During the cryptocurrency crash this year, most investors lost faith in the crypto entrepreneurs and their ICOs. Today, the general public too doubt the efficacy of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and assume the end of them is near. However, I believe this is just the start of a new chapter for an emerging technology – blockchain.
This year, I have been an intern at Koi Research Group, a company that focuses on blockchain education and cryptocurrency consulting. During my internship, I have learned the basics of cryptocurrencies and blockchain by researching the different types of digital coins. I read the websites, articles, and whitepapers of some of the biggest crypto coins. In other words, I have had a front-row seat over the last year to watch the Bitcoin debacle unfold, with some of the smartest minds in the sector as mentors.
What I have learned can be boiled down to this – blockchain itself is set to flourish with or without cryptocurrencies. Most people tend to think that blockchain is just another word for Bitcoin, but it is not. Blockchain holds a chain of information on a distributed network with a timestamp so it cannot be altered without network consensus. You can think if it like a necklace. Each bead on a necklace represents a block on the blockchain, and each of those blocks is made up of transactions put into bundles. Cryptocurrencies are merely virtual currencies that are built on top of blockchains – blockchains themselves are potentially the computing architecture of almost all business and government activity. A bold claim, I know, but Google “blockchain projects” and you will find thousands of big and small projects underway from the biggest players on Wall Street to municipal governments to mom and pop import/export companies.
And there are more than just economic-efficiency arguments for blockchain; for example, there are powerful social justice reasons for blockchain. For example, about 1.7 billion people in the world do not have a bank account, and therefore are unable to access bank features such as loans, mortgages, and free check cashing. Being ‘unbanked’ also puts them at a higher risk of having their money stolen. Since most of the world’s population has access to the internet thanks to globalization, and over 50 percent of those people use mobile devices, blockchains that utilize cryptocurrencies are an accessible, egalitarian alternative to banks. Since blockchains are decentralized, they are nearly impossible to hack, making them more secure than traditional banking methods.
Another important social good that blockchains could realize is the replacement of government-issued IDs. Because blockchains are able to store a person’s movements, history and finances with a cryptographic key that protects a person’s identity in a completely safe and reliable way, blockchain-based IDs could return control and the potential profit of an individual’s life-data to the individual rather than having to trust a government or private company with the data that is generated. Right now you must trust that your government and Facebook have your best interests at heart, while there are MANY reasons why you should not trust them.
Finally, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am getting too hyped about blockchain. Maybe this technology is still too advanced for the rest of the world, and maybe there are too weather “the cryptocurrency winter”. However, I am an optimist who is passionate about its possibilities beyond the economic arguments. I believe that cryptocurrencies and especially blockchain are here to stay, and I am totally committed to developing them to change our world for the better. We cannot afford cynicism, it is too late for that! My generation MUST continue to be optimistic today and every other day because we are the inventors of tomorrow.