Wyoming residents see a new and potentially lucrative opportunity in blockchain technology—a digital ledger system which records transactions across many computers and, its proponents argue, is virtually hack-proof.
CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.
Cheyenne Frontier Days is billed as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo and Western Celebration.”
This lively and busy 10-day event, held each summer, showcases Wyoming’s rich western heritage.
That doesn’t mean, folks who live here say, that their state is stuck in the past.
“We recognize the need to be visionary and forward-thinking,” said Tara Nethercott, a Wyoming State Senator. “We always have been, and we always will be, and this is just part of that culture that we have here in Wyoming.”
Some residents see a new and potentially lucrative opportunity in blockchain technology—a digital ledger system which records transactions across many computers and, its proponents argue, is virtually hack-proof.
“The advantage is that you don’t have a single point of failure,” said Mike Borowczak, an assistant professor of computer science at University of Wyoming. “Instead of relying on one core entity to solve a problem, you now can distribute that amongst many people.”
A few years ago, Wall Street investor Caitlin Long was prevented from donating the digital currency Bitcoin to her alma mater, the University of Wyoming, because Bitcoin was illegal.
“Guys this is a problem,” Long, the co-founder of Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, remembers saying. “We got to get this fixed. And that’s how the ball got rolling… We did a lot more than fix the law.”
Over the past two years, the Wyoming legislature has passed more than a dozen blockchain laws, providing digital assets a legal framework. That’s key to scaling-up the industry which is the coalition’s goal. A number of tech-related companies, encouraged by the state’s crypto-friendly environment, have or are planning to move here. One Wyoming county’s land records are already being transferred to a blockchain system.
“I think the blockchain’s the future, right?” said Rob Jennings, C.E.O. of Beefchain, a Wyoming ranching operation. At a time when consumers want to know the history of an animal, all sorts of information about Jennings’ cattle is recorded on blockchain.
“Not only where it came from but the humane handling of the animal, whether it’s non-hormone treated, whether it’s all-natural or whatever claims are around it,” Jenning said. “A lot of that was being done previously with paper.”
A visiting rancher from neighboring Nebraska is considering blockchain too.
“A book’s not really good if you just read one chapter here, one chapter there,” John Widdowson said. “It’s when you put all the chapters together, and so that’s what blockchain is going to do. It’s going to allow us to put all the different sectors of the cattle industry together.”
There are even plans to tokenize the century-old and long-abandoned Hynds building in downtown Cheyenne, making it easier, some say, for community members to chip in and help save it.
“It will drive down the cost of entry into the investment so more people can participate in the growth of the value of the building,” said David Boyd, another coalition co-founder. “It’s a marvelous piece of architecture and it’s a marvelous part of Cheyenne’s history.”
At a time when the state’s coal industry is in decline, enthusiasts say blockchain is re-writing Wyoming history and changing the state’s economic landscape which has long been reliant on coal mining, farming and ranching as well as recreation.
“Certainly there’s a sort of a great juxtaposition of the Old West and the new tech and that’s why you guys are here interviewing us because that makes for a great story,” Jennings said.
In fact, Long and others added, Wyoming has always been known for business innovation, making it a perfect place for crypto entrepreneurs.
“Well there’s an ethos in this community which is rugged individualism, personal responsibility,” she said.
She argued that allows the state to charge ahead in this wildly different direction.
“So it’s coming,” Long said. The hope is that it produces positive results.