Whether you think Bitcoin is the future of payment processing or you believe that cryptocurrencies are a flash in the pan that will never gain wide acceptance in the real world, you were likely to hear something that you agreed with at the ChainXChange conference in Las Vegas.
The first edition of ChainXChange, held from August 13-15 at Mandalay Bay, was billed as a conference for those interested in blockchain, AI, cryptocurrencies, and other related technologies.
Among the celebrity featured speakers were Apple’s Steve Wozniak and former Hollywood poker homegame hostess and author Molly Bloom.
One Step Backward
One of the highlights of the conference came on Tuesday, when five prominent supporters and skeptics of cryptocurrencies debated the future of the digital coins for those in attendance.
Among them was Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who has long been critical of Bitcoin’s potential to serve as a large-scale payment solution for society as a whole.
We are using this clever algorithm to bring monetary economics back to the 17th century,” Krugman told the audience, saying that the slow transaction times and massive electricity usage required by Bitcoin meant that it was making payment systems more difficult to use than any bank-backed currencies. “The monetary system we have works pretty well.”
Even Krugman wasn’t entirely down on cryptocurrencies, however. He admitted that Bitcoin was the only one that he was familiar with on any real level, and that if transaction costs could come down significantly, his opinion might change.
He also noted that he liked Bitcoin better than another popular alternative investment vehicle, saying the digital currency had a better future than gold.
“Bitcoin has more utility than gold,” Krugman said. “There is some chance for Bitcoin to be valuable in the future.”
Millennials Embrace Cryptocurrency
Not surprisingly, many of the other panelists were more bullish on the future of cryptocurrency.
Tom Lee of FundStrat Global Advisors told the audience that he believes up to 20 percent of millennials might eventually hold cryptocurrency accounts, once again making a comparison to gold: just as many turned to the precious metal after being scared by the Great Depression, millennials will turn to digital currencies after living through the 2008 financial crisis.
“Penetration of just the millennial generation is going to drive a lot of demand,” Lee said.
Lee also urged attendees to hold on to their cryptocurrencies. Many digital currencies have fallen dramatically in value in 2018, with Bitcoin currently trading at around $6,400 after peaking at over $19,000 per coin in December 2017.
“It is a mistake to be bearish when you are already down,” Lee said. “The only time when you can make money in a big way is to buy when others are selling.”
Paragon Space CEO Jessica VerSteeg passionately defended the utility of Bitcoin, saying that it has made it easier for her to make international payments to employees and other business.
“I book flights. I book hotels. I pay workers,” she said. “[Bitcoin] has value to me, because I like it.”
Other panelists offered more of a mixed view of the future. Ripple Chief Market Strategist Cory Johnson said that while venture funds are interested in developing blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies will eventually fail if they don’t have more practical, everyday uses for individuals and businesses.
Johnson also predicted that more money would flow into blockchain development as regulations on cryptocurrencies become clarified.
“The rules of the road are not clear,” Johnson said. “Until that happens, the industry won’t develop to the scale it can.”
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