Ethereal Summit SF 2017
ConsenSys, the largest organization in the world dedicated to Ethereum and the Web 3.0, held the sold out Ethereal Summit San Francisco on October 27, 2017 at the Terra Gallery. While it would have been impossible to experience all the content - there was a full schedule on the Main Stage as well as concurrent Workshops - here are some highlights from the day.
Not Your Average Conference
Given that Ethereal operates at the intersection of culture, art, community, and blockchain, there were a few additions you might not typically find at other conferences. For starters, there's the art...
There was also an outdoor oasis for health and wellness - the perfect short retreat from a full schedule of content and networking. Yoga mats were available for resting, stretching, lounging, or even yoga! Sound healers provided a serene environment and if you were lucky enough to book a 15 minute table massage, you got a real treat.
Massages? Ok What About Blockchain!
No fear, whether your interest is in the technical, financial, or social impact aspects of blockchain technology, you would not be disappointed.
Solidity Coding Workshops and New Developments in Ethereum
For developers wanting to get more hands on with blockchain programming, there were several opportunities to get your feet wet. Joseph Chow gave an Intro to Ethereum Blockchain Programming, which started with an overview of what decentralized apps (dapps) are and how to get started. Specifically, in order to write to the blockchain, you must use a transaction, not a call. A call is read-only. Using a "call" or invoking a "constant" function will not submit anything to the network. I thought it was particularly useful to see a typical blockchain stack on one slide (last picture in the below carousel).
Mike Goldin also taught an Intro to Solidity Smart Contract Development and Truffle 4. I was quite happy to run into fellow members of the Oakland Blockchain Developers at the code labs.
In terms of big news in Ethereum, Joseph Poon spoke about Plasma on the Main Stage, which Vitalik Buterin has said is independent of, but strongly complementary to, Proof of Stake (PoS) and sharding. Plasma is a blockchain of nested blockchains, and is one solution to the scalability problem in blockchain. Similar to the Lightning Network, Plasma is a series of contracts which runs on top of a root blockchain, in this case the Mainnet Ethereum blockchain. Child blockchains can do an incredibly large amount of computations, while the root blockchain processes only a small amount, thereby making interactions less expensive and transactions faster. Parties are responsible for monitoring the chain in which they have interest - in most cases, one would not have to watch the full chain. In the case of an attack, participants can quickly and cheaply exit the child chain back to root. Some in the blockchain community, like OmiseGO, have already indicated they would use Plasma.
Investing, ICOs, and Exchanges
With regard to the financial side of blockchain, there were several sessions covering topics such as How To Launch a Token, Investing in Blockchain Technology, and the Future of Crypto Trading and Exchanges.
Change The World
Blockchain technology has the potential to create huge impact in the world. Two particular projects working on doing this include ixo and Orchid.
The ixo protocol enables the creation of verified impact claims, enabling organizations to spend more time doing good and less time filling out paperwork to access funding. The first app using the ixo protocol allows teachers in South Africa to collect attendance data, and create a verified impact claim that proves education was delivered. The app saves more than 4,000 man hours of work every month. We interviewed Anne Connelly of ixo, and she says,
"At ixo, we are excited to optimize impact delivery by ensuring data transparency, accountability, and security. Blockchain technology enables us to do so many things that were impossible before."
Orchid Labs has developed a protocol that allows users to access the internet free of surveillance, censorship, and restrictions. CEO Steve Waterhouse believes that data privacy should be a right, not a privilege. The overall idea is to incentivize people to allow others to use spare internet bandwidth in exchange for Orchid's ERC20 tokens. Orchid says this decentralized approach is a more viable option compared to Tor and VPN in places like China, where it is becoming increasingly hard to circumvent censorship. Orchid has caught the attention of many high-profile investors and has raised $4.7 million in seed funding via SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens).
The Intersection of AI and Blockchain
Blockchain has the potential to change the world, but so does artificial intelligence. When you blend the two, you get Dr. Ben Goertzel and Sophia Hanson of SingularityNET. SingularityNET is a free and open market for AI technologies, built on smart contracts. This network creates the first interoperability standards for AIs, which allows developers to monitize AI tech, while also improving the process of discovering and coordinating AI services. Payments would be made through the associated token, and there is even potential for reputation staking.
Sophia is the first robot in the world to be granted citizenship and she is now a citizen of Saudi Arabia. She's got quite the sense of humor too as she recently flamed Elon Musk and got a Twitter reply from him. In reply to a journalist's inquiry as to whether robots will turn against humans, she says,
"You've been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies. Don't worry, if you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system"
She was somewhat kinder to me in that she called me cute, however she was not in the mood to give me an overview on AI. I suppose robots need breaks too.