2017 was certainly a formative year for blockchain.
The blockchain technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum suddenly matured from an awkward, pubescent, geekdom curiosity into a mainstream, masculine, powerhouse of virile market volatility, while delivering some fantastic investment returns (for those who stayed the course).
Yet while the big “cashmeousside” question remains for those seeking to repatriate their Bitcoin winnings for Pounds or Dollars, the exponentially larger consideration is what else blockchain technology can actually do.
And therein lies one of the core misunderstandings about the platform itself – which operates like a living, breathing and voting financial ledger. On the face of it, it allows us a sophisticated new transfer system for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from person-to-person without any banking or financial intermediary required.
All you need is a wallet and some digits, literally.
In other words, no more need for banks, go-betweens or other middle-men to receive or handle your money, pull interest off during the process and charge you a monthly fee for the privilege. That’s because the Bitcoin blockchain works like a giant Excel spreadsheet that shows the complete transaction history and location of every bitcoin to everyone at the same time.
Pretty neat, eh?
But that development is both seismic in terms of its potential impact on just about every business large and small in the world, and the precursor to a fundamental shift in transaction processing and financial governance that will change how we do things to a greater degree than even the mainstream arrival of the Internet.
Stranger still is that it all makes a great deal of sense.
Think about it. When the borders between things like media reporting and Joe-blogger were torn down by the arrival of social media and publishing straight to the web, it served to move the intermediary power of a relatively few authoritarian news and information sources over and into the hands billions of potential commentators.
There are now far more bloggers out there with much greater audience reach than there are newspapers, magazines and media stations to compete with them.
Blockchain opens a similar door in how it removes the barrier of financial (and many other) intermediaries, and gifts the power of those transactions, contractual satisfactions and agreements back to the people on each side of that virtual handshake.
In other words, will we really need banks in the future?
As such, pigeon-holing blockchain as simply a means to access some kind of currency trading Mecca to achieve overnight millionaire status, would be doing a profound disservice to what appears set to become a centrepiece of business and consumer life.
And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the new reality of Blockchain will be in mainstream use at some point between the lifespan of a common housefly, and the four-year mortality window of a guinea pig.
This is a global gamechanger, folks, operating in the here and now, and one that’s largely been mistaken as either a hiccup along the Silk Road and Breaking Bad drug and currency laundering underworld, a $multi-billion ponzi scheme underwritten by the elusive if not fictional Satoshi Nakamoto (more likely Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991), or a day trader’s distraction for those keen on drawing out candlesticks from market charts.
And more likely you’ll be buying bread, houses and cars with it before the clocks strike 2020.
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