A Catholic author and entrepreneur calls on the Church to engage with new technologies poised to revolutionize not just finance, but society itself.
Matthew Pinto, founder of Ascension Press (Ascension) and nonprofit finance company The Genesis Group, will host the first Catholic Crypto Conference on November 17-18 at the Sheraton Valley Forge Hotel in King of Prussia.
The two-day conference, which will take place both in person and online, will feature more than 25 Catholic and non-Catholic experts speaking on topics that many worshipers may find unfamiliar or intimidating, such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, Web 3.0 and the metaverse.
The faithful should be prepared to explore such technologies with the “hopeful hope” that they are “divine sparks from the Lord through human ingenuity,” Pinto said.
All of these developments are expected to profoundly reshape human interactions in the years to come through the use of “decentralized networks”, which work to “actually create a more egalitarian environment, where individuals can transact, live and communicate with a greater great freedom,” he added. said.
From web to metaverse and blockchain
Invented in 1989 by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, the Web was the first technology to drive such decentralization, allowing scientists around the world to share information in an automated way.
The term “metaverse” was coined a few years later by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash,” describing a virtual reality that characters regularly enter. Last year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg adopted the term Stephenson (no business relationship) to rebrand his social media platform, which is now part of an online ecosystem that has become increasingly more interactive and immersive over the past three decades.
Web 3.0, which straddles (and is often confused with) the metaverse, now seeks to rid itself of the involvement of banks, Big Tech and other institutions, allowing users to “own and trade digital assets without depending on third parties,” as Wei Shi Khai of LongHash Ventures noted in a February 2020 commentary for Nasdaq.
This initiative is based on blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency – a digital currency that relies on encryption algorithms, while functioning as both a form of payment and a virtual accounting system.
The origins of the blockchain are shrouded in a bit of mystery: the 2008 white paper presenting Bitcoin as “a peer-to-peer electronic payment system” was written by a certain Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity remains unknown – rightly so, since the prefix “crypto” itself derives from the Greek word for “hidden”.
Nakamoto proposed a system that recorded digital currency transactions, maintaining a ledger on multiple linked computers. Timestamps create a “proof of work” which is a record of transactions, which are broadcast through participating nodes or computers running blockchain software, on the network.
“Without confidence”, but full of hope
Bitcoin and its competitors such as Ethereum and Tether have now become household names, representing market capitalizations of billions of dollars.
Still, Pinto admits the prospect of moving to broad decentralization remains dizzying for the average person.
“These concepts are so new, because we’re so used to legacy systems,” he said. “It’s hard for us to understand what that might mean.”
At the same time, he sees technologies “in a strange way as part of the unfolding of salvation history itself,” Pinto said. “I think anything created is considered by God to be morally neutral or good, and can somehow be used in human experience.”
Pinto added that the “trustless” environments of cryptographic technology, which eliminate third parties, actually indicate Catholic teaching’s emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that social regulation must take place at the level the as low as possible (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1883; Quadragesimo Anno, 80 years old).
The Catholic Church itself provides a model for balancing regulatory and autonomy concerns, he said.
“It’s very centralized, but its lived experience is decentralized (as it is found) in the parish,” Pinto said.
Above all, he encourages clergy, religious and laity to attend the conference with a “Catholic instinct” that “looks at creation with hope and caution.”
“We have to (consider) these things now,” he said. “They can be used for the greater glory of God and the common good of gospel values.”
For more information and registration details regarding the Catholic Crypto Conference 2022, visit the conference website.