How will blockchain shape our future?
Thoughts on where we’re heading.
The most far-reaching accomplishment of Satoshi Nakamoto and bitcoin was to introduce us to blockchain / Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).
DLT, in its many shapes and sizes, is transforming what began as an economic experiment into a full-scale societal revolution that will permeate every nook and cranny of our world.
The internet has barely been around for twenty years and it’s completely changed the way we behave and interact. It’s had an obvious effect on the way we exchange value and ideas, speeding up processes and shortening distances.
But the internet is far from perfect, as you’ve probably realised. We still don’t know if people are who they say they are, we have no means of verifying information and our data and identities are far from secure.
Verifiability, authenticity and trust on the internet still elude us.
Technology is constantly evolving though and every now and then it takes a giant leap forward. DLT is one such leap.
DLT is a secure way of structuring, sending and storing data online. Its primary breakthroughs are that it allows information online to be distributed but not copied, introducing the idea of scarcity to the digital world, while also being decentralized — not owned or controlled by any one entity.
For the first time, information and value can be distributed around the world without the risk of it being copied, forged or tampered with and without the need for it to be controlled or channelled through intermediaries.
The responsibility to maintain and validate data is put in the hands of the users, and the result is a secure, transparent, immutable, incorruptible, system of data registry (or ledger).
Despite being around for over a decade, the technology is still some way away from being considered mature. It took a while for news of its creation through bitcoin to spread, and even longer for people to notice its potential beyond the world of finance.
But now there’s a race underway. A race to bring this new technology to the masses and to really set the revolution in motion. There are plenty of people working on bringing the technology to the real world. Every day, new use cases are being envisioned and put to the test and once rolled out at scale, the effect they will have on the way we behave an interact will be profound.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer that no stone will be left unturned by DLT. Everything from finance to production, mobility, health, entertainment, real estate, education, energy and even government, will feel the effects.
DLT creates opportunities for organisations to embrace decentralization, and although that may sound counter-intuitive to some, the improvements in terms of security, efficiency and ultimately bottom-line, make it impossible to ignore. Creating ecosystems and societies where there is no need for third-party reliance or interference, a notion which was central to the first blockchain, is still a core driver of developments in the space.
We can expect the DLT revolution to be spearheaded by organizations, corporations, institutions and startups. One just hopes that Satoshi’s initial digital decentralization dream doesn’t get lost along the way.
In the months and years to come, organisations and people alike can expect to conducting virtually any transfer of value instantly and directly. With increased uptake of this technology we are also likely to witness increased transparency and accessibility, greater user empowerment, enhanced security and the solving of big issues such as data manipulation and security online.
Ultimately we can expect processes in work and life to be conducted with guaranteed integrity, and our societies to be drastically simplified.
In the same way most people who use the internet are interested in what it does rather than how it does it, the technological genius behind blockchain will go unnoticed.
So where are we heading? In short, a new economy. The internet has altered the world immeasurably, making things our ancestors would have considered impossible not just viable, but commonplace. We can communicate over vast distances in seconds, access all kinds of information and order, pay and have anything from a bottle of water to a semi-autonomous vehicle delivered practically anywhere, all from a handheld device.
DLT is the missing building block of the internet — the trust protocol. The addition of a trust layer, of a consensus feature, will completely change the digital world as we know it today. It will give us a way to be sure of our information and data, eliminate the possibility of fraud and corruption, write self-executing smart contracts with each-other and send value of all kinds directly to one another, instantly and without borders.
Given how the internet has changed the world, you would not be blamed for thinking DLT could do the same. And since DLT has the plumbing of the internet to build on, the change may come around much faster now that it’s finally taken centre stage. It will change the way we behave and interact on a fundamental level, just as the internet did.
A world where distributed autonomous institutions are the new order of the day. A world where uncertainties are converted to predictable, verifiable certainty. A world in which trust, for the large part, is no longer a human interaction, but an in-built protocol.
In the words of a good friend and inventor of Ethereum’s Whisper Protocol, Guillaume Ballet;
‘DLT offers the possibility to build organizations in which you don’t need to trust anyone. That’s almost magic to me. It will take a long time for society to adapt — if it ever does — yet I’m starry-eyed when I think of a world where people aren’t so scared of other people … because they don’t have to be.’