As time marches on and disruptive, innovative technologies continue to pop up all over the world, it’s not always easy to tell if these developments will aid the disenfranchised or maintain the status quo. While these kinds of questions are difficult to parse through the complex haze of digital culture, look at the industrial revolution as an example. You’d think that mass production and revolutionary technologies would have made life easier, rather than more difficult, for your average worker. And yet, by and large, it reduced quality of life and turned cities into ugly grey, belching pits of industrial squalor.
While most of humanity is completely dependent on the Internet for a plethora of information and services and we’ve come to regard the world wide web as a normal part of everyday life, it’s really a very young technology in the grand scheme of things. Between cryptocurrency, online marketing, the financial tech bubble, digital services like Lyft and Spotify, folks are making and losing fortunate left, right and center. Since most of the globe has been developed and exploited for its commodities, it makes sense that the new frontier of opportunity would be the digital universe that we’ve created beyond the physical one.
Because many financial opportunities rooted in the digital world are so new and well publicized, the liquidity, volatility and risk/ reward factor for speculating in this arena is extremely high. Betting big on crypto, for example, is not for the faint of heart. It is, in fact, somewhat paradoxical that a technology (Bitcoin and the blockchain it runs on) that was initially created to counter the dominance of huge financial institutions has become a popular bet for famous billionaires and career investors.
At the same time, with the advent of easy-to-use platforms and gateways like Bitbuy.ca, folks with incomes closer the national average are dabbling in smaller bets and even utilizing the blockchain for normal transactions and money transfers. With increased liquidity and the ability to swap bitcoin for USD with ease, people are getting more comfortable using crypto as an everyday alternative.
With the financial media’s focus trained on mainstream acceptance of crypto and its growing markets, the question becomes, how will the more traditional forces of our world find a way to bend this technology to their will.
Banks and the Blockchain
It’s no secret that banks – especially in the world fintech capital of London – have been trying to figure out how to use the blockchain’s paperless ledger to simplify onerous, complex deals involving paperwork and weeks of work, reducing the wait time to just a few hours. In fact, the first ever large trade-finance transaction to be executed using blockchain technology was completed earlier this year, when HSBC processed a letter of credit to the US group Cargill through blockchain technology. Mass adoption by big banks could lead to huge layoffs, since the work of back-office number crunchers would be significantly reduced.
Governments (Okay, China)
China’s central government has condemned ICO’s (initial coin offerings) and claimed that all crypto exchange amounts to scamming and dissident. At the same time, a state-sponsored Digital Currency Research Institute is rumored to be developing a “legitimate” Chinese cryptocurrency, which would be backed up by reserves of fiat currency. Safe to say, Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever they are) would not be pleased. At this time, the story of crypto seems like it may define the future of finance in the 21st century.