The annual event took place on Wednesday in Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) and is, in its own words: “a two-day conversation about the intersection of humans and technology.
“It’s an opportunity to imagine and re-imagine the impact of technology — the good and the bad.”
Livingston chose to focus on the bad or at least unprofitable aspects of technology — blockchain technology, to be precise — when speaking at the conference.
Livingston: “What does blockchain do at the end of the day?”
Despite the fact that Kik’s own upcoming digital currency, named Kin, has been in the works for some time, Livingston expressed a surprising amount of pessimism regarding the value of blockchain technology.
While it’s true that after Kik raised nearly $100 million with an initial coin offering last year, they ran into technical problems with the Ethereum platform, which forced them to return to the drawing board and build something new.
Disillusioned, perhaps, with the whole space, Livingston said: “What does blockchain do at the end of the day? It allows you to have a database that’s trustless. That can be applied in a bunch of ways, but most of those ways, you still need trust.”
“Almost nobody should be looking at blockchain”, he added.
He proceeded to make it known that, in his opinion, aside from the few most popular cryptocurrencies, i.e., Bitcoin, Ethereum, and a handful of others, most other tokens are pretty much useless.
They are unlikely to be adopted by the masses, and even more unlikely to be used in the way the respective ICO (initial coin offering) organisers desire.
He said: “Unless you’re trying to build one of the most-used cryptocurrencies in the world, it’s very low odds that blockchain is going to create value for you.”
It is true that many ICO investors view token sales as nothing more than an opportunity to acquire tokens cheaply and then flip them for a profit as soon as they hit the exchanges and can be traded publicly.
SEC: “Every ICO I’ve seen is a security”
This also ties in with the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) and other financial regulators’ dislike of ICOs because, if this is how they are being treated, they are in fact nothing more than securities with no real-world usage or ‘working product’, as it were, and, this being the case, should be regulated as such.
Indeed, the SEC has issued a flurry of cease and desist orders, along with a few high profile arrests, in recent months for this very reason; for a long time, the ICO sphere was pretty much unregulated and, as such, some investors lost millions thanks to exit scams and phishing attacks.
The SEC is determined to put a stop to this and is in the process of drawing up ICO-specific legislation in an attempt to tackle to issue.
Jay Clayton, chairman of the SEC, famously said: "Every ICO I've seen is a security."
However, its seems Livingston and the rest of the Kik team are harbouring some FOMO (fear of missing out) with regard to the crypto and ICO boom.
He said, re the Kin project: “We decided within the company that there are so many unknowns within crypto, we don’t put out dates anymore, but, as soon as possible.”
Evidently, Kik’s digital currency hasn’t been abandoned despite the many difficulties the US firm has encountered while building the underlying blockchain.
Kik has set aside three trillion of the tokens for itself, so if Kin takes off in the way Livingston and co. hope, it will profit from the whole venture.
Livingston acknowledged that the ‘cryptocurrency game’ is the only way to compete with the titans of tech.
He said: “We were playing an impossible game. You know, we were trying to deliver software to consumers, and in doing that we needed to make money to sustain ourselves,” Livingston said.
“But we’re playing against monopolies — Facebook and Google”, he added.
Stay tuned for news on the arrival of Kin, Kik’s yet-to-be-launched digital currency…