Future of Payments and Identity
with Dave Birch
Future of Payments and Identity
with Dave Birch
In this week’s episode we talk to Dave Birch, the author of “Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin”, The Currency Cold War, and Identity is the New Money about all things identity, digital assets and the future of Crypto. Dave is one of the world’s preeminent experts on payments tech globally as well. But when we get into how AIs will make payments and hold bank accounts, it gets very interesting indeed.
Provoke Media is proud to sponsor produce and support The Futurist podcast. Provoke.fm is a global podcast Network and content creation company with the world’s leading fintech podcast and radio show Breaking Banks and of course it’s spin-off podcast breaking Banks Europe breaking Banks Asia Pacific and the Fintech 5, but we also produce the official Finovate podcast Tech on Reg, Emerge Everywhere the podcast of the Financial Health Network and Next-Gen Banker. For information about all our podcasts go to provoke.fm or check out Breaking Banks the world’s number one fintech podcast and radio show.
this week on the futurist Dave Burch I say at the end of the book the future of money looks much more like the past than the present
[Music] welcome back to the futurists I’m Rob turcic and my co-host Brett King hey hey hi Brett how you doing man good good yeah I picked up the Tesla today oh that’s a very interesting car some some yeah I’m I’m walking the talk right yeah and how was that process was it seamless and smooth uh well you know apart from the fact that I needed to um navigate the North Carolina DMV which was in itself an entire experience but apart from that yeah it was it was all done digitally um the whole thing um you know a bit of text messaging back and forth because I couldn’t take delivery on the Connecticut license I had to wait till I got the new license so um but apart from that it was fairly painless um and you know it’s like you’re stepping into a spaceship you know um welcome to the future of Automotive have you got some news items today I have I have a couple of news items first is there’s been a new a discovery or a new uh um implant made from pig skin which reverses blindness for people that’s already been applied um over a dozen people have already had this um procedure and they’ve gone from blind to 20 20 Vision after the transplant it’s an artificial cornea made from pigskin and um you know this is sort of this is sort of the transgenic stuff we were talking about um earlier in terms of the way we’re uh you know engineering and this stuff the second piece of news which is interesting is there’s this brand new AI tool that has been discovered it’s from UC San Diego and Nano engineer there called professori Shu Ping long created this algorithm called m3gnet it’s part of the matterverse dot AI database and it expands our understanding of different materials and combinations of metals and so forth and already they’ve discovered plan or discovered materials that are going to make batteries significantly more efficient and so forth and this is all done basically by AI looking at the sort of structure of different polymers and metals and you know so forth and sort of combining them into new materials that don’t currently exist today so this is the sort of thing where AI is going to be really interesting because it can take inference from you know learning about existing materials we have and extrapolate new thinking out of of that um and so yeah pretty pretty cool news and speeding up Discovery as well yeah that’s a really cool idea the the transformation of many Industries is happening simultaneously with AI as it’s deployed across all of them it’s hard to keep your arms around all of it I mean I can imagine us doing this for all sorts of things like think about um you know physics elements of physics in terms of uh new um particles that we haven’t discovered or things like that or you know like it’s it’s just going to uncover so much knowledge for us it’s really interesting greatly accelerating drug Discovery with AI as well well let’s give a big welcome to to Dave Burge Dave’s your friend long time friend right yeah Dave and I’ve known each other for um over a decade um Dave um is is one of the world’s preeminent experts on identity and digital money um and he’s a big sci-fi fan as well so it’s good it’s we’re going to get sci-fi today on on identity and money future of money Dave welcome to the show hi guys great to be here it’s nice to meet you I’ve been interested in your work since I read this book uh this is uh identity is the new money which is actually not a new book you wrote that book almost a decade ago I think yeah I know I wrote that book a few years ago but in full of really prescient insight about the way things were going to evolve in a networked world yeah I I made some I made some what what you know turned out to be some pretty accurate uh guesses in that I mean not not because I was a genius but because I was you know looking at what was going on and looking at what other people were saying and and putting a few things together but um yeah so you are a futurist yeah he’s certainly forecasted but tell us what you meant at the time uh by that phrase identity is the new money well it has sort of two meanings really so the first is the sort of quite literal um you know my Heritage in this space is working Financial Services I I you know I did a lot of work in payments after a while it became apparent not only to me but to me and other people that a lot of the problems that we were seeing in that space were you know at core were really identity problems um it’s because nobody knew who anybody was and this this sort of narrative that the you know basically the internet was broken it was built without an identity layer it was built without a payments layer although rather famously as everybody knows the HTTP error code is still there so there is still the error code for for you have to pay for this content there’s just no mechanism for for implementing it and and now you know with the great sweep of History we can see the lack of um the lack of payments and identity in the internet led to this kind of advertising LED web 2 and blah blah blah I mean we all we all sort of know that narrative so uh so and the more I thought about this I got very interested in issues around identity and I read a lot and I spoke to a lot of people and I realized a lot of these issues were really nowhere near being resolved they needed some more thinking I decided to put together a book about it and I edited a book called digital identity management back in 2007. which which was a nightmare experience I’m never gonna edit a book again
to do that I had some very smart people contributing and that made me think about it I ruminated on it for a while um and then I began to think what is actually in the bank right I don’t really have any money in the bank as my bank manager will willingly testify um you know virtually none of my wealths such as it is is in the form of money in the bank um what’s what’s really in the bank is my identity and my and and it’s an easy thought experiment to do so uh Brett and I get into a fight he smashes a chair over my head uh I wake up in the morning and uh you know I’ve I’ve lost all my money my cards are gone I wake up in an alleyway oh that was that story I was writing sorry but you know you have to put it in context we’d been drinking and just yeah just kidding but the point is you know I wake up and all my money is gone my cards have got you know whatever that’s okay I still have my identity I still have my reputation I can still go and borrow some money from somebody I I can still go to the bank and get a low you know I mean like it’s not for me apparently yeah but if all my money disappears it doesn’t really matter but now I wake up in the morning and I don’t know who I am and I I go to the bank and say I need some money lend me some money in the bank like well who the hell are you uh it’s a different story and so I began to think that actually a big part of the few and this is how actually I originally started reading back back 2.0 Brett’s book which is how I eventually got talking to Brett because I started thinking hold on this stuff that we’re working on for these bags this doesn’t seem quite right there’s something else bubbling along here okay so I just want to understand your story so what you’re saying is if you go in a situation where you lost your identity where you your identity was stolen your identifier your credit your cards your your passport were taken away then it’s really hard for you to get any kind of access to the money and the wealth that you’ve got because no one knows who you are you can’t prove it correct I don’t know how old your audience is I don’t know your demographics but I don’t know if you remember the fabulous furry freak Brothers um but for that what are you talking about yeah you know old enough um but you might say identity will get you through times of no money more than money will get you through times of no identity yeah it’s it’s highly asymmetric so so at one level there was this idea that was which I think has turned out to be you know broadly true that we’re heading towards a reputation economy that Banks really should play a leading role in that um I have no evidence to offer that banks have any actual strategies for taking advantage of this but that’s a that’s a different issue Are banks playing a role in reputation management is that even something that you think they’re doing
it’s a true story I’ve told Brett this story before and I won’t name but I once went to the unveiling you know this is in the this is in the 1990 this is after mobile phones have been invented after the internet in the late 90s one of the uh Banks I was working for had a big uh project running about the future of banking and several you know we were invited along to the Grand unveiling of the bank of the future and the bank of the future was exactly the same as the bank of the past except I’m not making this up the corners of the desks were rounded and the idea was that rounded corners on the desk would be more welcoming to customers coming into the branch than Square guns I’m not even making this up I wish I was making that out and that’s how I started reading that’s weird because you know I read Brad’s book and I’m like there’s something different going on you had this Epiphany 10 years ago have things improved uh what is what is your perspective on the state of digital identity now well it’s pretty poor I mean let’s uh let’s reflect on on on Brett’s uh Brett’s motherland I was down in Australia a couple of weeks ago there’s been a massive data breach of Optus the telecommunications company but it’s NG everybody in Australia has had their identity stolen uh three million driving licenses I think three million passports and the CEO I’m not making sub either this is you can look in AFR the CEO was quoted as saying well essentially this is unfortunate people’s name address date of birth social security number driving license passport phone number was stolen but fortunately no financial information was stolen oh well okay so no financial information well that’s great you know unfortunately the identity is the new money so Optus have had to go and block uh these passports so people whose passports they they can’t use their passport number for online identity two million people had their passport information stolen yeah and now Optus has got the the government has has mandated that Optus needs to pay for Replacements right I’m not I know I know Optus the I saw a figure of 140 million Australian dollars for restitution I’m not I don’t know what exactly it’s being spent on but but so so to your to your question directly no things haven’t improved and um we’ll hear about data breaches on that scale every month sometimes every week I mean it’s not only that it’s it’s using identity I was a you know this is the layers of irony here I was at a conference I was a digital identity conference with the world’s leading digital identity people and I wanted to stay a bit longer I had to change my flight back so I run up my Airline app and because I’m logging in from somewhere new where I’ve never logged in before it asks me for my favorite breed of dog which presumably 10 years ago when I was setting this thing up so I’m trying to change my the conference of the world’s leading digital identity experts I’m trying to change my flight and I do have to do it by remembering what my favorite breed of dog was 10 years ago it was luckily I got right on the third guess so to answer your question no it hasn’t improved but there’s a second and I think more important meaning um Robert you know in the book I I say that if you’re looking to the sort of if I I say at the end of the book the future of money looks much more like the past than the present if you read the word not of technologists but if you read the work of of the social anthropologists the people who understand how people uh use tools and technology or whatever what they what they say people are Jack weather for people like that what you see is they’re saying in the past there were lots of different kinds of money and different communities had different kinds of money and they used it for different things and then because of cities and trade or whatever you have a marginalization and then you have the Industrial Revolution and you go from this pre-industrial Society where there basically is no money I mean in a pre-industrial society most people lived on credit the entire time you know Farmers would live on credits throughout the year and then pay off their debts when the Harvest came in and it all worked perfectly well because everybody knew everybody else one of my favorite case studies from history about this which Brett and I have discussed before is the Irish Bank strikes of the 1970s so Island was still quite a rural economy at that point the banks went on strike there was no money in circulation and when economists look back and study that period they see a negligible impact on GDP why was that because when there was no money people just made up their own and the and the kind of central clearing Center for these new money which is basically people writing ious was the pub because in a rural economy the guy running the pub knows everyone he’s perfectly capable of discounting my ious against Brett that’s like the tea and coffee houses used to be the central part for eign Exchange in London in the those days but you know it’s but but like I I think the absurdity of your you know your date of birth your address your mother’s maiden name if you live in the US your social security number being considered your identity as ways you justify your identity I think that’s ridiculous today because none of that information is really securable today so if you want secure identity to protect your assets then you know this is the problem with conventional identity in that it just it you know you can’t be protected and that kind of an identity that’s issued by a government that’s an artifact of the industrial era I mean that was it right at the time when that was issued yeah yeah um you’re right it’s a bureaucratic response to the urban anonymity of the Industrial Revolution but in your book you make the excellent point though that the real basis of identity is reputation and on the internet you have the ability to build reputation and I’m interested in your thoughts about reputation as currency well that that’s why I ended up with the conclusion that you know in in this past where everybody knew everybody else so everybody could continuously compute essentially the credit rating of everybody else and the mutual sort of cross obligations in a local Society were memorized and played out you know I owe you a cow at the end of the year you need to put a roof on my house next year I mean whatever um we could remember all of these things once you once that’s why coach Lakota says money is a primitive form of memory you know once once you can’t remember all of those things you need some other intermediary to do it but in the internet world the kind of mcluhan world the global village where everyone is connected to everybody else all the time you can remember all of these things everything can be remembered you don’t need money by whom though because the big issue on the internet as I understand it with identity is that you don’t have one digital identity you’ve got hundreds but you don’t control any of them they’re controlled but as you’ve pointed out we wouldn’t interact through our identity as you know as Brett made the point about names we would we would interact on the basis of reputation so for example let’s say I’m buying something from you and in order to do it I need to see that you’ve got uh you’ve got five eBay stars like whatever I mean some day I the the thing that enables the transaction is me seeing that reputation and let’s imagine that’s happening in a structure which is cryptographically uh secure is unforgeable and so on so I need to see this reputation with the transactions proceed great and we do the transaction everything’s fine I have no idea whether you’re a person or a bot or a car or a toaster pretending to be a dog and the point is I don’t care because your identity is not the transaction enabler your reputation is and in that kind of society in the long term you know and and I’m a great disciple of Edward de Bono in this respect um so people people like McClure and debono they they thought this stuff through before there was even a world wide web they just thought of reverse principles what happens when everything is connected to everything else they weren’t technologists they weren’t they weren’t thinking in terms of oh HTTP or the they were just thinking when everything’s connected to everything else how does that change things mcluhan has turned out to be right in almost every respect you know and he said he said in in this interconnected world the old ways of establishing identity the bureaucratic ways just don’t work and he was he was spots on with that but debono also said look if if you have this like if you have this Global Market continuously Computing credit rates it’s continuously connected you no longer need the intermediary of money so when Brett and I come to a day like on our phone like Brett’s gonna sell me a book and I’m going to pay for it and on my phone it says 10 Wessex growths because that’s where six growth so the currency that makes sense to me on Brett’s phone it says he’s selling it for you know nine nine ounces of gold or something whatever makes sense it doesn’t matter okay when we execute the transaction our agents our AIS will negotiate baskets of liquid assets to exchange and that sounds crazy when you’re talking about people like that I was oh Brett you know I’ve got a bus pass and a tin of red pain and well I’ll take the tin of red paint will you take will you take this bag of hay in in return as chat well no I’ll take the bag of hay but actually that doesn’t quite well that’s not quite so let me give you this pencil as well I mean it makes no sense when you’re talking but when you’re talking about tokens and decentralized finance and AIS that can compute these things in nanoseconds I press the button to buy the book a few nanoseconds later our AIS have worked out which basket of tokens to exchange so this so this you know and there is no money anymore right so this I think this is where Ai and sort of machine to machine transactions get really interesting I can think of dozens of examples where a self-driving Uber who might negotiate for uh you know electricity time for example you know um to regenerate its battery and trade off hours driven for access to energy and so forth um but largely that’s going to be sort of a black box function of um these AIS dealing with each other you’re talking about individuals um but the machine the machine element is where it gets really crazy I think I I don’t think people will be involved in a lot of these look Brett when you’re looking at when you’re looking into the future of financial services as a whole and there’s a very sweeping statement but I would say broadly speaking there are two categories of transactions there there are there are transactions are too boring for people to do like when I go and park as I’ve just done when I go and park my car and I have to pay for the car parking that’s so boring like why are human beings made to do this I mean like that’s exactly the sort of thing that you know I should just drive in and park and my car should negotiate and take care of it for me like I don’t want to be involved in that transaction I don’t even want to be in the loop you know it’s so mind-numbingly boring it’s why would any of my brain cells be wasted on this you know but tomorrow I have a call with my parents tomorrow morning in fact I have a call with my pension advisor this is the single most important Financial set of transactions in my entire life and I I get I will talk to my pension advisor tomorrow morning and he will tell me that the triple inverted tax flip overdub has been replaced by an inverted Capital allowance literally no idea what he’s talking about he may as well be talking to me in Mandarin Chinese I’ve and I’m an intelligent person I have no clue what he’s talking about so you have these two categories of transactions they’re either there’s transactions which is too boring people shouldn’t be doing them but should be doing them and there are transactions that are too important for people to do you know just like in a few years time you won’t be allowed to drive your car into the city center because it’s manifestly more dangerous to let you drive the car than have the like if you want to drive a car you’ll have to go to a special place to drive it you have to go to a park somewhere or one they are a track yeah or a crack you know why would you allow people to drive cars around this is madness yeah they’re too risky like the connection make the connection to transactions so I want to understand why do you why do you allow people to make decisions about their pensions and so on when they clearly don’t understand what they’re doing well who should do that for them should some government if you do that I don’t know why I don’t have to be a government agency well I’m just trying to think if you’re saying that people cannot make and they’re not they’re not capable of making decisions or the decisions are too too complicated for them that implies that some other person it’s probably like an 1820 rule there Robert actually it’s probably like a a 98-2 rule like for the overwhelming majority of people you know basically a pretty simple ml you know and a bot could really like for the average person to be told listen you need to take out a bank loan to pay off that credit card debt and you need to put that Surplus into this pension account like this does not need this no we just need we just need an AI to manage our money in the optimal most optimal for most people the most yes and frankly frankly even getting a financial analyst to look after your money today and give you advice on that is fraud because a you know they’re incentivized to you know try and get you to invest in certain products that where they get the the most commission and secondly you know analysts and banks in general are trying to get you to make decisions to for for them to make fee off your money right so um what you want is you want to take that element out of their Sim and in their Financial Services System we’ve had this concept of financial education or financial literacy which is all it basically says is you need to have a certain level of Education or literacy so you understand the financial system as the bankers have designed it right I just don’t see this as a way forward like in any version of the future which requires people to learn anything I just don’t see it you know I’d say I was joking you know you say we if you imagine you have these Bots working for people like in the UK would say well maybe this would be like a kind of national wealth service instead of a National Health Service for the National Health Service you didn’t make a National Health Service by teaching everybody medicine and teaching them how to be Doc
here are qualified people who do this if you break your leg you go see the doctor and he fixes it like it’s a similar kind of thing right and all of those algorithms the machine learning we’re seeing but particularly in areas like diagnostics for example because it’s collecting all of the best human um you know knowledge in respect to medicine or Diagnostics is actually outperforming humans now right but but in medicine that’s done to support the doctors like it’s done to make life but better for the doctors better for the patients you know I don’t see why Finance would be any different so so this idea that you know people should be you know this be your own bank thing that comes out of the Bitcoin like these people are insane that’s a literally that’s the worst possible way you could imagine running anything so so I look I sort of think you know Brett’s right about the role of AI and all of this I I just guess what I think is probably underrepresented in the thinking is that when people talk about AI in banking and finance they tend to think about the banks having the AI and and you know personalizing service and doing chat Bots and whatever and when I log into the bank I get served by a very believable Avatar of Robert De Niro playing Bernie Madoff in that that all you actually need is a smart wallet but you don’t want to be entertained when I go you know but the point is that that’s the the real revolution in financial services is when customers get the AI not when the banks get yeah exactly so that’s not thought through enough we’re heading into the break but before that we like to do our quick fire round Dave’s these are quick answers right um so I know that’s very difficult for you but I’m going to pin you down to it so um all right so here’s here’s our quick fire lightning round
what was the first science fiction you remember being exposed to on TV or via books uh well on TV it would have been Doctor Who without shadow of a doubt as an integral part of my childhood in terms of books I’m I can’t actually remember but the stuff I grew up reading was the kind of golden age stuff yeah and the the re the writer that I devoured when I was a kid was Isaac Asimov yeah amazing um what technology do you think has most changed Humanity air conditioning that’s a pretty cool one actually no it’s like you see again this isn’t me this is because I’ve read Robert Gordon’s uh history of American productivity so I know the I know the actual figures you know there you go there you go um but you’ve already mentioned azimov so this that might be the answer but can you name a futurist or entrepreneur that has personally influenced you and and why uh well entrepreneurs there’s probably quite a few that I’ve I’ve paid attention I suppose like everybody of my generation we all look at sort of Steve Jobs I mean how how much he’s inspired I can’t say in terms of Futures I I always point the finger at the same person which is William Gibson because the for the early part of my career was in Secure Communications technology I did a lot of work in Military and civilian uh satellite Communications and early networking and I remember the first time I read anything by Gibson it’s just you’re you’re a future technically brilliant yeah and suddenly you realize like oh my God now I understand what I’m doing like a real artist he showed you you know what I mean like and all of a sudden all the stuff I was working on these networks and I could visualize them in a way I haven’t before so I always I always point at Gibson okay and um last one what is the best prediction an entrepreneur futurist or science science fiction practitioner has ever made do you think no everybody knows the answer to that it’s Arthur C Clarke and the communication satellite there you go the clock orbit which we now refer to as geosynchronous or but yeah yeah yeah so it was a pretty interesting point and he’s pretty prescient on the internet too you know um as was David Bowie actually well that’s great let’s take a quick break that’s true absolutely um we’ll take a quick break and then after the break we’re going to get full futurist on the future of money and identity with Dave Birch you’re listening to the futurists provoked media is proud to sponsor produce and support the futurist podcast provoke.fm is a global podcast Network and content creation company with the world’s leading fintech podcast and radio show Breaking Banks and of course it’s spin-off podcast breaking Banks Europe breaking Banks Asia Pacific and the fintech 5. but we also produce the official phenovate podcast Tech on reg emerge everywhere the podcast of the Financial Health Network and next-gen Banker for information about all our podcasts go to provoke.fm or check out breaking Banks the world’s number one fintech podcast and radio show
welcome back to the futurists I’m Brett King your host along with Rob turc um and our guest this week is Dave Birch but before we jump back into the future of money and identity Rob take us through this week’s news from the future on our Deep dive
cool this week I want to talk about nft’s non-fungible Tokens The General perception is that the the field of cryptocurrency is in a state of chaos and that’s evidenced by the collapse of being exchanges like FTX and other big players in the cryptocurrency field um that said there’s been a lively Innovation happening in non-fungible tokens non-fungible tokens have different properties from other cryptocurrencies one of the interesting things about them is that they make it possible for people to exchange things that aren’t money they create Lively markets for other kinds of items including things that pertain to Identity the topic I thought would be interesting for today is to talk about brand identity in nft uh most of us think about non-fungible tokens for things like artwork and they work quite well for that there were some spectacular cells about 20 billion dollars of transactions in 2021 and by all accounts it’s going to be more than that this year despite the Meltdown in the cryptocurrency so the field of the nfts is growing and Lively but what’s interesting to me is that the major brands are moving into this space and you’d think given all the chaos in cryptocurrency they’d be quite cautious companies like fashion brands uh like Dolce Gabbana Gucci Lacoste Louis Vuitton Prada and sports brands like Nike it’s generated more than 200 billion 200 million dollars in the space already and Adidas have been at the very Forefront but other kinds of brands have also been very active with nfts issuing their own nfts that includes beverage Brands like Budweiser Robert Mondavi wine the Scottish distillers major sports brands in the United States uh than the NBA the NFL the football league the Major League Baseball and of course the European soccer league leagues as well media Brands like Walt Disney Warner Brothers paramounts BBC Studios have also issued nfts and many game companies have experimented with nfts inside of games to create currencies a lot of this would be shocked up to a kind of innovation exercise or experimentation they’re fairly small scale in terms of the number of coins that being offered in some cases they’re not attempting to monetize in some cases they’re doing it for charity purposes because this is mostly a marketing exercise so it’s not they’re not their objective isn’t to make a profit on the nft sales but they do understand one thing that’s really important fans super fans want to identify with the brands that they love and they want to purchase that identity in some cases and they want to share that with people and so what we’re starting to see is kind of like an opt-in Community emerge here this has been a very Lively field and it continues to grow um so I thought we’d kick off with that as a notion and that helps us talk a little bit more about the future of identity and some of the ways it’s evolving because of course when we think about identity it’s not limited to people identity there’s identity for things there’s identity for products identity for locations and so forth now uh Dave at the break we were talking a little bit about cryptocurrency and um let’s let’s get into that subject uh you know the the the problems of identity the lack of identity on the web led to the rise of the big web 2-0 companies um you know our social media networks in a way they manage our identities for us we opt in we share a ton of information with them and they make a lively business out of monetizing those identities um by targeting ads at us and that’s worked pretty well until recently where Apple’s shaken it up a bit and now we’re going to a cookie-less web browsing experience that will shake that up even more and that creates an opportunity for some form of decentralization that’s really at the core of the web free movement it’s not quite the same as cryptocurrency but it does rely on the blockchain Dave if you would share with us some perspectives about decentralized identity foreign I think that the underlying Technologies here are really pretty indeed you know this idea that you’ll have some sort of wallet this wallet will contain multiple identities those identities can be the owner of of both you know plungible tokens like cryptocurrency like you know dollars as well as non-fungible tokens I I think that’s really pretty interesting and and actually in many ways I think this is much more interesting than than just the straight kind of cryptocurrency story itself you know nfts in particular you know people tend to think about those as stupid pictures of chimpanzees with sunglasses on that people paid three hundred thousand dollars for now they’re worth nine cents and so they kind of write off the whole kind of nft thing but actually nfts this idea that you can have digital objects which have the same fundamental characteristic as physical objects in their uncopyable we don’t yet have a Star Trek replicator and even if we did you could think of nfts as being a sort of gold press latinum that won’t go through the replicator this is a genuinely interesting development in the history of online so up until relatively recently we thought that everything that was digital could be copied um whether it’s an artwork or a song or a computer program or anything else is a data it can be just copied the really interesting thing about tokens is they can’t be copied and that’s that’s profound I mean that’s really interesting so now you have digital objects that people can actually own because they’re big because and people don’t own those at the moment so so I mean people talk about oh look at fortnite you know is this the future where you you know you’re going fortnite and you work hard and you buy a hat in fortnite and everybody wants this hat and so on but the point is you don’t you don’t own the hat fortnite does uh it’s it’s a so this idea that you can have these digital objects that can actually belong to somebody I think that really is very interesting and I think there are certain I’ll give you a very simple example you read all that stuff in the papers last week about Taylor Swift yeah yeah mm-hmm yeah so I read it so I I couldn’t pick Taylor Swift Out of a police lineup as far as I know I’ve never heard any of her music I wouldn’t know but you know she’s famous and and there was this thing about her tickets like and I’m thinking why are all these people involved tickets concert tickets are the perfect example of an nft they are absolutely unique like a ticket for row b c 27 at this night at Madison Square Garden that is a perfect example of something that should be an nft yeah there shouldn’t be any issue of People counterfeiting barcodes or turning up with copies of tickets or no because there’s only one yeah yeah or scalping there’s well
you know why why is it considered like if I buy a share in apple because I think it’s going to go up that’s okay but if I buy a ticket for a Taylor Swift concert because I think it’s going to go up that’s bad I don’t understand why is that I don’t get that yeah but the nfts enable a secondary Market where royalty of course
you know and Taylor Swift would have just minted all of her concert tickets as nfts and just sold them on eBay what else Ticketmaster got to do with it and the interesting thing is Ticketmaster is now has partnered with uh with the company that that did NBA uh Top Shot to create nft tickets and there’s a lot of there’s a lot of uh evidence to support what you’re saying there’s some trouble right now with scanning those you know with at the um at a concert venue you know you know obviously my why do you need to scan like I can’t just walk through an electronic gate you know transactions per second on the blockchain are quite slow and so uh when you have 50 000 people trying to come into a concert venue you in the space of a couple of hours if it takes 12 seconds to verify each one that that creates a battery yeah festivals now is that they’re creating a separate line for the nft holders because they are creating this kind of like lifetime membership concept that’s because you know these nft experiments are going on on ethereum and these other blockchains the thing is while it makes sense to have them on some form of distributed Ledger technology it’s completely not obvious to me why that should be a blockchain so a blockchain is a very very specific problem so a very very specific particularly a public blockchain it doesn’t necessarily have to be a public public yeah yeah so so the so the point is you know uh that I I I I agree like if you’re going to do it using Bitcoin or ethereum or something yeah it’s all too slow and blah blah but I don’t think that means anything about the future I think the point the future is part of it would you would you highlighted at the beginning is there’s something different about nfts because we never used to have that and now we do and so how do people respond to that uh I mean one of the things that’s different is now now you can have ownership without possession you don’t actually have to possess a physical item and you can still have ownership of it and you can transfer that ownership this is really the the powerful aspect I think of nft because it makes it possible to transfer ownership yeah and in in financial terms I think it means that you can have liquid markets in things that didn’t used to be liquid that’s right so you know Brett and I can trade a square inch of the Mona Lisa or you know tickets to a Dodgers game or I mean whatever we can trade things in continuous liquid markets where identity can be established I mean these markets will be reputation markets not identity markets where we can’t cheat each other where we can’t forge where there’s a kind of transparency to what’s going on which in in many ways is a really important factor in the future Financial infrastructure that we don’t have now this kind of transparency so I I I think you’re on the money there Robert I think nfts are really interesting can I ask you Dave sort of taking this in a slightly different direction but you know we’re now um you know let’s think about the problems that identity needs to solve so one of the problems we have you know emerging on Twitter at the moment for example is you know under the the banner of you know quote-unquote free speech is that you have Bad actors who are pretending to be other people um you know and other brands and things like that but you know how to you know in in this world of disinformation that has really created a ton of Chaos how do we attribute you know these things not to Russian Bots and you know and and trolls and so forth how do we get to a point where when someone says something that is extremely damaging to society that can create violence against a group of people for example how do we hold them responsible given the changes we’re going to need in Identity or is that even possible I mean I think there’s a there’s a political problem there which is out outside my technological envelope but what I would observe is there there are really two distinct problems here which have been sort of jumbled up a little bit so when um Elon Musk was was was taking over Twitter one of his major complaints was that there’s too many Bots and that’s true there’s an issue so there is a technical issue which is how do I know whether you’re a bot or not that’s actually quite easy to solve they I don’t know why they don’t do this like when I when I go and create my Twitter account you could just bounce me to my bank and for get me to log into the bank the bank knows that I’m a real person or not the bank can send back a cryptographic token that tells Twitter yes this is one of our account holders with no personally identifiable information in it it’s none of Twitter’s business who I am just an authentication yeah it’s just this like am I a person or am I a bot that’s like one issue which actually is quite easy to solve I think that’s why he’s trying to get people to subscribe for the verified identity because then I say this is why that this is right clarification thing so so problem a is am I a person right problem B is am I this Dave Birch and Twitter I think personally is it’s none of their business neither of those problems are twid Twitter it should be operating The Social Network properly they should be policing and they should be working out how followers work and who I am why is that any of Twitter’s business I don’t understand that but isn’t it isn’t it um like Twitter’s responsibility to ensure that if you’re going to represent yourself as someone or put some ideas forward that there needs to be accountability for that yeah but why does that come from Twitter I mean for example if you’re trying if you’re trying to find so this is digital identity infrastructure essentially or are you the Brett King well that right who knows that you’re the bread King well actually LinkedIn does so but how I mean this is this is sort of really when we come to this question of decentralized identity versus centralized because if you are going to have an identity system that enables you to verify who you are when you’re transacting when you’re asking for medical advice when you’re sending your kids to school when you’re driving on the road you know Etc um you know this needs to be really core infrastructure foreign just because the identity is decentralized so so I mean if you want me to be horrible technical nerd about this when when you say decentralized identity what I hear is control over private keys so are the private Keys held in some place or are they decentralized held by me that’s quite as a completely separate problem from who attaches credentials to the associated public keys so so if you say like am I a doctor for example what is that what does that actually mean what that means is I need to present a credential which contains the fact that I’m a doctor and it has to be signed by someone that you’ll trust like if I say oh I’m a doctor you’d be like whatever you know I need to see a thing that says you’re a doctor that’s signed by the American Medical Association or the hospital or whatever now you will have the public key of the hospital you can immediately check is that is that really from the hospital or does that mean like those things are I wouldn’t say trivial but the point is we understand exactly how to resolve all that stuff so the location of the private key and the signing of things that are attached to the public keys are are distinct issues you can have a decentralized identity infrastructure with a with a with a reputation system that works perfectly on top of it because when you challenge that certificate I I present the thing that says I’m a doctor under the hood you’re constructing a cryptographic challenge against the public key that can only be answered by the person who has the corresponding private key so what I’m in practice doing when I put my thumb on my iPhone or look at it or whatever is I’m demonstrating control of the corresponding private key now but but but this uh this can’t realistically occur with out at least a um a standard for identity that is published or must be appeared and it’s happening right now Brett it’s happening but in a in a fragmented haphazard fashion so for instance today if I log into Google um it’s going to ask me for two-factor identity and I have to go to my phone and log into the Google app just to prove that it’s me but it works right I mean it’s only within Google’s ecosystem that it will work but they’re making a big play for this right because they’re trying to extend Google identity across the web and they’d like to continue to control it just like Facebook and presumably Apple’s going to follow down this path as well this is what the big web 2 companies are seeking to do if you want to be more speculative about that Brett I think one thing to think about might be who is it that underwrites those so because we we you know I’m a boring old person I’m very reactionate I assume that eventually the banks are going to get their act together and sort this out so when I go to log into Twitter and prove that I’m a person it’ll be my bank that does it but actually there are other candidates yeah right like Walmart knows that I’m a person you know the Disney Channel might know that I’m over 18.
have a huge opportunity here that they’re not currently doing much with frankly they know much more about us than they’re willing to let on Dave let me offer an idea here that you might find interesting because this is a field that’s uh quite futuristic uh in the in the field of decentralized autonomous organizations where many of the participants are are Anonymous and they they we don’t even know where they are and they don’t want that information to be known by the other members of the Dow but yet people are working collaboratively towards a goal and they can actually run a business this way so it’s a novel kind of an organization uh the way you build identity there where you don’t know who the people are is with reputation tokens and so you earn reputation tokens based on positive contributions to the community um and if the community feels your contributions are not positive you know like the kind of crazy stuff we see on Twitter and Reddit then your reputation will be voted down by the community so over time people can be quite cautious about the contributions they make if they want to have a better reputation what I’ve learned is that if you’re a member of multiple doubts and many people are um as you build up reputation tokens a reputation uh inside of each of these dials that is a perfect fingerprint that is a perfectly unique identity across multiple dials or you’ve got a reputation token uh you know multiple reputations across multiple dials can’t be replicated by anybody else because you have to earn it over time and you have to earn it with the community’s consent and what we don’t need there is the traditional identifiers you know my my weight my height my face my fingerprint uh my address uh my birth date the stuff that government identity relies upon and the stuff that as Brett pointed out earlier is you know easily stolen on the web and it’s not very easy to protect so it doesn’t seem to be the right approach this idea is quite different and I think it’s a really fascinating and fun idea because it’s identity that is placeless and actually Anonymous you don’t really need to know who the you don’t need to know if it’s a man or a woman what country they’re from and so forth It’s just is this person a reliable contributor to this community over time that reputation score builds up uh so that becomes the basis for the distribution of proceeds inside of a dow based on how much reputation you have that’s how much you’re going to get paid when there’s a distribution from uh of Revenue or of profit to the partners in the dome it’s a fascinating New Concept and wait yeah and I think I think this is a really interesting line of thinking Robert because also it also contains the seeds of the sort of kind of Law and Order side of this thing you know if I misbehave in one of those like if I if I’m speeding in my car on the way home and I get caught I’ll get fined whatever it is I know 50 pounds or something I pay and carry on if I do something really bad in one of these uh Dows and I get shut out of it that’s a really serious punishment yeah like you know I so I I will behave myself because if if I get cut out that’s really bad for me your future income will be cut off right from there down so there’s kind of a there’s a there’s a line of argument which says actually when these things are structured properly people will behave better more constructively in those Virtual Worlds than in the actual world and I I I’m not sure if it isn’t that the argument for Sesame Credit in China and then you see what’s happening now the protesters against covert are getting there that’s a centralized system though and it’s used by government to control people right we’re talking here about a completely opt-in system where you voluntarily participate if you want to drop out you can here’s an interesting question for you Dave from this is is what what about the identity of the Dow what about identities of AIS and these um you know Bots and agents will be transacting on the web how how do we come to trust those um you know digital constructs yes it’s so interesting talking to you guys I love it um well look you know the the reputation would apply to a bot just the same as it would apply to a person like if you’re if you’re a bot that makes constructive suggestions about I don’t know you know let’s say you know you talk about you you said earlier about sports fans I wonder so like I belong to a Sports Fan’s group and we have interesting conversations about about the World Cup and uh you know who the Germany manager picked tonight for the like and and I cut I I think you’re really into you know you make really sensible contributions to this and I like your thoughts about this and I you know I I like the way you think about the team construction why would I care whether you’re a person or not you know yeah it doesn’t really matter if you’re purely reputational environment yeah you know now in Elon musk’s world there’s good reason to care whether you’re a bot or not because I don’t want to sell you advertising that’s a waste of money for advertising to a quad of course so knowing you’re a bot or not makes sense in some circumstances but not in others and if you if it is a reputational economy then why would the reputation depend on whether you’re a person or not unless it was a personal reputation if you see what I mean so and I look I’ll tell you one very quick story Robert about this I once I want I I used to read a newsletter about digital money and one day it showed up with a little thing at the bottom which said I’m really sorry I just can’t afford to do this for free anymore you know somebody needs to sponsor this or I can’t do it and I love this newsletter so I’ll sponsor it for the company so I said okay we’ll give you whatever it was a thousand dollars on it and I get back a message which says that’s great but actually to save on F can you just wire the money to our ISP to pay for our ISP Bill I said sure give me the details so I send the money to the ISP the newsletter shows up with thanks to consult type hearing at the bottom I’m happy I’m still getting the newsletter right I have no idea whether newsletter was produced by a room full of students sub-genius guy agents of a foreign power I don’t even know it was useful to me I paid for it did I care whether it was a person or not I did not I did not okay so um two bit we want to get big picture now totally sci-fi here Dave so um breaks come off okay um 30 years out 50 years out what has happened to money and identity well hopefully identity will will have shifted into a reputation I mean I hope this will happen whether it’s driven by the Banks or Disney or Walmart I couldn’t say but I think it’s coming money I said in I said in one of my other books Beyond um before Babylon Beyond Bitcoin I said that I thought the next evolution of money would be more community-oriented I kind of Stand by that and when you see the interesting things going on because the new technology lowers the cost of going into the money business you’d reasonably expect to see more experimentation and more different kinds of money and I just have a feeling that the kinds of money that will get attraction will be kinds of money that reflect the values of of the communities that use them you know you could imagine imagine there was an Islamic electronic currency that was based on gold right no no non-interest bearing currency that was based on that could have a billion users nothing to do with like Finance or suppose Suppose there was a Suppose there was a kind of money that was only was only created using green ecos like there could be billions of people that use that Earth coin so this Earth coin yeah exactly so I said in my head so so this idea that you you would have money that embodied some values or purpose yeah and used it I I can sort of see the seeds of that being sown now you know so the idea that everybody will be using dollars um I don’t know I don’t know how to Vlog the nft thing too much here but that is actually what’s happening that’s why nfts have been durable during this meltdown you don’t have to convince as many people that they’re valuable it’s a smaller Community where with a general purpose cryptocurrency you’ve got to convince everybody that it’s a unit of accounts or medium of exchange or a store of value and candidly they haven’t really demonstrated that very well even with Bitcoin but with nfts you only have to convince a thousand people that that actually has some value and that the character I don’t think we need nfts I think we need pdts purpose-driven tokens Yeah well yeah first I think utility features is yeah no I think that that’s a big field of growth all right Dave um here’s where we want to wrap up uh now I want you to get totally sci-fi um you know like 30 50 years out again long long Horizon stuff um what are you most excited about for our long-term future as a human species just a little question I think you know in the long term the octopuses are going to take over so thanks for all the fish thanks for all the fish um what I’m most excited about I I was listening earlier on to the uh Tom Standish from The Economist was doing his um you know forecast of the year ahead he’s very I know Tommy he’s a very smart guy and one of his four well it’s not his Focus he’s collated these from other futurists was you know you know there’s weird things happen right a weird outcome of the war in Ukraine is an acceleration of green energy because people want sustainable energy like it would never have come in another yeah yeah so that’s been brought forward so I I think in 50 years time there will be a giant solar farm in the Sahara which will supply energy to most of Europe as well as Africa um Africa’s biggest export will be energy at that point um and the cable that’s gonna by the way people are building talking about doing this right now there’s going to be a cable that runs from Morocco to Cornwall to powering so if you think like what’s going to be really different in 50 years time I think it’s going to be energy I I do you know what what’s really interesting is if you research um you know the the concept of turning the you know part of the Sahara into a massive solar farm that the side effects of that is that in a couple of hundred years that Sahara will be arranged for us because that heatsink that it creates draws moisture in and it’s very interesting to look at that it’s I know it’s off on the track but anyway there’s always this futurist thing like if you want to look 50 years forward you have to look a hundred years back right and so if you look at what what’s what’s really going to be like if if the internet is connected into my head it’s still the internet you know um what’s going to be really different uh just it’s going to be energy I just yeah free energy is also going to change the way we think about economics and everything Dave Birch thanks for joining us this week on the futurist where can people follow your musings your your writings and so forth It’s all at www.dgwbirch.com
dgw Birch and that’s of course your Twitter handle as well yeah yeah and Linkedin uh that’s it so uh rob you want to take us out this week sure thing well Dave it’s been a great pleasure to meet you and I’ve enjoyed your book and your comments immensely thank you for joining us this week um folks if you’ve enjoyed listening to the futurists that’s it for this week but we’ll be back next week with another show and in the meantime tell a friend about our show if you like it please leave a five-star review review wherever you listen to podcasts on Spotify apple or anyplace else that helps other people discover the show and we’ve been so grateful for those who’ve done it because the number of people listening to the podcast is growing really quickly so thanks to those who’ve done that already yeah we’ve had over a hundred thousand downloads already and Brett and I welcome suggestions and questions and comments we start to get a number of those from people who are listening uh questions about the future suggestions for improving the show and suggestions for Gus we welcome that as well so please keep sending that stuff our way and then we finally want to thank our production team at provoke media including Kevin hershern or our producer and audio sound engineer who’s going to have a hell of a time this week fixing the show but I’m sure he’s up to the task and to Elizabeth Stevens and Sylvie Johnson who produced the show this week thank you all very much for listening and we will see you in the future
[Music] well that’s it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share it with people in your community and don’t forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people find the show and you can ping us anytime on Instagram and Twitter at futuristpodcast for the folks that you’d like to see on the show or the questions that you’d like us to ask thanks for joining and as always we’ll see you in the future foreign