On the day Stephen Hawking died, in the week Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos admitted she hadn’t ever visited a failing public school in her home state, in the year that the West’s faith in liberal institutions seemed to crumble faster than ever, it was comforting to hear, in the PlayStation Theater in Times Square, after a prelude of sliders and bao, that the future had arrived.
And it was a piece of technology, no less.
True, Silicon Valley’s utopian hype machine has sputtered after scandals at Zenefits and Theranos, fake news crises at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and amid looming fear of a bubble, or worse, regulation. But there remains a group of technophiles unbowed by the past two years, still publicly committed to a vision of a future radically transformed for the better: cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts.
The exact shape of this future was a mystery to many of the 1,000 men and women (mostly men) filing into the underground chamber, past a sign for something called the Big Best Innovation Group. Hardly anything about this future had been posted to the internet, perhaps on purpose. Still the event had sold out in hours. There were rumors that the Winklevoss twins would be there, and the speed skating champion Apolo Ohno.
Also, because this future was a distributed ledger, like the blockchain — this much was known — it was also agreed that almost no one would be able to explain it.
“There’s a lot of hype around it because people are very surface on what they know,” an investment banker named Kevin confessed, before the revelation of the future.
And yet there it was, in large letters on the wide screen at the back of the PlayStation Theater stage: “Hello Future.”