The Top 3 Ways Blockchain Matter in the Future
Why Cryptocurrencies & Blockchain Protocols Will Thrive Despite the Crash
Separating Hype from Reality
There’s been a lot of buzz over cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and countless others. The numerous records broken by these currencies. The whopping thousand percent gains over the course of just a year or so. The recent, and I mean very recent, double digit crashes. The numerous articles on how cryptocurrencies are just bubbles and the hype is grossly out of proportion with its usefulness.
In truth, it’s hard to imagine what kind of impact block-chaining will have on our everyday lives. Even looking back just a couple decades, we can see a number of “world changing” technologies fall quite short from their lofty aspirations. When the concord was first unveiled, the press declared supersonic flight to finally be here. When nuclear power plants were built across the country, free, clean, and renewable energy was said to be a stone throw away. The decades came and went. Yet these technologies, while impactful, did not change the way we live our lives like promised.
And as a bystander, blockchain can seem like a niche technology only really useful for criminals committing illicit activities (think the Silk Road and its countless derivatives). Besides, the thought of a decentralized and incognito currency can actually sound pretty scary. So we ask to ourselves: How world changing could this new piece of technology really be?
Side note: I know that blockchain has been covered before. A lot. So I’m going to be focusing on its ramifications rather than discuss the technology itself. And if you’re new to blockchain, I highly recommend this article written by Mohit Mamoria who breaks down the topic in a way that anyone could understand it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Yes, there is a lot of hype. However, I think block-chaining has the potential to reshape the way we consume everything around us — from groceries to the electrical bill. Especially in ways you haven’t really considered before.
The Disruptive Nature of Blockchain
- Supply Chain Management
- Peer-to-Peer Transactions
- True Digital Security
Supply Chain Management
In order to understand what block-chaining can do, we must look at a current real world example.
Let’s Talk About the Present
Flexport, a $300m revenue company founded in 2013, reinvented the supply-chain industry. Before Flexport, international freight forwarding was a tricky business. There were so many moving parts and no standardized way to track any of it. You’d literally just call your supplier and ask where the shipment was. Then, after looking at their excel sheet, they redirect you to someone else. And so forth. Shipments get delayed, lost, and you never knew who to blame. Flexport changed all of this by standardizing and digitizing the industry so that suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers could all quickly and efficiently identify the location and status of the package. With data available, companies can target and identify areas where they’re overspending. Now hailed as a trillion dollar startup, Flexport is poised to completely change the way we ship our products.
So…What Does This Have to Do With Blockchain?
Like Flexport, blockchain has the potential to disrupt the way we interact with our products. When you go groceries shopping at a supermarket, you have limitless options — over 35,000 options to be precise. And if you live near Chicago like me, your food travels on average 1,500 miles to reach your plate. These are the miracles of globalization; stuff that we take for granted on a day to day basis. But it’s also a little frightening. It’s becoming harder than ever to see where our food is coming from. As consumers, we only see the final product. We really have no clue where we are getting our food from.
Full implementation of blockchain from end to end means transparency for all. As seen above, the current system of data management and tracking is severely fragmented. Flexport is already changing this for the better, but still relies on individual servers communicating with one centralized platform (Flexport). Blockchain is the future. Suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers can all tap into one trusted, decentralized, system for record-keeping.
Imagine you’re shopping for groceries, and you’re worried about the food you consume on a daily basis. With a QR code, an app, or an AR display (come back to me Google Glass!), you can quickly verify every step your product has taken in its journey. While that may sound like overkill, imagine if it’s life-saving products. Something you absolutely need to know is safe? What about for premium luxury items that you don’t want to be counterfeit? How about making the FDA’s and FSIS’s jobs easier? The possibilities are limitless and blockchain will get us to that safer, more transparent, future.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Transactions
As the recent shared-economy craze has shown, as individuals, we actually have a lot to offer to society. Uber and Airbnb have become billion dollar companies by simply allocating resources from one party to another. Block-chaining has the potential to take this framework to another level.
Sending money back home to your relatives? How nice would it be if it was delivered near instantly, anywhere in the world, and be perfectly secure without fears of hacking? Oh, and 100% of the money is sent to the recipient. How about selling the extra electricity generated by your solar panels to your next door neighbor? Those are the superpower of blockchain. Convenience, security, and total flexibility.
Combine it with existing or future IoT technologies and you can set up micropayments for just about anything you may need. The beauty of blockchain lies in its decentralization. As of right now, shared-economy platforms are all centralized systems. You use their services for the convenience and they take a cut. Not to mention if they go out of business, the service is removed. As we’ve seen previously, blockchain technology and the currencies built on top of it is owned by nobody. It’s decentralized.
Meaning: True shared-economy transactions. Your neighbor that drove you to work? He gets 100% of the cut. Both of you are made better off from the transaction. The economy is operating at near, if not perfect, efficiency. Blockchain really allow us to move towards a more democratic and efficient society.
Our online presence is larger than ever. With it comes the need to protect our digital selves. Up until now, it’s been extremely difficult to protect our personal information. The countless hacks on Target, Sony, and Yahoo. The thousands of personal accounts compromised show that the existing system is severely flawed. It is here where blockchain thrives.
No more centralized databases holding your sensitive information — obvious targets for hackers. There’s just the public and private keys in a transaction. Ledgers can’t be altered (without significant, near impossible, effort), and transactions are permanent. Of course, blockchain technology isn’t a perfect solution — there can never be perfect security apparatuses. But it is a whole lot more secure than our current system.
The opportunities stemming from this fact is endless. A digital passport for all of our activities? That could be a thing. What about email verification? Use your crypto address instead.
The Known Knowns and the Unknown Unknowns
I think former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comment on unpredictability is applicable to any emergent technologies — especially blockchain.
“Because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”— 2002 on Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction
I’ve attempted to articulate what I think are the biggest use cases of blockchain. But to be frank, I can’t even begin to think about what I don’t know. The unknown unknowns. Nobody quite saw how the internet would change our daily lives. That’s the nature of disruptive technologies. They create entirely new markets, and I see the same impact with blockchain.
While I cannot hope to perfectly predict the use of blockchain, I know, with certainty, that it will change our lives. It’s just a matter of time and how.
— Michael & Li Jiang
If you’ve enjoyed this article, consider clapping and following us for more content like this.