Howard told me to get down to the hacker phone  as least I think that’s what he said) in the ballroom and see what the kids were up to. I can’t say that I know what hacker phone is but it sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy because it was time for a change. I figured that I would be able to blend in, but he wouldn’t. “As your Director of Innovation,” I told him, “I advise you to stay upstairs with the legacy minds”. Off I went.

As I made my way into the vast, cavernous ballroom, I saw the unmistakable figure of the Energy Magnet. Try as I might, I couldn’t stay away. His French charm and droll Gallic wit drew me in. The frenzy of coding (yes, I saw kids, hunched over keyboard, typing in strange languages) began to recede and a strange calm settled over us.

EMV and Loathing in Las Vegas

I awoke to find myself in 19th century Venice, in the Republic of San Marco, where I am responsible for organising the defenders against the invading Austrian forces. The prolonged siege by the invading Austrians has led to shortages and privations inside the walls (for example, only one flavour of Häagen-Dazs was available during the afternoon break) but the morale of the people remains strong. Field Marshall Radetzky is at the gates with cannon, but I am sure our gallant leader Daniele Manin, restored as the President of the Executive Power will see us through. I walk across to bridge over the Grand Canal and urge our men to remain strong.

Just one cornetto

One of the key issues for a consultant is how to be where the action is. How to tweet to where the puck is going to be, as boring and derivative management consultants are heard to say. The hallmark of a gonzo consultant, though, is to be the puck that people want to tweet to. This means working out the right place to be at the right team, being an expert in conference calculus. Where is something going to happen? After prospecting , I set off and hit Twitter gold at the great Bitcoin / blockchain face-off.

No-one was talking about Bitcoin much, as far as I could see. Man, I feel sorry for those guys. Everyone was talking about the blockchain. Real businesses. Wall Street. I followed some of the Bitcoins down to the trash and helped them ditch their placards. “End the Fed” said one of them. “Hey Hey EMV, Don’t You Stick Your PINs In Me” said another. “Fractional Reserve Banking – Nein Danke” said another, showing that the Europeans were in to. I broke another one in half.

“What do we want” I shouted, trying to raise morale.

“A means of exchange suited to the online world and a store of value independent from nation state control and monetary policy established by democratically-elected governments” they shouted back.

“Why are you jumbling these things together?” I shouted. Nothing.

Then I followed them back  to a huge room where there was a discussion about Bitcoin going on. Somebody onstage made a comment about the concentration of Bitcoin hashing power in the hands of Chinese miners, whereupon an actual Chinese miner with rigs in China, Mongolia and Tibet (accounting for around 10% of total network hashing power) came to the microphone and made an impassioned plea for miners outside China to pull their fingers out and start doing some proof of work. His point was well made. So long as the majority of the hashing power remains in these pools, the Bitcoin blockchain will remain unattractive for a great many mainstream industries and this is not in the interest of Chinese miners since they are expending a lot of effort producing Bitcoin and want the price to go up.

EMV and Loathing in Las Vegas

There was no competition for the prestigious award of the prize for the best question from the floor. He had won hands down and there was no point waiting until the end of the event to deliver the trophy. I found the gallant miner and after a short speech of approximately 75 minutes in which I ranged eloquently across the arguments for double permissionless ledgers such as Bitcoin versus permissioned ledgers where mining incentives might be withheld, and made a few especially telling points about the wide range of potential incentives in the latter case, I awarded Chandler Guo the magnificent Toast D’Or.

Money2020 Toast and More

After handing Chandler his trophy, I set off find some of the Bitcoin visionaries so that I could put an arm round their shoulders and talk to them about the death of their dream. It was then I noticed Doctor of Journalism Michael Casey so I decided to go and put an arm around his shoulder. He was like “double permissionless” and I was like “permissioned” and then he was like “double permissioned” and I was like “permissionless” and then he was like it’s the “Age of Cryptocurrency” and I was like but “Identity is the New Money”. Yeah, well, just because you wrote a book about it doesn’t make you all that, one of us said.

EMV and Loathing in Las Vegas

It was at this point that I got the message from headquarters. It said that I was to go urgently to cover an Innovation in Payments convention down in Irvine California and that it would be on expenses. It was time to leave The Venetian. I showed the invitation to a few people note, one of them being a Doctor of Journalism.

“No way,” Bailey said.” I’m going to that convention too! Why don’t you join me in the Great Grey Manatee and we’ll make a road trip”.

“I’m in”, I said, and set off to tell Howard, but he had already packed his bags and left to go east. I sent him a message. “As your Director of Innovation I advise you to meet me in Boston on 17th November at MIT”.

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