in their software that allows to hack the nodes. The consequence was that the attackers could extract secret key material and this allows them to fully control the nodes. It is the worst thing that can happen to any consensus protocol.

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We have developed a very special operation system called the WeeveOS. It is an open-source project available on our GitHub. The operating system leverages cutting-edge security and privacy technologies. So, for example, we use a technique in order to isolate the secret keys from the rest of the operating system. This means in the case of EOS if WeeveOS operating system had been in place when the attacker compromised the nodes, they had got control over the nodes but were unable to extract the secret keys.  

This way you have more security and more trust in the network. We are going to release our operating system officially at Ethereum Dev Conference. A pre-release of the WeeveOS is already available through our GitHub.

We believe a lot of Blockchain technologies like EOS, like Ethereum, like HyperLedger really need to secure the nodes. It looks like no one really tackles this problem right now. This is bad because consensus protocols only work when one can trust the nodes. But for this you really need some super strong security technologies, otherwise, you will not get the trust by the quorum.

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Other vulnerabilities

CG: What other vulnerabilities do you see lately?

Sebastian Gajek: It’s like the general problem with cybercrimes: nodes are just some kind of programs, programs are written by humans and humans make mistakes. It’s natural right? Otherwise, humans would be machines.

Making mistakes is part of our genes. It looks that programming, for example, smart contracts, is like a new art.

People are now trying to understand what it really takes in order to program a proper smart contract. This is one main source where I see a lot of attacks and where devs really have to do better due diligence, take more care and verify whether the smart contract makes sense.

For example, ICOs might have fragile smart contract tokens and could be subject to those attacks.

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False smart contracts

CG: Could you give some examples of this?

Sebastian Gajek: The number one running example is the DAO. That was the greatest example, showcasing what happens if you design the smart contract in a false way. The result was clear, a lot of coins have been shifted differently than expected.

This is a canonical example showcasing you have to put a lot of care in designing smart contracts, and the same holds now for designing the programs that implement nodes. The attack I described against EOS is based on a similar problem. One where developers develop just design some kind of code and have not been careful enough.

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CG: Is there a way for individual investors in crypto to find out how secure is the system? Some indicators?

The point is the whole Blockchain technology is still  young in comparison to other IT industries. I see now first consulting companies building up exactly a kind of business to figure out whether a smart contract is vulnerable. Similar services have to be applied, for example in order to verify whether the nodes are also free from vulnerabilities.

Again this is ongoing work because people first of all have to learn how to properly program and then other people will build up services on top of that in order to verify whether the programming was correct.

Blockchain will change the Internet. It’s just a matter of time until these consulting companies will figure out there’s a huge cake, so they will hire specialists that do have the right skills, in order to give you a better understanding of what’s good or bad.

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CG: Before deciding whether to take part of ICOs or not, investors check the team, go over some lists, but I don’t think security is even in the top three points to check. What shall they do?

Sebastian Gajek: You are totally right, if I were an investor, I would really go through the points you mentioned, but I would also look who designed the contract. Because in the end, it’s all about reputation.

You really need to choose a smart contract design team that has a lot of credibility. That was one of the reasons why we have chosen to work together with ConsenSys because they have the leading experts in Ethereum development.

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