It may not have been tulip season in the Netherlands, but there was a palpable buzz at the picturesque Westerpark, which played host to the Bitcoin Amsterdam 2022 Conference.
Prominent speakers from all corners of the Bitcoin (BTC) ecosystem drew in a healthy number of attendees across the two days of the program, exploring wide-ranging topics amid the challenges and successes as the space nears its fourteenth year of existence.
With global economic woes continuing across conventional markets and global monetary inflation concerns mounting, Bitcoin’s role as a potential hedge was a major topic of discussion, kicking things off inside the Westerunie dome on Day 1 at the conference.
Bitcoin as an inflation hedge
Former hedge fund manager Greg Foss and Prince Philip of Serbia Gave provided some interesting food for thought, highlighting the potential for Bitcoin as a safe haven asset given its engineered scarcity when compared to a debt-driven economic system that has been fighting to combat inflation.
The Netherlands hosts one of the main crypto events in Europe these days! If you are around #BitcoinAmsterdam say hi to Cointelegraph reporters @gazza_jenks and @JoeNakamoto! pic.twitter.com/GZ7piDhrXj— Cointelegraph (@Cointelegraph) October 12, 2022
Cointelegraph spoke to Foss in Amsterdam, who highlighted his view that Bitcoin will play a major role in tackling monetary inflation. Having cut his teeth working for the Royal Bank of Canada and spending nearly 30 years trading credit, Foss’s introduction to Bitcoin fundamentally changed his outlook on the current economic challenges facing the world:
“I found Bitcoin in 2016. I've been researching it ever since, and in my opinion, it is the most important technological and financial solution to our looming debt crisis that we're seeing coming true in real time right now. What's happening in the U.K. is extraordinary stuff. I haven't been this nervous about the financial system since 2009.”
Prince Philip used an anecdotal example of soaring inflation in Serbia both in the past and in 2022 as cause for concern for locals despite government assurances that inflation numbers would return to single digits in 2023:
“This is how Bitcoin is really going to help people in Serbia and around the world. It’s key that we educate people to understand the scarcity of Bitcoin and how it's going to solve the inflation issue we’re all experiencing right now.”
Former European Parliament member Nigel Farage also weighed in on the issue from a British context in a conversation with Cointelegraph. While admitting he’d first heard of the concept of Bitcoin back in 2012, Farage only recently pondered its importance when he began to question the nature of fiat currencies in modern times.
Farage highlighted a break away from the gold standard in various countries many decades ago as a primary cause of inflationary environments which often take years to remedy. Bitcoin, in his view, could become a more attractive means of transacting and combatting inflation in Europe in the near term future:
“There's gonna be a very, very big change here over the next two or three years, and it will become a trusted means of exchange. And if I look now doing banking transactions, they're inefficient, they're costly, and often quite slow. So [Bitcoin] becomes more and more attractive.”
While there was plenty of optimism for Bitcoin being a hedge in an individual's investment portfolio from a number of speakers, Foss highlighted the importance of having a clear strategy in place in terms of a percentage allocation to BTC in a portfolio.
Energy issues in Europe
Energy issues were another hot topic of debate, given that Europe is experiencing an energy crisis of sorts, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Andy Long, CEO of mining firm White Rock Management, summed up the status of affairs on the continent.
“Really, the only affordable resources for energy for mining in Europe are in locations where the energy is stranded. When you transport energy, you have losses in the grid, but you also need enough capacity in the distribution network.”
Long also noted that gas pipelines being restricted and nuclear power plants being powered down were adding further restraints, while renewable generation was not keeping pace. This means that mining operators are having difficulty finding locations with low-cost, stable power.
Jelmer ten Wold, CEO of Greentech Technologies AG, highlighted the fact that the European Union is investing 300 billion euros ($292.38 billion) in renewable energy production in the coming years while plans for consumption are somewhat lacking.
“It will result in a lot more need and demand for stable load and load-balancing applications. The moment that the heat-user vertically integrates with a mining farm, producing heat and BTC at the same time, there is no way that an electronic boiler will ever be cheaper.”
Long also recounted how his firm's energy infrastructure investments in Sweden had led to a cascading effect of infrastructure development and further investment into mining ventures by other companies. This provides an example of how Bitcoin mining can be an incentivizing force for further electricity utility development.
Paul Sztorc, independent Bitcoiner and inventor of BIP 300 and renowned cryptographer, Hashcash inventor and Blockstream CEO Adam Back pondered the future use of sidechains to improve the Bitcoin network in the future.
OpCodes, Simplicity and zero-knowledge SNARKS were put forward by both speakers during their panel on the subject. Back suggested that opcodes, which push data or perform functions within a pubkey script or signature script, could be the easiest to implement in the near term future:
“I think that the opcodes are probably the fastest path. I think there is new energy in Bitcoin layer twos with Fedimint and Statechains, there are multiple companies working on those things. They're also interested in novel new opcodes so it's a good time to have that conversation.”
Sztorc, who created BIP 300, which proposes compressing three to six months of transaction data into a fixed 32-bytes, also agreed that sidechains could help scale Bitcoin’s network through the implementation of his BIP and other sidechain proposals:
“The idea that I have for BIP 300 and just the sidechain idea more generally could have enormous impact. Not only does it do extensibility but it can be used to achieve a huge scale very quickly.”
Upgrades or improvements to Bitcoin's protocol have always been a contentious issue, but the two highly respected cryptographers certainly provided measured takes on how the protocol can continue to evolve in a multi-cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem.
Julian Assange’s Bitcoin story
Renowned activist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently incarcerated at Belmarsh prison in London, was represented by his wife Stella, who gave a rousing address in Amsterdam that unpacked Bitcoin’s role in fighting censorship around the world:
“Bitcoin and its technology are trying to fight censorship in a similar way to how Wikileaks has fought censorship using cryptography. Julian started Wikileaks with incredible innovation, he is a pioneer who has changed the way journalism is done.”
Assange’s work using cryptography was primarily focused on helping journalists and newsrooms relook at how they protect their sources and information in the internet age. Once Wikileaks began publishing information, the media company saw itself shut off from major payment networks.
“That led to Wikileaks becoming an early adopter of Bitcoin. It’s important to understand the attacks on Wikileaks and the different attacks. The extra-territorial banking blockades, the political and legal attacks.”
General conversations with speakers and attendees painted a picture of optimism about Bitcoin’s ongoing role during increasingly uncertain times around the world. As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to fade away, inflationary concerns and the ever-present threat of an escalating situation in Ukraine have also seen energy costs soar in Europe.
Despite a bleak outlook, Bitcoin continues to attract long-time users and prospective new entrants to explore the many avenues of the preeminent cryptocurrency. As one anonymous long-term Bitcoin holder told Cointelegraph, "I flew here from America because I like to keep tabs on what is going on in space."
The attendee was one of many who had traveled from various parts of the world to find out how the Bitcoin ecosystem continues to evolve in the ever-growing cryptocurrency ecosystem.