Wednesday, 29 January 2020

What’s Next in Blockchain? Ask This Teenage Engineer

Seventeen-year-old Ananya Chadha discusses how she is using blockchain and her very own cryptocurrency to help people share their genetics anonymously.

A 17-year-old, brain-computer interface developer is challenging people to rethink the possibilities of blockchain by creating her own encrypted interface where people can share genetic data.

Ananya Chadha—the youngest interviewee at Fortune’s inaugural Brainstorm Finance conference in Montauk, N.Y.—told Fortune Editor-at-Large Shawn Tully that “blockchain is so powerful for things that most people forget about.”

Rather than shying away from defining the complexity of blockchain, Chadha explained on Thursday how the basic principles of blockchain can be used for more than just cryptocurrency—it can be used for social good.

Similar to building our lives in virtual reality, Chadha said blockchain can be used in the real world to establish a “digital identity.” Through a combination of data points and biometrics like your brainwaves or fingerprints, she noted these different factors tell the blockchain who you are and what you own.

Chadha also illustrated how establishing our identity in the blockchain could address problems of identity theft or be applied to proper attribution in copywriting attribution.

“Blockchain adds value in a lot of interesting places,” she said. “If something can give you value and it’s possible to create value, then people will use it.”

The young engineer lit up as she discussed blockchain as a means for establishing trust—take the example of Facebook’s launch of Libra.

This past week, Facebook (FB) rolled out its own mode of cryptocurrency, which Chadha described as “cool.” While many worry about regulating the social media giant’s cryptocurrency, Chadha acknowledged the potential and scalability of this well-accepted platform.

“Things grow so fast that it’s super important we adapt our systems to where things are going,” Chadha explained.

Chadha’s interest in the intersection between genomics and blockchain began at age 14, and has since propelled her into the field of brain computer interfaces. Currently, Chadha is developing a brain controlled prosthetic arm, drone, and virtual reality games for Microsoft.

“We need to think about what’s next and not what’s already been created,” Chadha said.

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