Blockchain and cryptocurrency could prove instrumental to local New York businesses, and transform local economies, NY state Assemblyman Ron Kim tells TechRepublic's Dan Patterson. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Dan Patterson: New York State assemblyman Ron Kim, thanks for joining us today. Before we start our conversation about cryptocurrency and the blockchain, could you first help us understand your district, and how emerging technology impacts the people who live in your district?
Ron Kim: I represent District 40, that's Queens in New York, and this is my third term in the state legislature. It's a district that's comprised of around 60% Asian-Americans. There are over 120 different languages spoken in my district alone. It's a place where I grew up around immigrants and other ethnicities, all my life, and it's a community that embraces the technological innovative culture that New York has to offer.
Dan Patterson: So, cryptocurrency and the blockchain have been around for a long time, but in the last 18 months or so, they've really exploded into the public consciousness. This is a big question, but how do we regulate cryptocurrency?
Ron Kim: That's an extremely difficult task for one government entity to undertake. It requires a collaborative effort by all levels of government, starting from the federal government, all the way down to the local municipalities. At the state level, I'm doing my best to put together a set of parameters that makes the most sense, that doesn't shun out the entire industry, which has been the case over the last four years for the state of New York, because unfortunately, we took the initiative under the regulatory body, the department of financial services, to put together a set of regs for the bit license, 44 pages of rules that don't fit into the current climate of crypto and blockchain communities that have left hundreds of companies leaving New York, and other startup companies refusing to come into New York, to invest any more dollars into the blockchain development. And that's very unfortunate, and I'm trying my best to undo that with some new regulations.
Patterson: Often, and this is easy to do, blockchain and cryptocurrency are conflated. Help us understand how we differentiate the two when creating proper policy.
Kim: You can just break it down to two categories— people who are in it for trading, versus people who are in it for the investing part of the blockchain technology. When Benjamin Lawsky, the superintendent who set the guidelines and the regulations for the bill license, the only framework in the lens that he and the agency looked at was from the side of trading. How do we make sure...
Dan Patterson: The currencies.
Ron Kim: The currencies, right. How do we crackdown on the bad exchanges? How do we make sure that people, investors, they feel comfortable being part of this ecosystem?
Unfortunately, there's a whole new world of... fortunately, rather, of investors who are trying to develop the technology of blockchain, to do much more than just trading, to have social impact in everything that we do, all the way from retailers to hotels, tokenizing rooms.
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It's a transformative technology that's about to hit every single sector of our world, and New York must be part of that, must be at the front of the investment side of blockchain.
Unfortunately, because of the way that the regs have been written, people don't want to touch it, people don't want to come in it, because they're not sure whether they need to get the bill license, or if they come in without the bill license, any given moment the agency can crackdown on them.
Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.