First, there was a talk about the history of interfaces. Next up, a panel about the future of blockchain technology, some discussions on data, user experience design, cryptocurrency trading, and mining. Then came…Larry King.
To say award-winning journalist and former host of CNN’s Larry King Live looked a little lost at the Blockchain Futurist Conference Wednesday in Toronto would be an understatement. Then again, if you’ve followed what King has been up to since his retirement in 2010, maybe not. In recent years, King has lent his name and credibility to a litany of products and services that range from the reputable to the less-than, including the Prostagenix prostate pill, joint pain supplements, BreathGemz breath mints and psychic medium to the stars Harry T. And now blockchain/tokens.
Some might argue that a man whose only public appearances in recent memory have been infomercials and promotional videos would be an odd choice for an industry so vocal about its fight for mainstream legitimacy. They would, however, find themselves in the minority at the Blockchain Futurist Conference. King’s appearance as a panel moderator drew one of the biggest crowds of the day and enthusiasm from the crowd, despite the chosen celebrity endorser seemingly knowing nothing about blockchain.
After spending a few moments trying to figure out which chair he was supposed to sit in and which microphone he was supposed to use, King introduced a video created by GEAR, the green crypto mining technology company that counts the storied interviewer as an advisor and whose website prominently features him. Someone informed King that the clip had already been played before he walked out on stage. After an awkward pause, King won the audience back by taking off his blazer, revealing his iconic blue suspenders.
Sitting alongside a representative from his sponsoring company and two other panelists—and regularly confusing the names of all three—he led a 45-minute discussion titled “Mass Influence and Adoption of Blockchain Technology.” King admitted to having little understanding of what he was there to discuss (not that knowledge has ever been a prerequisite for a celebrity endorsement), starting his questions with qualifiers like, “I was given this question because I don’t know what I’m talking about,” before reading off of a prepared script. Maybe it was just because it was famed interviewer Larry King that you’d expect some pre-panel homework to be done.
Where King was able to shine were in the few opportunities he was given to relay some of his past experiences. He reminisced about learning how satellite television worked from Ted Turner, and discussing the early days of computer technology with Steve Jobs. Perhaps the most insightful question came when he asked panelists to imagine what Jobs would say about blockchain technology if he were in the room.
The rest of the questions were relatively simplistic for an audience of blockchain fanatics and technologists, which wasn’t lost among the panelists. Their challenge, it seemed, was to arrive at complex answers to straight questions like “when people ask you what you do for a living, how do you explain it to them?” and “Give me something that we’ll see in the next 10 years that will blow our mind. Will we be able to travel at the speed of light?”
And yet, attendees seemed to endorse the celebrity endorser. “I particularly just came in to see what Larry King’s perspective is; he had a perspective more of someone who’s an outsider, so it was interesting,” said Khalid Razzaq, the founder of Loop Network, shortly after the conclusion of the panel.
Though King fessed up to not knowing much about the technology he was discussing, his presence was clearly welcomed by the community he was there to support. After all, blockchain is still something of an obscurity in the technology industry, and the endorsement of a celebrity—any celebrity—could be considered validation.
“Larry King’s presence at this conference really illustrates where the industry is going and kind of gives validity to the space in general,” said Waseem Khan, the managing director of Dizruptiv.com, shortly before King’s panel. “You can make a good hypothesis about any market by who’s attracted to that industry, so Larry King is only a positive aspect in the blockchain space.”