Alexander Ramsey spends most of his time trying to make the Web a better place. He’s the Founder of Flex Dapps, a sharp, Melbourne-based tech consultancy . He’s also one of our industry mentors for the new Developing Blockchain Strategy short course.
“We build decentralised applications and explore distributed architectural concepts,” Ramsey says. “Translation? We’re mercenaries for hire who can build things that haven’t been built before.”
You might have heard the name ‘Web3’ or ‘Web3.0’ before (we know you’ve heard of Blockchain). It’s a broad catch-all for several emerging technologies – including Tim Berners-Lee’s Solid – whose goal is to make the internet more efficient, democratic, secure and decentralised. Blockchain is just one of the technologies in the Web3 arsenal, and there aren’t many companies who know it better than Flex Dapps.
We sat down with Alexander to chat all things Blockchain and touch base on current industry trends.
Why is Blockchain so important right now?
The first thing to note is that Blockchain is just one technology under the broader umbrella of what we call ‘Web3’. Blockchains allow you to create systems that have fewer middle men and allow secure peer to peer exchanges of value. But we think of them as a golden scalpel, not a golden hammer. Example: If you're going to store data on a censorship-resistant, decentralised system (where it can never be removed) you best be damn sure about why you're doing it.
I think people have been lead to believe that Blockchain is a cure-all to corruption, wealth inequality, financial inclusion and are generally faster/better/stronger than web2.0 systems. This isn’t technically true.
Blockchains and decentralised tech will let us self organise in ways we haven't been able to before. We hope we can be involved in solving some of these interesting problems, but web3 systems of governance, identity, finance and so on will have both advantages and disadvantages, just like anything else today.
What industries do you see being most disrupted by Blockchain tech?
The next generation of open, decentralised finance is already starting to take shape. Especially if you look at the use of cryptocurrencies in places like Venezuela, or how I can collateralise my own loan with a MakerDao CDP.
What makes Blockchain 'hackproof'?
A blockchain is secured by a network of computers that are all competing to validate the true state of that data. The way the data is structured (a chain of blocks of data which reference each other) makes it difficult to tamper with the dataset and change things. Take Bitcoin – If you have two Bitcoin and I have one, there’s nothing I can do to change your money to zero, and mine to three.
Short version: Blockchains are uniquely tamperproof because of the nature of how each piece of data in a blockchain relates to all the other pieces.
Some people have claimed Blockchain might assist with gender equality? Do you agree?
To some extent, yeah. Decentralised technologies that allow peer to peer exchanges will help many disenfranchised groups to be financially included.
What kind of work have you been doing with The Red Cross? How are they using Blockchain?
We’re working with TypeHuman and Australian Red Cross to build a platform for the humanitarian sector that uses self-sovereign identity to make it easier for people to volunteer in their community.
There's a lot of talk about 'Web 3.0'. What do you think the internet will look like in 5, 10, 15 years?
Who knows? It’s hard to say. Perhaps, one day, networks like Ethereum and Bitcoin will just be used to secure and move large amounts of money. Maybe one day privacy tech like Zcash or Monero's private transactions might be similar to SSL and HTTPS.
Governments traditionally fear privacy tech because "maybe criminals will use it", but eventually they could be a legal requirement to protect the users of these networks.
Can anyone learn and study Blockchain? Does it help to have a tech background?
Anyone can learn Blockchain. The systems are quite straight forward. But I will say this – if you think you have a killer Blockchain idea, but you're don’t have experience using the tech to dominate in your specific field of expertise, you probably aren't quite ready to execute on it.
Blockchain systems are more complicated and less understood than traditional systems, and fewer people can build them. Decentralised systems aren't simply faster, better and stronger.