Emin Gün Sirer: Blockchain won’t fix this

Blockchain may be here to stay, but it has no place in the current climate of social unrest, one of the higher-profile academic experts on blockchain technologies said.  

“There will be a lot of people who will try to jam blockchain as a solution to social woes,” Emin Gün Sirer, a Cornell University computer science professor and DeFi startup founder, told Decrypt. “I don’t see any role whatsoever for blockchain to come in and ease racial tension or unite these factions.” 

Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minnesota on May 25, America has been wracked by protests and civil disturbances. Amid the turmoil, some in the crypto space have pondered whether blockchain—or even Bitcoin—could provide some relief. 

“I’m not one of them,” Sirer said.

On the other hand, he does see a role for blockchain in helping to ease the economic contraction and social isolation that has come as a result of the lockdown, aimed at controlling the spread of the new coronavirus.

“Putting assets in decentralized mediums where they can be traded across the globe—that’s an interesting thing, and I see a lot of uses for it going forward,” he said. “So economically, yes, absolutely, blockchains are here to stay. But in this particular social climate, they have no role.”

Sirer, whom I first met at a crypto conference in San Francisco in early 2017, has a long history in the Bitcoin space. He was an author of a paper identifying security vulnerabilities in The DAO, a cryptocurrency crowdfunding project, just before it was famously hacked in mid-2016. He is also the co-director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts at Cornell University. And more recently, he is the founder of Ava Labs, an open-source platform for launching decentralized finance applications. 

(Obligatory disclosure: I edited a press release for Ava Labs in early March, just after I left my last full-time gig. I have not done any work for…

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