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Consensus 2024: Crypto, Politics And More

Rachel Wolfson
Last updated: | 5 min read

Thousands of people in the cryptocurrency community gathered in Austin, Texas last week to attend Consensus 2024. The annual blockchain conference hosted by CoinDesk attracted 15,000 attendees, up from last year’s 10,000.

While Consensus 2024 brought in more attendees, the overall vibe appeared more lively and optimistic in comparison to last year’s event. This was likely due to the upcoming presidential election in the United States, coupled with the recent spot Bitcoin and Ethereum exchange traded fund (ETF) approvals.

John Deaton, Candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, told Cryptonews that Consensus last year was more “doom and gloom” due to the collapse of FTX and other crypto exchanges. Yet Deaton mentioned that this year’s event was different.

“This year, with everything that has happened – like the success we’ve had in the congress with voting and being able to defeat Elizabeth Warren and Gary Gensler on certain things – it’s a much more optimistic and positive atmosphere,” said Deaton.

The U.S. Senate Candidate added, “I think people now realize that blockchain technology is here to stay, crypto is here to stay and that this is a new asset class that will be adopted by the mainstream. People here are excited about that.”

Crypto Gets Political

Indeed, attendees at Consensus 2024 appeared interested to hear insights from U.S. government officials like Congressman Tom Emmer and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Hester Peirce.

While crypto and politics was a hot topic of debate at Consensus, Congressman Tom Emmer stated during his keynote that cryptocurrency is not a partisan issue, but rather a question of supporting the administrative state or the individual.

“Both political parties are moving toward supporting crypto, although one is moving faster than the other,” Congressman Tom Emmer stated.

Emmer also repeatedly pointed out that anti-crypto U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren currently “drives a lot of decisions in the White House.”

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also addressed a small room of media professionals before giving his keynote address on Thursday, May 30.

When asked about the recent approval of the spot Ethereum ETF in the U.S., RFK Jr. told Cryptonews that he was very happy with this decision.

“I would say that no matter what it’s a good thing. I assume it was politically motivated because Gary Gensler and the White House had been very opposed up until now to doing that, but anything is good,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction and I applaud it. We should be doing everything we can to encourage the flow of capital into alternative currencies and decentralized currencies.”

Tokenization, Bitcoin Layer-2s and AI Hot Topics

Politics aside, tokenization of real-world assets (RWAs), Bitcoin layer-2s (L2s) and artificial intelligence (AI) were heavily discussed.

David Schwartz, CTO of Ripple, told Cryptonews that Ripple is particularly focused on tokenized RWA products. Most recently, Ripple launched its own stablecoin, demonstrating the company’s interest in tokenization.

“Real-world asset tokenization are regulatory compliant products that are securities on blockchains but they can be used as collateral in DeFi protocols,” said Schwartz.

This is important, as Schwartz added RWA tokenization enables, “This idea of bridging regulatory compliant institutional use cases with DeFi use cases.”

Bitcoin Layer-2 networks were also a popular topic of discussion. Stacks – the well-known and one of the oldest Bitcoin L2s – along with Bitcoin L2 Rootstock Labs, had a large presence at Consensus.

Daniel Fogg, CEO of Rootstock, told Cryptonews that while Bitcoin (BTC) is highly decentralized and secure, scalability remains a problem. He explained that Bitcoin L2s aim to solve this challenge. He added that L2s are also enabling Bitcoin decentralized finance (DeFi).

“The majority of Bitcoin sits on centralized exchanges, is held by custodians or is in cold storage wallets doing nothing,” said Fogg. “It’s storing value, but that value is not being leveraged at all. I think that’s where a Bitcoin DeFi ecosystem that is directly connected into Bitcoin becomes really interesting.”

And unsurprisingly, AI was discussed at Consensus. Brendan Eich, Founder of Brave Browser, went in-depth on this topic. He told Cryptonews that Brave Browser has a search engine that leverages AI for answers.

“When you type a query you can do a search and get the organic results or in the drop down there’s an answer with an AI item you can click,” said Eich. “That gives you a nice summary, and we footnote all our references so you can see where answers came from.”

According to Eich, Brave Browser aims to keep the web working efficiently by letting users find web pages through search answers – even those generated by AI. Yet he noted that including references and footnotes showing where those answers are sourced is critical.

“The real fear with Google is that you go into Google Search and it’s no longer a search engine. It’s an answer engine, where the summary doesn’t have footnotes,” he said.

Consensus 2024 Demonstrated Ecosystem Growth

Overall, Consensus 2024 demonstrated that the blockchain and crypto ecosystem continues to thrive. Despite the recent bear market and collapse of FTX, cryptocurrency adoption is well underway and people across the globe remain interested.

Ecosystem growth was indeed apparent, as Layer-1 networks have also begun to prioritize interoperability. Min Wei, Head of Ecosystem Growth at Algorand, told Cryptonews that a trend she noticed at Consensus was interoperability.

“We are really going to lean into that and make sure it’s easy for projects to get plugged into other ecosystems,” said Wei.

Moreover, while it’s been noted that men primarily make up the crypto sector, a number of women in Web3 events took place during Consensus.

Sandy Carter, COO at Unstoppable Domains, told Cryptonews that she hosted a women in Web3 brunch on May 29. Carter explained that the goal behind this event and others like it is to bring women together in real life to form business and personal relationships.

“Only 8 percent of the population in crypto are women, which is still single digits and that is ridiculous,” she said. “I’m hoping we are creating an environment of inclusivity so that everyone can come and participate. We do a lot of things digitally, but there’s nothing like a real world connection.”