Shenzhen, 18. January, 2018. As I enter the arrival hall in Baoan Airport my eyes search for Vasily in vain. He is not here. I give him a call and he picks up the phone. “I am on my way. You told me that you would arrive a quarter to eight.” I sit down in a Costa Coffee next to the arrival exit and wait for him. Vasily shows up ten minutes later and sits down opposite of me. I notice that he is taller than in my memory; probably 1.90, slim, dressed in black jeans and a black denim shirt, a grey scarf tied around his neck. If there weren’t teenager bracelets on his teeth, he would go through a Russian spy in a James Bond movie.
Vasily is actually from the Ukraine and I met him only two weeks earlier on a Shanghai event, where I spoke about the future of work and the impact of robotics and AI. He approached me after the event and explained that he owns a trading company, which buys mining rigs in Shenzhen and sells them to Eastern Europe, Russia and the US. As the conversation unfolds, he provides incredible numbers about the hardware industry behind the Bitcoin hype, and I am hooked. Mining rigs | 挖矿机. What in God’s name is he talking about? Aren’t rigs infrastructure to drill for oil?
I had a few years ago, when I first heard about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, opened a mental drawer and put the entire subject ad acta: pyramid scheme. Those who come first earn massive profits, those who come last bear the risk. Recently, the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin has attracted my interest after reading Heinz von Förster and Bernhard Pörksen’s conversation on Understanding Systems. Förster, who had the nickname Socrates of Cybernetics, explains therein the concept of circularity and I immediately understood that blockchain indeed is the technology to put in reality what the participants of the Macy Conferences have probably envisioned for humanity back in the 1950s: meritocracy.
First published Jan 24, 2018 on mycountryandmypeople.org