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Blockchain needs a reason to exist, Boris Johnson tells roomful of blockchain pros

As for Twitter, politicians need to grow thick skins and stop mistaking it for advertisement

Former British prime minister BoJo has used one of his first speaking engagements since losing that job to appear at a blockchain conference in Singapore, where his expert opinion on the subject boiled down to a belief the public needs to be convinced there's a reason for it to exist.

Appearing in his trademark rumpled style at the International Symposium on Blockchain Advancements (ISBA) in Singapore on Friday, the former PM and current member of Parliament rambled about a whole host of subjects including vaccines, the war on Ukraine, how Michelin star critics are similar to North Korean dictators, and air ballooning technology.

He eventually proved that either he or his speechwriter had at least been briefed on what blockchain was by calling the technology's pioneers "people who are at the cutting edge of a new and still infant technology whose possibilities the whole world is now struggling to assess."

"Given the huge controversy that already surrounds some use cases, and given all the delicacies and sensitivities, I will do my best to tiptoe through the minefield this afternoon, with the tact for which I am famous," said Johnson, referring to the current state of the cryptocurrency industry.

Johnson eventually touched on his theory that new technologies undergo four stages of innovation. Those stages include fear, skepticism about use cases, speculative mania followed by the bursting of a giant bubble, with the final stage, progress, rising from the debris.

It became clear where Johnson felt blockchain currently sits in the cycle as he later told a moderator who repeatedly attempted to bring him back on topic "You have to be able to convince people use cases are real."

He did concede that blockchain seems to have "a lot of possibilities" and he could see that it "could somehow help companies."

Johnson also waxed lyrical about the need for an open and free society first in order to foster such innovation.

"Innovation happens when people can say exactly what they think and meet whomsoever they choose, and love whoever they choose and live their lives however they like, provided of course, they do no harm to others," proclaimed the former tenant of Number 10 Downing Street.

In the moderated Q&A session, BoJo lent his opinion on the turmoil surrounding blockchain's use case in cryptocurrency, admitting that he had seen some "shocking headlines recently about this whole venture."

"I think that we are going to need some way of holding people accountable," said the floppy haired politician, adding that if cryptocurrency was going to succeed it needs trust and thusly it has "got to be regulated."

BoJo pointed out that when all goes wrong, it's ultimately the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

The MP also addressed social media, specifically Twitter, which he said was helping to drive polarism, particularly in America.

"What I find about Twitter is... there's something about it that polarizes opinion, everyone gravitates to one camp or another. There's something about the genre, the brevity that's required, that makes people punchy in assertions, more clever, and it can become an aggressive environment," said the Brexiteer.

Politicians mistake Twitter for advertisements and thereby end up in Twitter pile-ons, said Boris, who said the social media site doesn't accurately reflect what goes on in the rest of the world.

"We will grow and adapt and learn to have thicker skins about it. These are all wonderful and new technologies, and we need ways to do it without feeling beaten up," he said.

The Register wanted to illustrate this spectacular story with a photo of BoJo on stage, but was told security forces would make a forcible intervention to prevent an attempt at doing so. ®

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