Our latest Gist report briefly looks at the future of Bitcoin and its related technologies – blockchain, smart contracts and distributed autonomous organizations. Proponents say Bitcoin will decentralize power away from banks and other institutions while distributing it across whole communities. If these promises hold true, Bitcoin will only be the beginning.
Download the whole report for free.
What is changing?
Financial institutions are investing in the blockchain to make their job easier and more secure. R3 CEV is a company specifically set up to help banks trial blockchain technology. They lead a consortium of 42 banks who want to see how blockchain technology could change their industry, the potential of which R3 compares to how the internet changed the music and media industries.
However, the blockchain could be useful for so much more than just financial transactions. Ubitquity has developed a blockchain platform specifically for the real estate industry. The company says the new platform will improve the title transfer process by making it faster, more accurate, and more transparent for fraud prevention. And they say it will improve the due diligence process for the industry.
Multiple organizations are working to use blockchain tech to make voting more secure, and anonymous. In 2014 a major political party in Denmark, the Liberal Alliance, used blockchain tech for its own internal party voting. Since the blockchain relies on consensus anyway, it is inherently a voting platform and could one day be modified by government entities for such purpose.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offer a libertarian ideal that could destabilize the current infrastructure of banks and other powerful institutions. The blockchain offers distributed, secure, trusted and highly scalable architectures that conventional technologies cannot compete with. Although the banking industry is pre-empting disruption by investing in this new technology, many of their business models and revenue streams will be affected especially with increased competition from the tech industry. The opportunity for the financial industry is high, but the potential risks are also large especially for smaller players in the industry.
- By 2027, 10% of global GDP will be stored on a blockchain network.
- Multiple bitcoin and blockchain companies will raise $100m rounds and reach $1bn valuations next year (2016).
- Several studies indicate that in the next four years the global market for digital transactions will reach $9.5 billion while global blockchain technology investments will reach $300 billion.
- Micropayments are expected to reach $13 billion over the next three years as cryptocurrencies gain greater acceptance.
- Decentralized payments technologies could transform the “business architecture” for money transfers.
- Blockchain could eventually cut costs for financial services such as credit cards, remittances and money transfers.
- Bitcoin technology could potentially be as disruptive as the internet itself.
- A system like this could transform the way people consume media online and enable content creators to receive payment directly on a pay-per-use basis.
- Brand equity in the industry will likely flow from partnerships with others in the ecosystem as banks play catch up with super-consumer brands such as Google and Apple.
- Reliance on third parties for noncore infrastructure and talent will be a common phenomenon as banks become increasingly connected via a complex network or web of vendors and third parties.
Verne Wheelwright is a pioneer in using foresight for personal development. The same methods that corporations and governments have used for the past decade are just as relevant for personal use as they are for shaping macro futures.
Many self help authors want readers to connect to their future selves, but none of them offer any practical tools for doing so. Such authors look too narrowly at the future to guide readers into visualizing multiple, plausible futures, and readers often give up or lose faith when their actual future turns out differently than they expected.
Wheelwright takes a different, less mystical approach with his award winning self-help book, It’s Your Future…Make it a Good One. He also offers some free downloads on his website which I strongly recommend, but the book provides readers with the perspective necessary to understand what these free resources are all about.
Most people view the future as either a hazy, cryptic event or a technological utopia. Neither of these views are true much less practical. The future is unpredictable, especially at a personal level. But the future can be forecasted into multiple scenarios to help organizations and (now thanks to Wheelwright) individuals steer their personal lives in a direction to achieve their goals no matter how the future plays out.
If you run your own business, no mater what size, this is the most important book you could read for your business success. As a business owner, your personal life is the rudder that steers your business, and to achieve success you need to align your personal future with the future of your company. Wheelwright even has a book coming out soon about applying these techniques to small and medium sized businesses.
Methods for learning about the future have been in use by businesses for decades, but the process was simply too complex for most individuals. The Personal Futures Network introduces some new, easily understood approaches that will help you to think and plan like a futurist. You will be able learn about and plan for your personal futures.
Think like a futurist? What does that really mean, think like a futurist? Well, each futurist may have some different thoughts, but generally futurists think about longer term futures, usually 10 or more years ahead. Futurists believe that the future is not predetermined, but that several futures are possible. If several futures are possible, then one of those futures may be better than the others, or a “preferred” future. Very important; futurists believe that individuals or groups can take actions in the present that will help determine the future.
That brief paragraph helps explain why most futurists don’t make predictions about the future, but rather suggest multiple possible futures, often in the form of “scenarios” or stories about the future.
The above quote was taken from Wheelwright’s homepage. The whole website is dedicated to helping readers understand how to look at the future in an effective and practical way. Read the book and begin learning more from your future than from you do from your past.
Wearing IT to Work is my latest trend alert based on my report on wearables. I am also hosting 2 free webinars to cover the basics of the report (please see links below).
Just as modern technology has changed the way we interact with the world and our understanding of it, new technological solutions are also enhancing our legacy and our ability to rest in peace.
What is changing?
For funeral homes, the internet is disrupting the industry as online stores sell coffins and mourners arrange various types of memorials online, but funeral homes have begun adapting to the digital age with new services to memorialize the dead that better reflect the networked lifestyle of the deceased and their survivors. A digital sign can be customized for each funeral with videos and pictures of the deceased along with rich graphics and live feeds, and funerals can also be live webcasted or tweeted for long distance family and friends who could not make the trip. QR codes and microchips can be placed on grave markers, benches, or plaques to direct the curious to webpages with the deceased’s bio, pictures, videos, links, etc.
For surviving friends and family, the deceased’s online activity has become a significant concern in more ways than one. For years, mourners have created webpages or social media profiles of loved ones who have passed away, and Facebook alone has about 30 million accounts set as deceased. But what happens when these pages and profiles become outdated, archived, redesigned or given new privacy policies? What happens to the currency left in online accounts when passwords are not designated to the deceased’s heirs? Conversely, who can view the skeletons—of the deceased’s or their contacts’ skeletons shared in private messages—locked in digital closets when those passwords are found? Who owns the data left behind, and who has the power to decide how it is used? Each social network and email service has its own policies. Some will send family the digital files of their profile and activity before deleting them while others retain all files but archive the profile to act as a digital tombstone.
For those planning for their deaths, companies are offering virtual services that could solve some of these dilemmas. If I Die is a Facebook app that posthumously posts messages to friends on certain dates after a profile has been designated deceased, and another company sends posthumous emails so the dead can always have the last word. Legacy Locker is a web service that stores online accounts and passwords to be given to pre-designated family members or friends. While offering this secure solution to ensure the safe delivery of data only to the right people is a great idea, it could also provide cybercriminals with a large target to hack and steal readymade identities. Legacy Organizer is an iPhone app that allows the user to create a personal record of their life and legacy as they want to be remembered complete with music, videos, life defining events, memoir, final farewell, and a will. LifeNaut is an online service that takes all the same information and plugs it into an artificial intelligence with an avatar that acts for the deceased. Other researchers are attempting to create lifelike robots with AIs based on an individual’s data to bring the dead virtually back to life. Such a robot could give that individual’s eulogy at their own funeral or provide company to spouses in need.
Why is this important?
Much of our lasting legacy is increasingly centered on our online activity shared with the rest of the internet community and housed in digital databases, and everyone with online activity will have to give greater thought to their digital assets and the data housed in their many online accounts as well as the online accounts of their contacts. How do users want these accounts to be cared for when they are gone? Who should be the executor of your online accounts, and how can your executor access these accounts?
Deceased profiles are already lengthening the mourning periods for many survivors who see the deceased’s profile image on their own accounts. Some psychologists say this may be healthy, but how much longer will that mourning period last if avatars and robots can mimic a deceased person’s personality with the ability for mourners to seemingly interact with the deceased? The idea of digital resurrection carries with it many issues that could improve society with better coping mechanisms and information analysis while also presenting a variety of issues for legal and social changes. Will people wish to converse with their great grandparents’ AI? Could we see a modern version of the ancient practice of ancestor worship? Could that make society wiser or perpetuate familial mistakes? As such technologies allow our loved ones to overstay their lives, will we begin to see a new emotion arise—one of mourning for a loved one mixed with joy and affection toward a machine housing that loved one’s digital resurrection?
Another important question for those thinking about their legacy, how long should your data last? No doubt new services will appear that could use the data in morbid or distasteful ways. Many old grave markers are defaced around the world. Could a deceased person’s data be used to deface their memory, whether 10 or 200 years from now?
While a number of concerns surround the rise of modern memorials, they also offer more people the chance to be remembered for posterity. These digital legacies might maintain accurate records for longer periods than ever before assuming the technology remains capable of accessing and organizing our data in a useful manner for later generations. The data should provide historians with greater insight into the lives of common people of a given era, and the potential immortality of our digital legacies could even help society, or at least the online community, maintain a cultural and historical foundation.
Also, for an interesting look at how such practices are affecting more traditional cultures, check out this article about the New Zealand Maori: http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/8129164/Maori-culture-adapting-to-presence-in-online-media
Ever since the 70s when the king of Bhutan suggested the idea of a Gross National Happiness metric to replace the Gross National Product, academics and politicians have explored the notion of softer research for measuring national progress. The UN developed their Human Development Programme which provided a much broader set of indices for nations to measure their progress and success against other nations. Likewise, many have followed suit with the Happy Planet Index, Genuine Progress Indicators, etc.
In what ways may happiness and wellbeing be useful as metrics for national progress and international success? Brookings Senior Fellow Carol Graham says higher levels of wellbeing translate into greater productivity in the workplace, and people report to be less happy when they make less than $60,000USD annually. Above that optimal salary, the measurement of happiness becomes much more complex. The Legatum Institute also posits opportunity and balance as necessities for prosperity and wellbeing. People in countries with faster rates of growth are less happy than those with slower rates. Fast growth means change and uncertainty, and people adapt to unpleasant certainty more readily than uncertainty. However, for people without the opportunity to change their station, day-to-day things matter more—greater focus on friendship, religion, etc.—which means contentment rather than necessarily happiness. So while uncertainty reduces wellbeing, the confidence to exploit opportunities raises it tremendously.
The balance between certainty and opportunity provides fuel for theories of human development because certainty of basic needs like food and water leads to a desire for higher aspirations. Maslow’s hierarchy of need and the theory of Spiral Dynamics may have their critics, but the simple fact remains that the more needs an individual is able to satisfy, the more developed the person is likely to be. Therefore, the more highly developed individuals a nation has, the more developed that nation is likely to be. If the Occupy Wall Street protests going global should tell economists and politicians anything, it is that GDP should not be the only metric of growth. If people feel their needs to be unmet, they eventually act out. If economists and politicians measure various forms of wellbeing on top of GDP, they may find weak signals of unrest which could eventually turn disruptive. Clearly these weak signals could then be attended but only if softer measures are adopted. Even the OECD is developing such metrics, but other organizations are still slow to adjust to the changing needs of global society.