For those following the rollercoaster ride that is cryptocurrency, you may come to the point where you ask, “Is it worth it?”. Feelings about crypto may be understandably mixed, depending on your account balance. But I can’t stress enough that there should be no such confusion about our commitment to cryptocurrency’s underlying technology. Blockchain is the bedrock on which we should concentrate our resources.
The blockchain is so much more than crypto. Blockchain 1.0 was, essentially “giving your money a brain,” as James Chmielinski of SourceCon says. Anonymity and a trustless technology via a shadow currency ushered in an alternative form of payment (altpayment) that made us rethink store of value. But Bitcoin, Ethereum and the like were just the beginning.
Blockchain 2.0 saw the expansion of the “smart contract” first used in cryptocurrency to other uses such as crowdfunding and property management. This was a huge leap forward as it opened up possibilities to use the distributed ledger for basically any kind of financial transaction. Fintech and financial services companies started to get quite interested in blockchain as a way to increase efficiencies and reduce costs associated with financial transactions.
Then came Blockchain 3.0 and the rise of the decentralized app, or Dapp, an open-source mobile or web software application that leverages blockchain technology. By piggybacking on an existing blockchain (such as Ethereum), DAapps can provide the scalability, transparency, security and anonymity of the blockchain with reduced development time.
It’s not incremental; it’s exponential. So blockchain enables improvements, great. How much of an improvement are we talking here? “We will need to get comfortable thinking about progress regarding 10X, 50X, 100X, and 1000X increases in performance. The potential value is mind-blowing when you start to understand how it works,“ Chmielinski explains.
It’s difficult to put a dollar value on that improvement, but consulting companies are trying. Gartner predicts that by 2030, the business value added by blockchain will grow to $3.1 trillion, but I think that estimate is low once all the ancillary effects are included.
Just as the true impact of the internet is still not fully realized, the effect that blockchain technology can — and will — have on the global economy won’t be felt or accounted for, for decades, if ever.
It will impact virtually every industry. Blockchain “packs the potential to change the way we live, work, consume and interact,” writes Qin Chen for CNBC. It will affect government, healthcare, education, manufacturing, energy and supply chain, to name just a few. In fact, I think it will be a rare industry or field that will not be impacted by the blockchain.
It’s common to compare blockchain’s disruptive powers to the Internet, with good reason.But I think a better comparison is to liken blockchain to the printing press. The printing press enabled the democratization of information and knowledge, ushering in a new economy and political system. I expect to see nothing less from the widespread change and acceptance of blockchain. Bringing information and inclusion of all kinds to the unbanked, democratizing markets, and enabling transparency at the highest level of the socio-political elite will drastically impact our world.
We’re still in early stages. In the early days of the internet, many saw the Web as a way to put static information online. Most people had no idea that it could and would spawn the rise of ancillary technologies such as mobile computing, AI, and social media. They saw it as a cool way to present their company’s offerings online with brochure sites and animated gifs.
The same is true for blockchain. As I’ve discussed above, blockchain’s potential is just being explored, with innovative applications growing daily. As more people — with and without technical backgrounds– understand the application and potential of distributed ledgers, innovative, transformational applications will come to light.