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Ep. 56: Joel Comm on blockchain, NFTs, and cryptoassets.

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Joel Comm is an expert in digital marketing, the New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, a consultant with more than twenty years of internet business experience, and a world-renowned crypto evangelist.

Show notes

  • Joel tries to position his two shows as crypto news and commentary for the everyman.
  • When he first heard about bitcoin and bitcoin mining in 2012, the concept didn't resonate with him. The idea of mining with a computer seemed asinine, and he paid it little attention.
  • It wasn't until a conversation with a friend in 2017 that he really understood the transformative potential of the blockchain , an experience which reminded him of encountering the internet in 1995.
  • This reminds Thomas of a technique he teaches in his "Future Like a Boss Course" called 'attractionary futuristics'. This involves trying to identify high-probability, high-impact developments in the future and building towards them today.
  • (For more on how futurism is done see our interviews with Woody Wade and Peter Leyden)
  • Thomas asks Joel when he thinks major retailers like Amazon or Walmart will start accepting Bitcoin. Joel is surprised they haven't done so already, especially given the fact that El Salvador now accepts it as legal tender, but he suspects we'll be in the early stages of more widespread adoption in five or six years.
  • Joel takes a dim view of financial institutions like banks and thinks they'll start accepting payments in cryptocurrencies when they have no other choice. He does think that day is coming, though, and Thomas speculates that as soon as 2030 there could be mortgages or loans being denominated in cryptoassets.
  • Thomas notes that much of what drove the early development of cryptocurrency technology were philosophical libertarians with a penchant for writing code.
  • Today, many of those same people have driven the move into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse. Joel derides those who lack the vision to see the potential of these technologies as being the same people who thought Jeff Bezos was a fool for selling books out of his garage.
  • What they're missing is what the technology can grow to become. Today NFTs are basically digital Pokemon cards, but they could one day be used to issue crucial documents like driver's licenses or birth certificates.
  • This would dramatically increase the efficiency of a wide variety of important processes, like moving to a new state or registering a business.
  • Ironically, the United States is behind many other major countries in the ease of using and building on crypto technologies, and this is only likely to get worse in the years ahead.
  • Trent asks Joel to back up and explain NFTs at a high level.
  • NFTs are non-fungible tokens. A fungible token is one where every unit can be substituted for every other.
  • If I ask you to borrow $20 I don't care which $20 bill you give me, they're all fungible and therefore all the same.
  • Each non-fungible token is unique and cannot be traded for another.
  • This is true even when all the tokens look the exact same--they still each have a unique, verifiable ID which distinguishes them from their twins.
  • An NFT can be made of essentially anything--a PDF, a piece of music, an animation, an image, a video clip.
  • If you own an NFT you can use blockchain data to prove both authenticity and ownership. There's essentially no risk of fraud.
  • Why would anyone care?
  • One use case is for properly remunerating artists. Joel cites the example of a famous Peter Frampton song which had 16 million streams on Spotify, for which he was given the princely sum of $1500.
  • With built-in ownership and authenticity checks, new models can be built around distributing art. Creators can receive direct compensation from their fans instead of going through intermediaries.
  • And the perks included can be far more diverse and interesting. It's not unusual for supporters of a kickstarter to receive e.g. signed copies of a book.
  • But now an NFT can be made of the original cover art, or the first draft of the recording, etc.
  • A devoted fan can own that forever.
  • In the future, NFTs could power governance models in on-chain DAO.
  • Joel is also broadly interested in applications of blockchain technology. Decentralized finance holds a great deal of promise in putting power back in the hands of individuals, making a variety of economic and financial processes much easier.
  • Decentralized finance is allowing inter-personal loans, often with much greater returns than what you could get parking your money in a savings account.
  • On the whole, Joel believes that blockchain technology is here to stay and will help to empower users to take a more active role in their financial and economic futures.
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