PHOTO: CapWealth Advisors Chairman and CEO Tim Pagliara, left, with Harvard professor Dr. Harpreet Singh at the Janet Ayers Academic Center at Belmont University on Tuesday, May 15, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
During a lunch hosted by Franklin-based wealth manager CapWealth Advisors, a Harvard professor spoke about the future of artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Dr. Harpreet Singh, the founder of Expercoin in Harvard’s Innovation Lab, spoke at Belmont University on Tuesday afternoon.
Singh showed a video from a conference where a phone user’s Google assistant phoned a hair salon and made an appointment for her haircut.
“Many of these jobs are being eaten away by automation, and it’s happening at a rapid pace,” Singh said.
But, he noted, there is a bright side.
Humans have always found a way to use technology to their advantage, from furthering medicine to improving the communication.
Singh said the question to be answered is how society can reform the current educational system to create skills for an economy which will soon be powered by artificial intelligence.
Though the identity of Bitcoin’s creator is shrouded in secrecy, the cryptocurrency has become a trendy topic in the past decade, especially after market values reached highs of over $3,000 last year.
Being reliable, transparent, immutable, digital, and readily available are all benefits of cryptocurrency, Singh explained.
The problem with physical currency, he added, is the amount of paperwork required and steps that can be falsified or lost.
Singh explained the concept of decentralization through an analogy about spiders and starfish.
If a spider’s leg is cut off, it will be disabled. But if a starfish’s leg is cut off, it will regenerate the leg.
If a spider is cut from the center, it will die, but if a starfish is cut from the center, it will regenerate and form two starfish.
Similarly, “If one miner goes off the network, it doesn’t really impact the ecosystem. It’s still thriving,” Singh said.
In some African-based startups, land transactions through Blockchain have been more successful than traditional transactions because fraud is nearly impossible.
Blockchain has even been used to monitor “blood diamonds,” tracking features like cut, quality, and location of origin.
Singh predicted the top utilization of cryptocurrency will be by the news media.
He explained that ad dollars are shifting away from traditional print newspapers to Google and Facebook ads.
But using a crypto wallet would allow media consumers to disburse funds to view stories; Singh gave the example of users paying 10 cents each page.
The Internal Revenue Service has some guidelines to regulate and tax the currency, Singh added.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they [the IRS] are keeping a close eye on this,” he said. “And they will be looking at it even more closely as they become more sophisticated.”
“We should disrupt ourselves before we get disrupted by someone else,” Singh said, encouraging leaders in various industries to utilize what he considers the future of currency.
By eliminating a centralized infrastructure, he said, companies can cut down on expenses and errors.
Will Kesler, the head of school for Franklin’s Battle Ground Academy, was invited because the school’s endowment is handled by CapWealth.
Kesler said he wanted to learn more about the cryptocurrency that has taken the world by storm.
“What are the skills and attitudes that are not being taught right now to prepare young people for all of these disruptions, from an educational side?” Kesler queried Singh during a question and answer.
“We’re not doing enough when it comes to our curriculum,” Singh said, who advocated for progressive curriculum. “The coursework that is being taught is not geared towards what happens in the real world, what happens with these technologies.”
“It just underscores how our current educational approach has to be incredibly flexible and nimble in order to respond to the changes that are happening so quickly in our culture,” Kesler said after the lecture.
“The students who are best educated will be the students who are able to respond to this world well.”