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What’s the Future of Cryptocurrencies and Web3?

December 01, 2022

Sinan Aral moderates fireside chat at CoDE

By Paula Klein

At the 2022 MIT Conference on Digital Experimentation on October 21, IDE Director, Sinan Aral, led a fireside chat on the future of some of the hottest technologies today–blockchain, cryptocurrencies and Web3. The panel of experts examined the hype as well as the true business opportunities that these technologies offer.

Aral’s guests–E. Glen Weyl  of Microsoft, Hanna Halaburda, of NYU Stern, Neha Narula at the MIT Digital Currency Initiative and Catherine Tucker at MIT Sloan–debated the merits  and challenges of the technologies and how they will interact with each other in marketplaces and society going forward.

Aral said these technologies may represent the next-generation of digital transformation. At the same time, they are  experimental and early stage, just as the Internet and digital commerce were when they were first was emerging. That makes them ripe for study and research, he said.

“This is the right moment to study Web3, a decentralized society, blockchain and all the technologies that go along with them.”

Economics and computer science are merging in the Web3 sector, Aral said, and there’s debate about how to proceed. Weyl advocates a move toward a decentralized society and Web3 and told Aral that the idea of a dispersed network was “revolutionary” when first proposed, and the concept can still shape the way societies are organized in the future. Dynamic networks can foster democracy, he said, and the Internet was a first step in that direction but it didn’t go far enough or build all of the foundations needed. Web3 is a “chaotic, weird way to get to that larger goal and to recreate the original vision,” Weyl added.

Based on her research at NYU, Halaburda is still skeptical of the benefits of a decentralized society for its own sake. She believes that while Web3 and crypto tools hold out the promise of disintermediation and better social welfare, current architecture, culture and economic incentives could lead us “to the same intermediaries as in the past.” Pointing out the dangers now and rebuilding architectures and regulations to accommodate new technologies can avoid abuses, she said.

This year’s conference attracted more than 350 attendees and spanned two days.

Watch the full panel discussion here.

Also listen to the latest episode of Sinan’s podcast, The Digital Insider, where he features the panel discussion.