For the uninitiated, the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology can be daunting, confusing, and difficult to understand. Three industry experts and a skeptical economist explore the past, present, and future of this burgeoning technology in a new online learning series.
Masterclass is an internet-based educational platform that offers “classes” from subject matter experts in their respective spheres of influence. You can learn to cook with Gordon Ramsay, explore the art of acting with Natalie Portman, or master the tennis racket with Serena Williams.
His recently released series on cryptocurrencies, blockchain and Web3 technology follows the same line. Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, A16z General Partner Chris Dixon, Coinbase President Emilie Choi, and Nobel Prize Winner in Economics Paul Krugman discuss the ins and outs of a topic that is slowly transforming the way in which we carry out transactions and use the Internet.
Cointelegraph had exclusive access to the series, which begins with an introduction to cryptocurrency and a macro look at the early days of blockchain technology. In true Masterclass fashion, the episodes are superbly produced, with trusted experts providing anecdotes and answering the most pertinent questions from newcomers to the space.
Zhao summarizes the evolution of technology by highlighting how the internet enabled humanity to transfer information, while blockchain builds on that by driving the transfer of value. For his part, Choi offered a more pertinent view, insisting on the power of decentralization to return control to individuals:
“Cryptocurrencies are inclusive by default as long as you have some sort of internet connection. This is particularly powerful for people who have been excluded from the traditional financial system.”
Dixon is also a prominent voice throughout the series, bringing his experience as a tech entrepreneur and leading cryptocurrency and Web3 evangelist. His introductory musings in the series set the tone for the overall theme of Web3’s influence on an ever-evolving Internet: “The big question now is how will those new networks be created in the next year of the Internet, who will own them, who will will control and who will earn the money.
The history of cryptocurrencies – With roots in Bitcoin
Zhao takes center stage in the Masterclass on the history of cryptocurrencies. With roots in cryptography and the need to solve the General Byzantine Problem, Zhao discusses these concepts before tackling the riddle of Bitcoin (BTC) pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto.
With the 2008 financial crisis as a trigger point, the CEO points to the publication of the Bitcoin white paper as a seminal moment for the cryptocurrency and Web3 landscape we know and use today. The famous Bitcoin pizza also appears, given its importance as the first commercial transaction with Bitcoin.
The development of Ethereum is another focal point as a means for entrepreneurs to break into the cryptocurrency ecosystem thanks to its smart contract functionality and the ability to issue ERC-20 tokens.
Both Zhao and Dixon address the concept and appeal of “freedom”, with the former noting that this aspect is desirable for both libertarians and “hardcore anarchists”. Dixon concludes the class by quoting the writer William Gibson:
“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
In his opinion, cryptocurrencies are still a grassroots movement in the internet and technology. But tech companies and financial institutions don’t like it, which undoes the above quote.
Web3: read, write and own
Web3 is becoming a ubiquitous concept, but the influence of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology may go unnoticed by some. Masterclass does a good job of connecting the dots, as Choi highlights the main differences between Web1, Web2, and Web3.
The Web1 represents the early Internet, in which websites were read-only pages governed by open protocols and users were limited to consuming information. The rise of Web2 in the early 2000s introduced read-write functionality, which Choi described as a paradigm shift:
“Users are the product, the core companies made rules and were in control of the data and content created by users.”
Dixon gets stuck at this point, highlighting the rise of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple unlocking the power of technology, doing things that cannot be done with television, magazines and other media. The result was the consolidation of power and economic control among a handful of large companies:
“What that means for creators, developers, and entrepreneurs is that instead of building on open systems, they were relying on those companies to acquire and maintain audiences to sell things.”
This is where Web3 comes in, democratizing not only information, but also publishing and ownership. It is inherently community owned and operated, with token applications proliferating new Web3 applications and concepts.
Choi sums it up succinctly: Cryptocurrency is the backend infrastructure that powers Web3. Web3, he says, is more about front-end applications, which become more robust in a cryptocurrency-driven world:
“If you look at the Metaverse as a Web3 experience, cryptocurrencies are the central plumbing for tokens and wallets.”
Perhaps most importantly, Dixon discusses why Web3 matters by considering three simple questions. Who makes the money? Who controls the content? Who controls the network? The value of Web3 is the transfer of true ownership from the few to the many:
“Are they companies or communities of people? The Internet is clearly the most important technological innovation still developing today. It affects culture, politics, the economy and our daily lives.”
In another episode on NFTs, Dixon takes a deep dive into the popularity of digital collectibles and tokenized assets. Sports-focused digital collectibles, digital artworks changing the way artists own, share and profit from their creations, and musicians using NFTs to engage with their fans are some of the prominent use cases. in the series.
In a Masterclass scoop, Economist Paul Krugman hosts a thought-provoking debate with Zhao, posing a series of pertinent questions that address perceived problems with cryptocurrencies from a conventional point of view.
Krugman’s role as a skeptical economist is restrained but steadfast, with questions ranging from what problems cryptocurrencies solve, why regular banks and financial institutions should embrace blockchain, and how these systems can drive cheap and fast transactions.
As a whole, the series offers introductory chapters, of a magisterial type, that address the basic principles of the sector. Without falling into technicalities, the basic concepts that have influenced the development of cryptocurrencies, the chain of blocks and the innovations of Web3 are shelled out in an easy to digest way.
Common questions from skeptics are also addressed, presenting a balanced macro view of the sector that could lead intrigued viewers down the path of individual discovery of all things cryptocurrency.
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