By now, we’ve all probably vaguely heard about bitcoin. But there’s a difference between bitcoin, which is just a form of currency, and blockchain – the technology that underlies the cryptocurrency. Although it may not be bitcoin, I think blockchain technology itself is likely to drive a revolution for two reasons: its inherent philosophy and its wide range of (and many unfathomed) use cases.
Bitcoin has had some bumps in the road (think Silk Road and the Mt. Gox hack). It has some inherent problems with high fees and painfully slow transaction times; the currency itself has some technical ironing out to do. Some may speculate that bitcoin currency may not be legitimized because of deficient government regulation, but ironically, banks, the centralized institutions themselves, are coming around and making use of decentralized ledgers.
It’s not surprising that China, Bangladesh, Ecuador, and Kyrzygstan have banned ICO’s, wary of illegal activities; government entities fear cryptocurrency because they’re the ones that control the money supply. If the people control the money supply, that’s where the power will lie.
The ingenious mathematics and impeccable timing are what made bitcoin boom at the get-go, but I think the philosophical roots underlying blockchain technology will sustain it in the long run. The belief that developers hold about this versatile technology is what will make it explode. If you read through A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto, you start to notice that blockchain technology is based on an inherently libertarian core – down with big governments, down with the banks. The 2008 financial crisis cemented a generally widespread skepticism towards central financial institutions. People will fight to reclaim control, whether that’s over their finances or over their information.
Think of the endless slew of use cases that are going on now. Consensys recently released a podcast, “State Change – A New Approach to Ending Slavery”, about how blockchain technology is creating a more transparent supply chain in industries like apparel and seafood, particularly about which products were produced by means of slavery. Many consumers buy into products made from slave labor, and part of the reason is that it’s not in the corporations’ favor to be transparent with consumers.
Applications built on decentralized platforms like Ethereum will enable us not only to be smart consumers but give us access to information that is accurate and up-to-date. Just as the Internet gives us information at our fingertips, blockchain gives us transparency at our fingertips.
We want to be ethical people who make good decisions, but of course, sometimes we don’t seek out accurate information or knowledge. And even when we do, we don’t always have the time or motivation to dig deep, analyze, and verify that information. Like with anything else, it’ll be up to the individual to utilize this maximum transparency for good.
The idea of transparency rooted in mutual accountability and consensus is exciting. I believe that the drivers and developers of the technology, and the growing faith in the value of the currency, will gradually render government regulation powerless, and spark a revolution.