So what comes after Bitcoin?
While crypto-currencies look set to be with us for a while, the future might not include the original token that remains the market's dominant player
When American science writer Morgan Peck outlined the future of crypto in an article for last week’s MIT Technology Review, she saw three possible scenarios.
Option one, said Peck, is total government control. So the dollar, the euro, the yen, etc, just go digital. Option two is the whole shebang being taken over by the likes of a Facebook-type tech giant, with Peck citing the launch by messaging app Telegram of its own Gram crypto-currency.
Option three is “thousands if not millions” of different token platforms that cover every type of payment possible. There was, it is interesting to note, no “Option four: all digital currencies disappear without trace.”
And that is because, like them or love them, there is now something akin to consensus that cryptos, in one form or another, are going to be with us for a good while yet.
Yes, the anonymity and wild price-swing opportunities, that both digital currencies and the exchange houses that trade in them offer, have attracted money launders, Ponzi hustlers, hackers and market manipulating scammers.
But their speed, efficiency and low running costs have also more recently attracted the attention of the world’s major financial institutions, be that banks or governments, all the tech giants and the planet’s biggest sales platforms, from Amazon to Alibaba.
Many futurists are now even saying that the widespread adoption of cryptos will change the actual fundamentals of how we trade, bank and interact commercially.
But all this might happen without Bitcoin.
Bitcoin changed the world, writes Peck, because it was the first financial payment service that was “issued and distributed not by a central bank but by its own users … one that people could move over the internet instantaneously and nearly free of charge.” It remains the dominant crypto and at the start of April “its market cap was three times that of Ethereum, its nearest competitor, and roughly equal to those of all other cryptocurrencies combined.”
But none of this might matter in the future. Those over 30 years of age will remember how Netscape absolutely dominated the mid-90s days of the early mass-market internet. Look where they are now.
Bitcoin’s early adopters, says Peck, “have held fast to the dream of a single world currency that is private, free for all to use, and under the control of the masses. But the seven billion people not yet using Bitcoin might not care about any of that. With networks, convenience wins, and convenience is based on size. It’s the reason you’re on Facebook rather than some other social-media site – because everyone else is.”
So what will the future look like? That’s a very good question.
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