The view from Davos: Crypto pounding on the door of the World Economic Forum

A look back at the World Economic Forum this week and how crypto may have stolen the show.

On Friday, May 27, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, drew to a close. Nearly 3,000 individuals traveled by plane, train, and helicopter from over 110 nations to the highest town in Europe to press politicians and push and question the WEF agenda.

While the war in Ukraine was the focus of attention at the World Economic Forum, climate change was the hero, and economic recovery was the damsel in distress. Meanwhile, blockchain and cryptocurrencies played a supporting role, at the very least.

The industry bigwigs and "financial elites" gathered in Davos, as Soramitsu CEO Makoto Takemiya stated during a Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) session on the WEF promenade. Crypto and blockchain enthusiasts served as "barbarians" at the entrance to the WEF 2022.

This was the first in-person WEF since the COVID-19 outbreak broke out, and the number of blockchain companies in attendance was significant. Shops and cafes along the Davos avenue were temporarily transformed into showrooms for corporations and big business, while cryptocurrency companies stood out.

"Back at WEF 2018, there was just one significant pro-crypto event and multiple other speakers were emphasising the bad sides of crypto," Alex Fazel, chief relationship officer at Swissborg, told Cointelegraph.

The Crypto House, the Blockchain Hub, Polkadot Hub, LAN Space, the NFT Shop, GBBC Central, and the Filecoin Foundation — which had turned a former Catholic church into a crypto conference hall – hosted world leaders and monetary disruptors in 2022. Crypto was hard to ignore, even if it was obtrusive at best.

Map of the Davos blockchain locations for the WEF.

Even the World Economic Forum now has a website dedicated to blockchain technology. In addition, at a session on the WEF main stage, bankers openly addressed digital currencies. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple Labs, highlighted in a video interview with Cointelegraph in Davos that while crypto used to be a terrible word, the trendline is now "positive." "The presence of crypto is radically different," Garlinghouse told to USA GAG.

As newcomers and nocoiners (those who have yet to invest in crypto) took their initial steps into the area, Swissborg's Fazel summed up the burgeoning crypto attitude. "The Web3 pavilions had a higher turnout than the Web2 pavilions, such as Meta:"

"During WEF 2022, the crypto space occupied between 10–20 percent of the entire promenade across the business sector, excluding the governmental pavillions, on top of dozens of crypto conferences, events, and parties."

Finally, it's clear that digital currencies have entered the mainstream when the CEO of MasterCard appears on a blockchain panel alongside Bank for International Settlements researchers and crypto enthusiasts to openly debate the demise of SWIFT and the rise of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

The importance of blockchain as a focus point of the WEF, according to Thierry Aryz Ruiz, CEO of AgAu, is self-evident: the issue centers around how the world's elite manages innovation. "With CBDCs and increased regulation, we may see darker applications of Blockchain as a weapon of control," Ruiz told Cointelegraph.

Ruiz is supported by Daniela Barbosa, general manager at Hyperledger and a WEF veteran. The World Economic Forum is clearly enamored with blockchain technology. She does, however, argue that we should not be "frightened" of CBDCs.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) were created to detach money from the state rather than to empower fiat money. Nonetheless, the World Economic Forum, blockchain, and cryptocurrency are becoming increasingly intertwined. At the WEF, Ruiz elaborated: "Great brains collide into each other, really with good intentions." However, in light of future regulatory worries, he warns that "if left unquestioned, they can build the route to hell." Ruiz adds a word of warning:

"The pandemic has shown that individuals are willing to give up their freedom in exchange for a false sense of security all too often." We must never forget that such a transaction will very certainly result in the loss of both."

During a Cointelegraph-moderated panel discussion on decentralized finance (DeFi), Sam Yim, a 1inch network adviser and former banker, explained that regulation is a speeding train. "You can either get onboard or get out of the way." Regulation of the crypto realm is on the way, for better or worse.

On the plus side, regulation may assuage the fears of the curious and the cautious about the space's rigidity and endurance. For some WEF participants, it was their first encounter with cryptocurrency. The Davos currency stole the spotlight at the Cointelegraph goodbye party, which was co-hosted by Polygon. Thanks to a test prototype pioneered by Ammer technologies, partygoers could spend Davos coins at the bar and have a "seamless checkout experience."

Whether regulation stifles or encourages growth, the message that Bitcoin and crypto are for everyone reverberated throughout the conference. Questions like "Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, who remains pseudonymous, could very well be a woman" were raised in an all-women panel moderated by Cointelegraph editor-in-chief Kristina Lucrezia Cornèr.

For some WEF participants, proximity to electricity and to the WEF's regulators may be the deciding factor. Nas Daily, a Youtuber, social media personality, and new crypto convert, told Cointelegraph that he wants to be near regulators at the WEF.

"This is where the actual influencers are." He told USAGAG, "They're not on your Instagram newsfeed." He began sharing his Bitcoin investment approach with Cointelegraph in March, and he even included his YouTube channel in the mix.

Whether it's the "barbarians" at the gate, a future instrument at the disposal of the World Economic Forum, or a method of economic empowerment for all, the view from Davos is that crypto is here to stay. Regulation will most certainly be the hot topic when the WEF resumes its winter service in January 2023. The question is, what will it look like?

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