This meetup was a deep-dive into the future of the (collaborative) economy, and the future of society. While shareNL has been involved in the sharing/collaborative economy for quite some time now, the blockchain was a relatively new topic. With the aim of reshaping society, it was time to address the potential role of blockchain platform services in the current society. To answer the question of whether the blockchain will live up to its promise to enable a true peer-to-peer network, Pieter van den Glind (shareNL), Samantha van der Bos (shareNL), Perry Smit (Innovationlab of the Chamber of Commerce), Chris Huls (Rabobank), Jeroen Rijnbout (BITONIC), and Robert-Reinder Nederhoed (blandlord.com) provided us with insights into the possibilities of blockchain technology.

Samantha and Pieter began the meetup with a real life experiment: the choc-chain. Four volunteers were asked to exchange six chocolate bars they received. The rest of the crowd played an important role: we had to monitor what was happening. Everyone had the chance to crack the algorithm and the first to solve the algorithm, the so-called “miner”, won a chocolate bar. The experiment showed what the blockchain means for the sharing economy: it takes out the middleman. Rather than use Airbnb, Peerby or Uber to connect with other people, the blockchain allows people to connect, share and transact directly. Thus, as Samantha said “The blockchain is re-shaping the back-end of our society, it creates a network in which everybody is connected, but nobody is in charge.”

However, the concept was still rather difficult to grasp. I wondered: how can we be in charge of something that almost everybody finds technically difficult to understand? Fortunately, the evening was full of practical examples. The next speaker, Perry Smit enlightened us with examples of how the Chamber of Commerce could use the blockchain to remove hurdles for entrepreneurship. According to Perry, the blockchain technology enables entrepreneurs to forecast the success of their company before they even begin. Moreover, blockchain can render bookkeeping and other administrative tasks obsolete. He stated that blockchain technology has the potential to make entrepreneurship easier than ever before. In his words, “In the end everybody will be an entrepreneur.” If you are curious how, read his book, Blockhain: de technologie die de wereld verandert (Dutch).

Chris Huls provided us a with a clear definition of the blockchain: “a shared, not manipulable administration.” According to Chris, everything that includes a transaction can be done by the blockchain. A blockchain network can include both entities and attributes, having multiple benefits for both customers and businesses. For example, customers may no longer be required to fill out several forms went renting a vehicle, creating a much more streamlined process for both parties. The blockchain network has all this information. Additionally, blockchain enables an easy pay-per-use system, so individuals could easily distribute costs by sharing washing machines, cars and other appliances. He emphasized that although the options are endless, “We are just at the beginning, the technology is very complex and collaboration is key."

Jeroen Rijnbout defined the blockchain as: “a decentralized database where everybody agrees on the data.” He even stated that when you are talking about blockchain, you are talking about bitcoin. Personally, I do not agree with that statement. That would be the same as saying that you are talking about the sharing economy if you are talking about Airbnb. From my experience, this obscures the vision of greater possibilities. Nevertheless, he gave some impressive examples of BITONIC’s projects. For example, Tunga, a project that enables instant access to skilled African software developers. Their cryptocurrency enables direct international transactions, which means no banks or bank accounts are needed. Another example, “how are we going to pay our autonomous taxis? Simple, with bitcoin.” Autonomous taxis can than directly receive payments. This way taxis can even maintain themselves, as they can pay for their own petrol and storage. In the end, “a rich taxi can even buy another taxi to do the work for him.” Bitcoin makes sharing of storage, computing power and electricity even easier. The message is clear, start using bitcoin and share.

Robert-Reinder Nederhoed from blandlord, explained that blockchain enables crowd-ownership in real estate. Blockchain provides a direct, peer-to-peer, transparent network allowing people to co-own a house.

The meet-up ended with two pitches, one from Quantoz and another pitch from Possessless. While Quantoz offers wallets (i.e. a blockchain payment system), Possessless allows people to share their equipment and services through a blockchain network. In both cases, blockchain technology is the enabler for transparent, peer-to-peer sharing.

In conclusion, many different insights and perspectives about the possibilities of the blockchain technology were shared at the meetup. Particularly in our current society, where platforms have become gathering places for people to connect, share and exchange, and where trust is the most valuable currency. A transparent, non-manipulable, decentralized network offers a real opportunity for people and organizations everywhere to reshape their world.

Written by Lies van den Eijnden

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