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数字货币有没有未来,请看专家的七大预测

Robert Hackett 2017年07月30日

很多专家表示,在未来5到10年内,比特币和以太坊将活跃在我们周围。

本月中,《财富》邀请了顶尖的加密货币企业家、风投资本家、银行家等人来到科罗拉多州阿斯彭的财富头脑风暴科技大会,探讨数字货币的未来。 周三早晨,一部分专家在阿斯彭研究所举行了早餐圆桌讨论会。

讨论小组的成员包括在募集传统风投基金上遥遥领先的加密货币初创公司21.co的首席执行官和创始人巴拉吉·斯里尼瓦桑;还有位于英国,近来从谷歌母公司Alphabet的风险投资部门GV处募得4,000万美元的加密货币钱包公司Blockchain的首席执行官和创始人彼得·史密斯;以及在今年通过区块链上市募集超过2亿美元,由著名投资者蒂姆·德瑞普等人支持的区块链初创公司Tezos的首席执行官和共同创始人凯思琳·布雷特曼。

专家团队探讨了各种各样的话题,包括原始的加密货币比特币的寿命,由密码保护的公共分类账簿区块链,利用所谓的代币销售募集项目资金【尤其是在比特币的竞争对手区块链以太坊上】的最新潮流,分散化网络的未来等。以下是我们听闻的一些预测。

1. 比特币和以太坊会延续下去

对加密货币持乐观态度的大部分人都同意比特币和新的对手以太坊会长期保持影响力,尽管他们在更看好谁上存在分歧。巴拉吉·斯里尼瓦桑对房间里的70多个人表示:“在未来5到10年内,我打赌比特币和以太坊将活跃在我们周围。”

彼得·史密斯表示,他的公司Blockchain很早就看好比特币,但直到最近才开始对新生的以太坊感兴趣。私人金融公司SoFi的首席执行官和共同创始人麦克·卡格尼则相反,他在另一个会议的主舞台上表示自己更看好以太坊。

卡格尼表示,比特币“有一些用途,不过它在商业交易上的应用目前受到了限制。另一方面,区块链和以太坊已经有了很棒的基础应用。”他进一步提到了彻底革新产权保险的可能性,其中涉及房地产相关政策等。

2. 目前默默无闻的货币会在未来取得巨大成功

比特币和以太坊可能现在大出风头,但是创新并不会终止于此。还会有更多赢家涌现出来。

凯思琳·布雷特曼希望她在区块链上的投资Tezos将会填补空白,解决现有区块链上存在的问题。尤其是她和项目开发者正在设计让Tezos自动联网更新软件,如此一来,理论上就可以避免升级中导致的冲突问题。过去几年里,它一直困扰着比特币等系统。

没有人可以确定有多少代币、货币和区块链协议将会最终胜出,不过专家们似乎认为它们有共存的空间。史密斯预计:“可能还会有一两种我们目前还没发现的统治性货币出现在市场上。某种具备真正统治力的货币可能会在今年或明年脱颖而出。”

3. 当然,人们会受到打击

暂时来看,代币销售似乎是迅速募集大量资金,同时几乎不会引发问题的完美途径。这会是一些人的致富捷径吗?毫无疑问,实际上,已经有人借机致富。而对其他人来说这是否像是盗窃?答案几乎是肯定的。

史密斯表示,他认为市场操纵和内幕交易在区块链上市的承办者之间十分猖獗。他在谈到自己的公司时表示:“我们在短期内对此保持谨慎。不过你得淡定一些,因为每项新技术在最开始时都会有这种情况。”

Ripple的首席执行官、前雅虎高管布拉德·加林豪斯在另外一个研讨会上,对于行业的这种情况所表现的关注就没那么宽容了。他说:“监管严格的市场往往都有监管严格的理由。欺诈在不断发生,人们会去蹲监狱。”

4. 区块链上市(最终)会成为硅谷和华尔街的投资选择

前去富豪家里游说的日子已经过去了。在这个世界上,任何人都能在网上成为投资者,物理位置已经不再重要了。

斯里尼瓦桑谈到寻求资金的企业家时表示:“过去你必须来到硅谷,走过沙山路,与每个人拉关系。”他们往往游荡在风投公司聚集的帕洛阿尔托西部。区块链上市改变了这一情况。

在这种类似Kickstarter的新方式下,项目已经可以得到赞助。布雷特曼表示,当她建立Tezos代币销售时,就希望“让尽可能多的人参与到这个生态系统的建设中来”。公司目前已经募集了超过2亿美元资金,据她所说,已经有超过3万个Tezos钱包账户开通。

5. 监管会紧随其后

巴克莱银行安全部门的首席信息官埃琳娜·沃切克表示,她们银行已经与监管者就比特币、区块链和类似事物有过谈话。只要“了解你的客户”定律不被打破,监管者似乎对此持开放态度,尽管目前时日尚早。

斯里尼瓦桑表示,与此同时,随着政府开始推出一系列规定,瑞士、新加坡和爱沙尼亚等国正在争相建立与这项技术相适应的框架。他们试图取代地理上的现有枢纽,成为新一波企业融资浪潮的中枢。史密斯表示:“如果你是美国人或者位于美国企业,就需要对此好好关注了。”

布雷特曼补充道,在协议商定之前,人们对于在做的事情“最好保持透明”。

6. 随着“杀手级应用”出现,投机行为将会慢慢减少

由于加密货币的价格波动剧烈,投机者正在大显身手。然而,史密斯表示,我们有理由相信市场会变得更加稳定,而比特币过去几年正逐渐呈现出这样的趋势(尽管其价格仍然有较大波动)。

这些计算机货币若要成功流行起来,就需要一个能打败传统货币的使用场合。《财富》记者和会议主持人杰夫·约翰·罗伯茨指出,理想情况下,这种场合应该要比“购买毒品”更好一些。

斯里尼瓦桑提出了一个可能的设想。想象一下,“你所有醒着的时间都花在《黑客帝国》中”,也就是所有人在未来陷入的虚拟现实里。由于世界各地的人们会见面、互动,他们需要一种交易媒介。他说:“交易的时候,你不能拿出一张美元钞票。你需要一种国际货币。”

他说:“这可能需要一些时间,不过未来跨国交易的需求肯定会比现在更大。”

7. 加密货币会给现有公司施加压力,促使他们进步

每当消费者刷卡时,刷卡服务提供商都会收取费用。

Linux基金会的首席技术官尼科·范·索梅伦指出,Visa或万事达卡等公司收取的费用超过了他们完成或处理交易的成本。他声称,这些机构实际上可以用更低的费用更快地处理交易。

采用比特币这样的可选系统可能导致的结果之一,是推动现有公司改善他们的服务。范·索梅伦表示:“比特币很棒,因为它会让银行的收费更接近处理这些交易的真实成本。”【进一步来说,我们也可以设想:建立在以太坊基础上的新兴势力可能会迫使亚马逊、Facebook或Dropbox重新考虑或改善他们对应的产品。】

与此同时,史密斯对于现有公司是否有能力适应这样的改变不太乐观。他说:“我不认为银行有太多空间来调整他们的定价模式。”(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

Fortune convened some top cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, bankers, and others to chat about the future of digital money at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. last week. A select group met at the Aspen Institute for a breakfast roundtable discussion on Wednesday morning.

Headliners on the panel included Balaji Srinivasan, CEO and cofounder of 21.co, a cryptocurrency startup that has raised more in traditional VC funding than almost other one. Another was Peter Smith, CEO and cofounder of Blockchain, a U.K.-based cryptocurrency wallet company that recently raised $40 million from GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet, parent company of Google. And Kathleen Breitman, CEO and cofounder of Tezos, a blockchain startup that this year raised more than $200 million in an initial coin offering, or ICO, and which counts celeb investor Tim Draper among its backers.

The crew of experts weighed in on everything from the longevity of Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency and blockchain, or cryptographically secured public ledger, to the latest trend of hosting so-called token sales to fund projects, especially on Ethereum, a rival blockchain to Bitcoin’s, to the future of a decentralized web. Here are some of the predictions we heard.

1. Bitcoin and Ethereum are here to stay.

Most people who are enthusiastic about cryptocurrency appear to agree that Bitcoin and its newer rival Ethereum have staying power, though they may be more bullish on one versus the other. "In terms of 5 to 10 years, Bitcoin and Ether will be around I bet," Balaji Srinivasan told the room of more than 70 people.

Peter Smith said his company, Blockchain, which was early to Bitcoin, has only just started to warm up to newcomer Ethereum. In contrast, Mike Cagney, CEO and cofounder of SoFi, a personal finance company, said during a separate session on the main stage that he was hotter on the latter technology.

Bitcoin "has some purpose but its application for commercial transaction is limited right now," Cagney said. "The blockchain and Ethereum, on the other hand, have absolutely fascinating infrastructure applications,” he continued, mentioning the possibility to overhaul title insurance, which involves policies related to real estate, as one example.

2. As yet unknown coins will hit the big time.

Bitcoin and Ethereum may have stolen the show at this point, but the innovation won’t end there. Expect more winners on the horizon.

Kathleen Breitman is hopeful that Tezos, her own blockchain bet, will fill a niche that solves problems with extant blockchains. In particular, she and her project’s developers are designing Tezos to automatically push software updates out to the network, thus, in theory, avoiding the divisive feuding over upgrades that has wracked systems like Bitcoin over the past few years.

No one can say how many tokens and coins and blockchain protocols will eventually win out, but the experts seem to think there’s room for a multitude. "It’s likely that another one or two dominant ones we haven’t seen yet in the market," Smith projected. "Another really dominant coin could come out this year or next year.”

3. Sure, people will get burned.

For the time being, token sales might seem like a fantastic way to raise a lot of money quickly and with few questions asked. Will this lead to riches for some? Undoubtedly—indeed, it already has. And rip-offs for others? Almost certainly.

Smith said he presumes that market manipulation and insider dealing is rampant among purveyors of initial coin offerings. “We’re cautious about it in the short term,” Smith said of his company. “But you have to temper that with the idea that every new technology is going to be like that in the beginning.”

Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple and a former executive at Yahoo, voiced his less forgiving concerns about the sector on a separate panel. “Heavily regulated markets are typically heavily regulated for a reason,” he said. “Frauds are happening, people are going to jail.”

4. ICOs will (eventually) give Silicon Valley and Wall Street a run for their money.

The days of making a pilgrimage to the homes of the holders of purse strings are coming to an end. In a world where anyone can participate as an investor online, physical location matters much less.

“It used to be you had to come to Silicon Valley, walk up Sand Hill Road, network with individuals,” Srinivasan said about entrepreneurs seeking funding, often strolling up a strip to the west of Palo Alto that long has been associated with venture capital firms. ICOs change all that.

Projects are already getting funded this Kickstarter-like new way. Breitman said she that when she set up Tezos’ token sale, she aimed to “get as many people who wanted to participate in the ecosystem to contribute.” The company raised more than $200 million to date and, according to her, more than 30,000 Tezos wallets have been opened.

5. Regulations will stick.

Elena Kvochko, chief information officer of the security division at Barclays, said that her bank has had talks with regulators about Bitcoin, blockchains, and their ilk. The rule-sticklers appear to be open to the idea as long as “know your customer” laws are obeyed, although its still early days.

Meanwhile, as governments settle on sets of rules of the road, countries like Switzerland, Singapore, and Estonia are jostling to develop frameworks that easily accommodate the new technology, Srinivasan said. They’re seeking to displace geographic incumbents and become hubs for a new wave of business financing. “If you’re a U.S. person or business, you have a good deal to be concerned about,” Smith said.

Breitman added that until the rules are agreed upon, it’s “best to be transparent” about what one is doing.

6. Speculation will subside as “killer apps” take hold.

As cryptocurrency prices fluctuate wildly, speculators have been having a field day. However, there’s reason to believe the markets will become more stable, as Bitcoin gradually has over the past couple of years (despite its still big price swings), Smith said.

In order for these computer coins to catch on big-time, they need a use-case that beats traditional money. Ideally, this ought to be better than merely “buying drugs,” as Jeff John Roberts, Fortune reporter and the session’s moderator, noted.

Srinivasan proposed one possible scenario. Imagine that “all your waking hours are spent in the Matrix,” he said, referring to a virtual reality in which everyone is enmeshed in the future. As people from all over the world meet and interact, they will need a medium of exchange. “To transact, you can’t just hand over a dollar bill,” Srinivasan said. “You need an international currency for that.”

“It might take a while but there’s going to be more of a need to transact across borders than there is today,” he said.

7. Cryptocurrencies will pressure incumbents to improve.

Whenever a consumer swipes or dips a credit card, payment processors charge a fee.

Nicko van Someren, chief technology officer of the Linux Foundation, pointed out that the fee companies like Visa or Mastercard charge exceeds the cost to clear or settle transactions. These businesses can potentially process transactions quicker and cheaper, he contended.

One potential outcome of the adoption of alternate systems, like Bitcoin, is to provide companies with the impetus to improve their services. “Bitcoin is good because it will make banks move toward the real cost of handling these transactions,” van Someren said. (By extension, in Ethereum's case, one could imagine upstart companies built on it forcing giants like Amazon, Facebook, or Dropbox to reconsider or improve their respective offerings.)

Smith, meanwhile, was less optimistic about incumbents’ ability to adapt to such change. “I don’t think be lot of room for banks to simply adjust their price models,” he said.

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