At a recent ACG Silicon Valley event, Carnegie Mellon University instructor Tarun Wadhwa discussed the future of bitcoin and the potential power of Blockchain. Blockchain technology has a large potential to transform business, being both a disruptive innovation as well as one of the newest foundational technologies. That potential is already is already bearing fruit in many important industries, along with the growing pains. Tarun touches upon the future possibilities as well as the hurdles.
The biggest story in the ecosystem of blockchain is tokenization – the ability to turn physical and digital objects into a cryptographically secured digital representation of a set of rights. In other words, a string of code that can be tracked, traded, and split up into micro-fractions. We saw the first wave of excitement with ICOs, which are tokenized company equity, but that’s just the beginning.
Tokens will play a critical role going forward in virtually any digital exchange of value. And the implication of this is the creation of massive, entirely new markets. Assets that couldn’t be sold can now become liquid…it will soon be possible to buy shares in a house or an art painting just as you would stock in a company.
Yet to explore the real opportunities, we must also examine the hurdles that might hamper the growth of blockchain use. It is complex by nature, which make it hard for many users to understand. It lacks oversight thru regulation, which makes it risky. It can be an arduously slow system, which makes it less attractive for simple uses. It uses massive computing power for its checks and balances algorithms, which makes it dependent on large amounts of electrical power. And it promises to remove all the middle men, which also discards the value of expertise and dispute resolution that middle men delivered throughout history.
It is important to understand both the possibilities and the hype. While the vast majority of use cases we hear about today are going nowhere, there is something larger going on. Blockchain or some other form of partially distributed ledger, will ultimately be transformative in defining the future of how we own and exchange things.