During Filecoin Liftoff Week, we rounded out the last day with a panel titled “Meet the Filecoin Foundation.” The session was an opportunity for event attendees to hear from the people who comprise the Filecoin Foundation and the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW). Below are highlights from the panel, led by Protocol Labs outside counsel and Chair of the Filecoin Foundation Board, Marta Belcher. Entire video here.
The Filecoin Foundation is a group responsible for the overall governance of Filecoin, and will additionally support the growth and development of the community and ecosystem. The FFDW is a charitable sister organization with a mission to ensure the preservation of humanity’s most important information by stewarding the development of open source software and open protocols.
Marta: Rainey, why the decentralized web for your mission?
Rainey Reitman is a board member of the FFDW. She is a prominent civil rights activist, including her work with the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Much of her work focuses on the decentralized web.
I’ve been drawn to projects in the decentralized web specifically because I see how the centralized web is failing technology users every day. I think about how social media companies are using flawed machine learning, or how we have abusive terms of service when we visit a website. An internet built for profit at the cost of consumer choice and consumer privacy is not what we need. Instead, we have to think about creating a digital experience that isn’t controlled by a handful of tech monopolies that have proven untrustworthy.
In the short term, decentralized alternatives can offer a refuge for users who want to opt out of dealing with abusive tech companies, and in the long run can create market alternatives that push the whole industry to be more responsive to what users actually need. I think Filecoin is a big part of that ecosystem of decentralized tools that are exploring and designing a better digital future. Our foundation is steering Filecoin towards its mission of serving humanity and also supporting the larger decentralized web.
Marta: Sheila, how are you thinking about the impact blockchain and distributed ledger technology can have on the world?
Sheila Warren is the head of Blockchain and DLT at the World Economic Forum.
We’ll know we’ve “arrived” when no one is talking about blockchain technology anymore; that will become axiomatic when every tech stack has blockchain integrated into it at some point. When everything from storage to payments is decentralized, we’ll be building and innovating everything on top of that basic assumption of decentralization.
Something important is that we do need a cultural shift in mindset to happen. People need to recognize that peer-to-peer has a lot of advantages. Any time you have an intermediary, you’re giving them money, but you’re also giving them power. Power in the form of control, censorship, or many other verbs we can fit in there. The removal of those intermediaries unlocks a tremendous amount of power. We still have yet to see, however, a cultural understanding of what these intermediaries have been doing this whole time.
One thing we’re hoping for is that this effort becomes global. There’s siloing going on right now by jurisdiction, and we think it needs to be much more global and international - a vision I know is shared by others on the Filecoin Foundation.
Marta: Ethereum’s growth has been staggering. How can the Filecoin Foundation build an ecosystem and get broad adoption like Ethereum?
Joe Lubin serves as an Advisor on the Filecoin Foundation. Joe Lubin is a co-founder of Ethereum and the founder and CEO of ConsenSys.
Many of us in the ecosystem are building decentralized protocols with the shared thesis that these protocols will link up with one another and interoperate. Together, these protocols will forge an increasingly decentralized internet and world wide web. ConsenSys has been close to the Protocol Labs projects since the start. There are deep parallels between the Ethereum ecosystem and Protocol Labs’ ecosystem. The work that Protocol Labs has done so far is remarkable. The work they need to do to continue to be an important component in the architecture of the decentralized web is to think about community, cryptoeconomics, marketing, bright and philosophically-aligned talent, and ecosystem investments.
Also important is to think about enterprises in addition to the more crypto-oriented crowd. It’s important to build developer tooling for the startups - for the revolutionaries. You also, however, need to make the technology comfortable and understandable to enterprises - to the evolutionaries.
Marta: How can the decentralized web address the important issues you work on?
Danny O’Brien is an advisor on the FFDW. He is a prominent international activist for online free speech and privacy. He works on strategy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and is a founding member of the UK’s open rights group.
The issues we are working on at the EFF and that other civil rights organizations that deal with the internet in general are working on have increasingly become global issues. They are no longer just tied to one particular country or region. So we’re looking now at solutions that can scale to that sort of global level. The lesson of the last few years has been that any centralized solution really does not scale when you’re dealing with civil liberties and human rights on a global scale. I’m interested in the decentralized web and how it can be decentralized not just technically, but geographically as well and support the diversity of the people that now inhabit the digital world.
Marta: What does the current state of blockchain policy in the US look like, and what should our policy goals be?
Kristin Smith is the Executive Director of the Blockchain Association, the leading industry association working on US blockchain policy.
Looking broadly at the crypto policy framework, we don’t have one national framework for how to approach blockchain and cryptocurrency. We have challenges in defining different types of cryptocurrencies, and because of that lack of definitions, we have a lot of uncertainty around what regulations apply and when they apply. We do have some bright spots. There are a couple of very thoughtful legislative proposals that have been introduced in Congress, but we still have a lot of work to do.
I think the policy goals are pretty well known. We need to get clarity on how to classify different types of cryptocurrencies. We need clarity on tax policy. We need clarity on what to do with the cryptomarkets and how to ensure integrity there. I also think our goal needs to be looking out to ensure nothing bad happens. We don’t want anything on the regulatory or legislative level to get in the way of all the good work that is going on. That requires us to play defense as well as offense.
The rest of the panel with the Filecoin Foundation and FFDW members can be found here.
Members of the Filecoin Foundation include:
Board of Directors: Brian Behlendorf, Marta Belcher, Rainey Reitman
Advisors: Alex Feerst, Georgia Quinn, Meredith Barge, Sheila Warren, Joe Lubin, Sandra Ro, Katie Biber, Kristin Smith
Officers: Clara Tsao, Megan Kliman
Staff: Philipp Banhardt