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More than Money: Get the (Free) Gist on the Future of Blockchain

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.

Implications

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.

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Cryptocurrencies

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Learn more from your future than you do from your past

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.

Common Mistakes When Thinking About the Future

I have written before about how unprofessional it is for journalists and bloggers to say, “it may sound like science fiction but….” This statement is a reflection of the popular disdain for science fiction and of anyone who looks at the future. After the decades of journalists writing about science fiction predicting that which is now mundane, why does this perception of science fiction and indeed the future persist? Clearly many people make mistakes when thinking about the future. Below is Sara Robinson’s list of ten:

ad Futura

A friend and I have decided to try starting a more intensive blogging site. ad Futura is intended to be a foresight magazine for the masses–popular foresight in the same meaning as Popular Mechanics or Popular Science. ad Futura is taken from the latin to mean “to the future.” We actually borrowed the often quoted ad astra which means “to the stars,” but our future does not lie in the stars alone. We have many changes ahead, and society needs to be prepared for change. Please follow us as we attempt a foresight outreach to the hoi polloi. http://adfutura.wordpress.com/

Wellbeing as a policy objective

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.