I have got my friend that I have known for a very long time, Stafford Masie.
By way of introduction, Stafford has been in the ICT industry for more than 25 years, he worked for Telkom, and he has worked for Dimension Data as a software engineer.
Stafford was responsible for establishing Google’s presence in South Africa in 2006. After leaving Google in 2010 he founded several fintech businesses and several technology startups.
He is known for two payment platforms, Payment Pebble and Payment Blad, which has actually been rolled out in Australia and New Zealand as we speak and more countries.
He is an inventor, a mentor in the early age technology startups, he lectures at several business schools, such as Wits, Gibbs and Henley.
Over the past six years Stafford has focused on Bitcoin, block chain network, and all aspects of crypto currencies.
He serves on a number of boards, including Discovery Bank. So please join me in welcoming Stafford Masie.
Below is part of what Masie (SM) said when he appeared on the South African edition of In Conversation with Trevor, a popular programme presented by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube.
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Stafford Masie: Something technologically speaking that has impacted mankind, more so than probably anything we have ever seen before then right.
So I am talking about the late 1990s and backward.
So we ran around showing people the browser, and people were like nah it is not going to work man, you download a video and it takes three weeks to download.
You connect to the internet and it screams, and then you need like a computer science degree to get the driver to work and the network interface card.
We were like, this is going to change everything and people were like no, it is not.
People said it was a fad, people said it was never going to go anywhere but we knew what was happening. Why?
Because as technologists we saw the amount of humanity cascading into this space.
Every kid that was working in computer science, any programmer that was working on internet stuff, everywhere it was internet stuff.
Then in the late 1990s I lived in the United States and I flew to the MIT Campus to watch a presentation given by two gentlemen that were leaders in an open and flare software plain.
Then when I watched their presentation I had that same goose bumps moment that I had when I touched the internet for the first time.
I saw people speaking about free and open source software.
Then I flew back to the Novel Campus in Utah and Eric Schmidt was there and everyone.
I said that free and open source software is going to change the world, we need to get on the bandwagon.
This company was making billions of dollars on propriety software built by engineers on certain floors in southern Utah.
I was telling them that kids building things on the outside freely would surpass their business and they were like, no.
Fast forward to today every one of your glowing rectangles is running on its cornel, free and open software sort of code.
If you have got an iPad, if you have got an Apple Mac, the core technology, if you are running an Android phone, the core platform is open air software.
The cloud in the world today runs on open air software.
So we have got the intent that people scoffed at, it became mainstream and it is everywhere, the utility.
Open air software, people laughed and they scoffed and they said it is never going to happen, and take a look at it today, it is everywhere.
This is what people are doing again with Bitcoin.
You are coming into this space in a skewered metamorphic way, and just like when we built the car with the engine we put steel warts to drive with it the first time because we came from riding horses and we thought that is the way to design a car.
It took us years to finally invent the steering wheel to move the car around, and I think this is the same issue that we have with Bitcoin.
The problem that we have right now, is it is kind of like the newspaper industry with the internet.
I remember going to the Mail & Guardian and talking to you guys about the internet and telling you how big it was going to be, and even then there were people in the room years ago who were like, no.
I was at Google at the time I think.
So the Mail & Guardian were like no, and I said to them this is going to change your business, this is going to change everything and they were like no, sort of, maybe in 10 years time and then look at what it did.
Everyone wants to talk about Bitcoin on the basis of speculation, right.
You guys want to talk about it like should I buy it or should I sell it?
Is it going to go up or is it going to go down?
See I do not talk about it that way, I talk about it within the context of understanding Bitcoin.
Very few people want to actually understand it.
They just want to know if I put 10 bucks in it can it go to 100,000 bucks?
This is exactly where I was in the late 1990s and the early 2000s in the United States, people just wanted to buy the stock and see the stock go up.
So you have to take the time, you have to understand it, and every single one of you in this room, and every single one of you watching on the stream right now, this will impact you in the next 24-36 months.
It is going to touch you more so than the internet, I presume.
If you think about the internet right, you have to pay somewhere to go offline. You have to pay somewhere to go to a resort to get disconnected.
We used to talk about hyper connectivity between offline and online, now you are perpetually online.
This is not going to be different.
So world leaders, coming out and saying this thing is bad, Warren Buffet saying it is rat poison, and people who are heads of world trade organisations and world banks saying watch out for this thing, this thing is not real, this thing does not have any underlying value, be careful.
I do not think we will have good money again before we take the thing out of the hand of government.
That is, we cannot take them violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is that by some sly and roundabout way introduce something that they cannot stop, and that is what Bitcoin is.
It is something that has just come, because let us be honest, what the world has done with fiat currencies is not sustainable today.
It is not. I mean the amount of dollars that have been printed in the last 24 months in the world, the austerity measures, the stimulus that has been given, I mean it is just not sustainable.
The problem with fiat currencies
The economic structures that we have in the world today, if we look at the inflationary measures etcetera, it is not sustainable.
Fiat currencies are farcical, and the thing that Bitcoin does is it makes the masses understand the history of money and understand where money comes from, what money is, what is the identity wrapped around money and I think that is very important.
So as we move along more and more people are getting educated about what this is.
I think from a Zimbabwe perspective, you know what happens when you print money and you print money, and you keep printing money.
We see many examples of that.
We see Venezuela, we see Argentina go through it, we have seen Cyprus go through it, and we have seen Iceland go through it.
We saw in Ukraine what happens with the war, and what happened with the currency there, the run on the currency.
So we see that these things are very possible.
Then we have this guy, Milton Friedman.
He gave us the fitness function in the early 1970s.
He gave us this fitness function pretty much at the same time when Nixon took the dollar and ripped it away from the metal.
He said that the dollar was no longer linked to gold that was it, the dollar was now in this world of GDP and political stability and rule of law and so on to fit a narrative.
Fiat currency is just a narrative.
The US dollar is the global reserve currency, yes.
I think it will continue to be that, but there is something that is now emerging that is independent of any nation state, independent of any particular leader in the world and it lives independently.
It has the capability to execute autonomously, and that is a very scary thing.
So he (Friedman) gave us this fitness function.
He said the sole responsibility of an organisation is to derive value for its shareholders.
More or less the same time that Nixon did this thing with the fiat currency.
What happened was what we see in 2018, two trillion of fiat currency.
This is mass concentration of capital.
People worn this amount of nation state capital in their personal individual capacity, this is not sustainable.
This is when you take things like AI and you blend it with Milton Friedman’s fitness function and then you get mass concentration of wealth.
The market capital of the top five technology companies and you combine it, it outstrips every other company on the SMP500 combined.
We have never seen this before in the history of humanity. We have never seen, not just capital, the market capital.
If I was just to measure this on the basis of attention, all of us are in those containers in some form, from an attention perspective.
Eye balls perspective, revenue perspective, just general internet usage perspective.
I mean these are not nation states, these are businesses.
These are businesses that control billions and billions of users.
And we have seen what they can do in terms of sentiments, we can see what they can do in terms of elections, you can see what they can do in terms of false news and alternative facts etcetera.
So it is incredible that we have seen this concentration, and my argument is this is not sustainable either.
If you take a look at that, productivity is going through the roof but wages are stagnating.
So we have seen businesses doing more with less humanity, because they can, and I have come up with a quote: “AI is a superpower, and its kryptonite is inequality.”
And that is the fitness function that drives our economies today, it is leaders that are essentially measured on the basis of deriving value for shareholders, because that has been your sole responsibility since the early 1970s.
Now you have these superpowers that enable you to do more with less humanity.
What does the Standard Bank CEO do, he goes and closes all these bank branches. Why?
Because he does not need bank branches anymore because he has got all this technology, bots.
Standard Bank bots is all this AI executing around his business, so he does not need all this structure that has humanity inside of it.
This is because he is driven by Milton Friedman’s fitness function, his sole responsibility is to derive value for his shareholders.
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