Conference 2018: Interview: Raghav Chawla

Director, IT Product Management, Fidelity Investments

Transcript

A blockchain is basically just a decentralised, immutable database that anyone, anywhere can read or write to, without anyone’s permission. You can think of it like a shared ledger of transactions, so that everybody has the same shared source of truth and nobody can disagree as to what transactions occurred on this network.

If you think about just the types of assets and stores of value available to people up until the invention of Bitcoin, gold usually acted as a hedge against the broader financial markets and as an alternative store of value to fiat money, which, as we have seen in the past decade, can be debased heavily, whereas gold has been a better store of value because there is only a fixed supply. With Bitcoin, you now have a digital version of gold, because Bitcoin is modelled after gold. There is a fixed supply of it but, unlike gold, it is a lot easier to hold because it is not this heavy physical item but something that you can just hold on any computer. It makes it a lot easier to transmit it, hold it and do all sorts of other things with it. And so basically, Bitcoin gives another alternative to gold or fiat for people to store their money as well as to transact and trade with.

If you think about the relation of cryptocurrencies and blockchains to the precious-metals market, it is more on the back-end-infrastructure side of things. The pure cryptocurrency offers more of an alternative to precious metals as an asset class; however, the blockchain-technology side of things, you can make the precious-metals market a lot more transparent and liquid because you could, for example, take some precious metal and issue tokens that represent ownership in units of that metal, and allow that token to then create freely over a blockchain. That allows the ownership and transfer of that gold to be a lot simpler, because the gold just sits somewhere and these tokens can create, just like any other digital asset.

I think the next big technology already came upon us, and it is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is still very immature and very early in the development of this technology. I think the impact of this will be nothing short of revolutionary, and we have only begun to see it take off. It will be a matter of decades until we really see the significance of what this technology is, but the technology is already here. In fact, I will quite William Gibson, who has this famously quote where he said, ‘The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed.’ And I think once Bitcoin gets evenly distributed, that is when we will see that as the big technology breakthrough that it really is.