“Blockchain has the potential to create a new Internet layer”
© Shutterstock /cigdem
Blockchain is everywhere but, if you ask George Giaglis, Professor of eBusiness at the Athens University of Economics and Business, he will tell you that “we have not even scratched the surface of the applications that will be possible in a future world augmented by distributed ledger technology.” We caught up with him to talk about the sought-after blockchain skill, where companies can find developers who possess this skill and how blockchain can help the sports industry reach new heights.
JAXenter: You are one of the world’s first blockchain pioneers. Why did you decide to give blockchain a chance? What got you interested in this technology?
George Giaglis: When I first heard about Bitcoin and started reading about it, I quickly saw the tremendous potential of blockchains to create a new Internet layer: one in which value can flow as freely as information does in the current Internet architecture. This is a genuinely revolutionary ability, and I still believe that we have not even scratched the surface of the applications that will be possible in a future world augmented by distributed ledger technology, especially when this is coupled with artificially intelligent economic agents communicating and doing business with each other.
JAXenter: You are also the scientific coordinator of the world’s first open online course on cryptocurrencies and the first academic degree in blockchain. What does this degree mean? What opportunities does it offer for those who want to add blockchain to their skill set?
I think that universities worldwide should make blockchain a priority to bridge this talent gap by providing relevant programs at all levels.
George Giaglis: Both the MOOC and the MSc in Digital Currency offered by the University of Nicosia are world-first efforts to bridge the widening gap between supply and demand for skills on blockchain analysis, design and systems development. We are really proud to have exposed more than 20,000 students from 85 countries on the workings of Bitcoin and the promises of blockchain applications and to have also educated more than 300 graduates and students of our full MSc degree.
Further to our academic offerings, UNIC provides a full range of professional certification courses, aiming to equip today’s professionals with required knowledge or either blockchain business or software development. More information about all our educational products can be found here.
JAXenter: Is there still a global talent shortage for blockchain developers?
George Giaglis: There is a large, and still growing, such gap. And this should be far from surprising: blockchains are a very recent technology (it was developed in 2008 and did not grasp most of the world’s attention until the mid 2010s), and there is enormous demand for engineering and business expertise without a corresponding base of properly educated engineers, developers, analysts, consultants, regulators, and policymakers.
I think that universities worldwide should make it a priority to bridge this gap by providing relevant programs at all levels (undergraduate/postgraduate teaching and Ph.D./post-doctoral research). The University of Nicosia is working with some partner universities across the globe to help in this direction.
JAXenter: Where can companies look for blockchain developers? In classrooms?
George Giaglis: Classrooms are always a good option, although a significant part of education is now happening outside the traditional limits of a class: for example, UNIC’s MSc in Digital Currency is taught wholly online, with both students and faculty spanning all continents literally (well, save Antarctica!). Further to formal education, lots of other forms of online training, like MOOCs or nano-degrees, also provide educated talent, even if to a limited degree. At this point, I believe that the majority of blockchain development talent comes from self-educated talented distributed systems or cryptography developers. However, the formal academic sector is quickly catching up.
JAXenter: Some companies see blockchain as a silver bullet, but that’s not always the case. When should companies refrain themselves from experimenting with blockchain?
George Giaglis: As with all technology hypes, blockchain is now touted as a panacea that would solve all kinds of problems. While it is true that it is a horizontal technological breakthrough that will ultimately find applications in many sectors and will create wholly new industries (like the Internet did), it is also true that if an application context does not benefit from a distributed, self-governed, massively shared, tokenised database architecture, blockchain might not be a good fit.
JAXenter: Blockchain is even in sports right now! One example is SportCo; how can blockchain help this domain reach new heights?
George Giaglis: Blockchains are about, among others, communities bound together by a common interest or goal. Sports is heavily characterized by such active communities, and SportCo aims at bringing together sports fans in a way that people get rewarded for their passion, knowledge, skills, and contribution to the community. I find this to be a fascinating idea and I’m honored to advise the team in bringing their vision to reality.
JAXenter: Do you think the paths of blockchain and artificial intelligence will cross in the future?
George Giaglis: I see many applications, but the most promising one is the vision of machine-to-machine commerce. I envisage a world where intelligent machines will be conducting commercial transactions among them, communicating in an IoT architecture and settling their transactions with digital currency on a blockchain-based smart contract architecture. This will unleash a new era of commerce and will have profound consequences for the structure of our future economies and societies.
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