DeFi: Mainstream adoption is not going to happen if the wider public thinks we’re all self-serving jerks, says Dominik Schiener. He is the Co-Founder and Chairman of IOTA, one of the largest crypto ecosystems in the world.
DeFi isn’t all about money.
Let me rephrase. Making money is not the be-all and end-all of DeFi. That’s not to shame investors who made their first or their five-thousandth transaction with the intent of making money. This is, after all, the world of finance, and it’s a space that’s made a fair amount of regular people and high-level investors richer than they were before. I’m all for that. DeFi should be financially beneficial to all people. Otherwise, what’s the point?
But DeFi is no longer the rebellious and semi-ignored youngest sibling of global finance. It’s a force to be reckoned with in its own right. Governments across the world are weighing their options when it comes to accepting bitcoin for tax payments and minting their own coins. You can buy Ethereum on Paypal. Crypto news is headline news and cause for hand-wringing and celebration in the opinion section of major newspapers. Billions upon billions are in play here. DeFi is actively leveling the playing field through open, transparent, and decentralized technologies, and the biggest institutions in the world are taking notice. I’m certainly not saying that DeFi is too big to fail. I’m saying that DeFi is now so big and so powerful that it has a responsibility to not be evil.
With great power…
At the risk of plagiarizing Uncle Ben’s classic monologue to Peter Parker, DeFi has reached a level where it has a real responsibility to do good. That concept – that conviction – has everything to do with why I spearheaded the IOTA Foundation’s recent £1 million philanthropic grant to Imperial College London. This grant will fund the establishment and development of the I3-LAB (short for Imperial-IOTA-Infrastructures Lab) within the college.
The purpose of the I3-LAB is to conceptualize how a circular economy model can replace our current economic structure that depends on consumerism and produces an enormous amount of waste. It will provide resources to researchers, professors, and postdoctoral students to design economic models that the planet can actually handle. The current rate and level of environmental degradation are directly connected to the pollution and waste our current economic model demands. And I firmly believe distributed ledger technology (DLT) – the same technology that powers IOTA and makes our ecosystem significantly greener than its blockchain-rooted counterparts – offers a way forward and towards a circular economy.
The revolution will not be crypto-vized
The point isn’t to overthrow global capital in some grand economic revolution. The point is to research and develop a realistic way forward using DLT, then to foster a space where entrepreneurs, academics, and policymakers come together to discuss how to implement these solutions. The circular economy model has the potential to reduce waste, streamline manufacturing and supply chain processes, increase the use of recycled materials, develop new business models that shift from sole ownership to servitized access to goods and services, and tokenize dormant assets that were not leveraged before. These are all necessary if we’re going to keep this planet a livable, biodiverse place.
To that end, IOTA’s DLT, which is feeless and permissionless, is uniquely suited to circular economy use cases. Once I came to this conclusion myself, it felt irresponsible to not act on that knowledge. My colleagues felt the same, and making the grant was a natural decision to accelerate the impact that we can have with IOTA and DLT.
Crypto bros for good causes
So that’s how my colleagues and I got here, and now the Foundation is putting its money where its mouth is. Everyone at the IOTA Foundation is more than a little concerned about the climate crisis and the inability of governments to take meaningful action. Granted, philanthropy isn’t the only way those of us in the DeFi space can do good, and it won’t solve the climate crisis on its own. But every little bit helps. I hope, ultimately, that this grant and the research it funds will evolve into large-scale pilots deployed around the world. As much as the Lab is about research, it’s also about making a real-world impact with actionable, quantifiable results.
IOTA and the I3-LAB can’t and won’t do this alone. Large-scale investors and dApp developers ought to take a page from this playbook too and start thinking about how we can enact meaningful change through DAOs or other initiatives. We have the tech to do it.
Not only that, we have the cash. From the climate crisis to supply chain backups, there is no shortage of issues that could benefit from our tech and our donations. If you can’t get on board with altruism, then consider the reputation rehab these kinds of initiatives will do for DeFi. Mainstream adoption is not going to happen if the wider public thinks we’re all crypto bros and self-serving jerks. We need to grow out of that, and we need to grow into a more humane and forward-looking role within the economy and business.