I will never forget the first time I logged onto the Internet.
It was the late 90s, and I was in 5th grade. My dad had just bought one of those see-through Mac desktops (colored blue), and decided it was time that I have my own email address. He sat me down in front of the desk, explained an email address as “a digital mailbox,” and then I watched as the front page of AOL.com appeared to the grueling sound of dial-up Internet.
Over the past 20 years, the Internet (and the entire technology space) has gone from being a toddler to a full-grown teenager. But over the past year, it has become clear what is going to end “technology puberty” and move the digital world into adulthood.
On the surface, blockchain and cryptocurrencies have dominated headlines for making accidental Bitcoin believers in 2013 multi-millionaires in 2017. But for those who are actively working on blockchain projects, these fleeting moments that make headlines are missing the point. Today’s overnight success stories pale in comparison to the slow but massive shifts happening on very fundamental levels of nearly every industry.
For the past year and a half, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time not only working on a number of blockchain projects, but working with founders and CEOs of a wide variety of blockchain companies to help them improve their messaging. And I am a firm believer that blockchain technology will be the catalyst that brings our digital world into a state of maturity.
Here are 5 industries that are about to be heavily disrupted by blockchain:
Cryptocurrencies might seem new, but in reality, they’ve been around for nearly a decade (if not longer).
My first introduction to cryptocurrencies was nearly 10 years ago, when I sold some of the gold I’d earned in the World of Warcraft for USD. At 17 years old, I had successfully accumulated a digital asset, and then sold that digital asset for fiat — something that, today, seems entirely novel.
The gaming industry has been pioneering the digital landscape since the moment it was born. But the next step for gamers is to be able to buy, sell, track, and trade their digital assets in a way that has otherwise been done across forums and sites like eBay. For example, by leveraging blockchain technology, gamers will soon be able to trade the ownership of in-game items through smart contracts, or buy and sell assets using cryptocurrencies.
In addition, one of the biggest issues independent game developers face is monetizing their games and entering markets across the world. One project I’m advising, called MagnaChain, is the world’s first public blockchain for game developers, by game developers, allowing devs to bring previous games or build new games directly onto the blockchain.
When you consider how quickly the gaming industry has grown into the mainstream, it’s not difficult to imagine the scalability that will come with a more connected and integrated global economy within the gaming sphere.
If there’s one industry that needs a massive digital overhaul, it’s entertainment — specifically music.
One of the biggest issues that musical acts and artists face is getting paid appropriately. There are countless stories of remarkably successful bands going broke because of poorly structured label deals, or labels that don’t pay effectively, period. In addition, although streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music are working hard to make streaming a viable revenue stream for artists, the payouts are still pennies on the dollar compared to what artists made for CD sales just ten years prior.
As blockchain projects begin to appear in this space, one of the biggest pain points the technology is looking to solve is giving artists the ability to “sell” ownership portions of their music — think crowdfunding, but exponentially better. In the same way a company can hold an Initial Coin Offering to raise capital and allow users to share in the upside of the company, musicians will soon be able to tokenize or sell portions of their music, and give users the ability to collect royalties on the % of the ownership they hold.
Over the past few years, digital health has been one of the hottest industries to invest in. But combine healthcare with blockchain, and the sky is the limit.
One niche within healthcare that has shown a significant amount of promise is biomedical technology — an umbrella term encompassing the development and engineering of technological solutions, specifically related to the treatment and diagnosis of disease.
In order for these kinds of innovations to manifest, certain materials are necessary to have an industry-wide impact. Graphene, a semi-metal composed from a single layer of carbon atoms and arranged in a hexagonal lattice, is one of them. For context: the atomic arrangement of graphene makes it one million times thinner than paper. In fact, graphene is so thin that it’s considered 2-dimensional. Graphene is also the strongest known material in the world.
Cool stuff, right?
One of the first blockchain-based graphene companies playing in this space is called GraphenTech, and is developing proprietary technology that will enable the manufacturing of graphene on an industrial scale, at a fraction of the cost. This is just one example of how biomedical technologies will begin leveraging blockchain to gain a competitive edge, and a nod toward the vast realm of possibilities for blockchain to be integrated into all aspects of healthcare and biotech — from the manufacturing side, to the way consumers interact with their everyday health providers.
If blockchain enthusiasts are driven by a more transparent and trustworthy future, then few industries are as ripe for disruption as the news landscape.
As a digital writer, I am all too familiar with the never-ending list of issues the Internet faces when it comes to content prioritization. When a news story breaks, or a major event happens in the world (politically, socially, etc.), how we come across that information, where, and through whom, drastically informs our opinion of it. For proof, look no further than the stark differences between experiencing the news through, say, Fox News, CNN, and Twitter.
One of the projects I was brought on to advise about a year ago in this space is called RedPen, with the mission of the company to better understand what the entire Internet is thinking and feeling about a given topic. I was fascinated by the aim of the company because, as someone who makes a living by writing things online people pay attention to, even I’m aware that the publishing landscape is inherently flawed. RedPen’s goal is to give users insight into more than just what one columnist, at one publication, thinks about a given event — but what the entire Internet’s sentiments add up to, and what the general consensus is for each and every narrative.
This is just one approach to solving the issues that plague the news and digital content industries, but rest assured the amount of opportunity in this space for disruption will be abundant for a good while.
And finally, if there’s one industry that is about to be overhauled from top to bottom by leveraging blockchain technology, it’s finance.
This is one of those topics that has already been beaten into the ground by cryptocurrency enthusiasts shouting its potential from the rooftops. But the truth is, the finance world is very aware of the impact cryptocurrencies will have on the old world’s way of exchanging value. For proof, look no further than J.P. Morgan’s recent patent filing to tokenize securities.
While the idea of “everyone paying with Bitcoin” might seem like the next step for our economy to go digital, I don’t believe this is the end goal — or even the biggest shift we’re about to experience as a society. The real financial shift is going to come with passive actions, or value being exchanged without two people needing to interact directly. A few examples here would be: your electric car automatically charging itself at a light (and the money being extracted from your digital wallet), or funds being automatically withdrawn from your account when you exit a grocery store.
The financial shift we are going to observe over the next decade is going to encompass so much more than simply “using crypto more than fiat.” Blockchain is going to make it possible to automate so many different areas of our lives that require payments, that it won’t even be a conscious decision to use crypto over, say, USD. It will simply be part of the way the product or service operates, intentionally constructed to be as seamless as possible for the consumer.
Beyond that, expect to see global economies go through a huge adjustment as money starts pouring in and out of countries that have otherwise been entirely disconnected from the rest of the world.