In fact, it already is so much more.
This is something I’ve seen firsthand, both through co-founding Bee Token and advising a variety of other blockchain-powered projects. More and more, blockchain companies are finding ways to offer actual utility with their products and services, paving the way for further decentralization in their respective industries — from education, to short-term rentals, to civic engagement.
The biggest changes are still to come.
Ultimately, what we’re going to see across industries is a shift toward decentralization that will dramatically impact the sharing economy, which will then, in time, amount to a broader disruption.
Here are six industries where that disruption will happen first.
Disrupting the banking system was the first intended application of the blockchain. That’s because it stood to improve so drastically from being decentralized. In its current form, the system depends on a variety of middle men who siphon time and money and can’t be trusted, namely because their processes lack transparency — no one can hold them accountable.
The blockchain solves for both of those inefficiencies.
Eliminating the need for transactional middle men eliminates the need for costly transactional fees. And by storing records and financial information on a single decentralized ledger — monitored and managed by a collective instead of a single company — the entire process becomes more trustworthy.
What’s more is that banking on the blockchain has been proven to work. Now, it’s just a matter of implementation.
But that implementation will happen sooner than we think. In fact, big banks all over the world are actively investing in blockchain-powered projects and solutions. They know that soon, blockchain-powered competitors will enter the space and charge far fewer fees while offering more reliability. When that happens, a larger momentum will be ushered into motion.
Another industry that is already in the midst of blockchain-powered disruption is the home rentals space (short-term and long-term). That’s because, like banking, the present process of renting or possessing houses is remarkably inefficient.
When you rent a home for a weekend using Airbnb, for example, Airbnb takes a sizable cut out of every transaction. And as a centralized procedural authority, Airbnb maintains nearly total control of user data and of the community at large. If a guest makes a mess of a host’s house over the course of their stay, Airbnb alone decides what sort of recourse is appropriate — if any.
It’s for this reason that my team and I built Bee Token. We saw areas of the industry that could be ameliorated with the blockchain. In the Bee Token community, for example, the company itself does not demand any commission on transactions. Instead, we support a truly free peer-to-peer network of hosts and guests — one that is aligned philosophically and that ultimately manages, polices, and sustains itself.
In time, more companies like Bee Token will emerge.
This is because the blockchain-powered community that Bee Token supports operates more efficiently and in a manner that’s more beneficial for both guests and hosts. And as more guests and hosts realize how much more trustworthy and economically sensible this purer sort of community is, another shift will occur, and users will start demanding these enhanced levels of transparency and control.
Other companies are also starting to move into the rental space, including Rentberry, which is focused more on long-term rentals.
One of the chief benefits of the blockchain is that it guarantees a higher level of procedural transparency. And it’s hard to think of a process in which transparency is more important than voting.
The benefits of incorporating the blockchain into voting processes are expansive.
Elections in which results and information are stored immutably on the blockchain will be safer from the threat of both internal cheating and outside intervention.
Russia would have a harder time tampering with election results, for example, because tampering data on the blockchain is, in fact, impossible. You can look at data on the blockchain and determine where every vote came from.
For this reason alone, it will only be a matter of time before governments begin conducting elections using the blockchain to store and track data.
Imagine a world where the public has easy access to an immutable, historical database tracking all the policy decisions any given candidate has ever supported. This would allow us to elect more trustworthy individuals and to more genuinely trust our democratic process.
The benefits of the blockchain are not just economic or democratic — the blockchain also has the potential to save lives.
The blockchain can better enable people who need medical help to connect with people who can provide that help — whether that’s a healthcare provider, a pharmacist, or potential blood donors. It will also make it easier for doctors to give patients the right kind of help whenever they need it.
This is because if medical files, like patient records, are stored on the blockchain, it will be much easier for doctors to access that data quickly and efficiently determine what sort of treatment a patient needs.
This is more critical than you might think.
Imagine what it’s like treating patients in the aftermath of a natural disaster, for example. Right now, if a hospital’s records have been lost and patients are coming to you with unknown medical histories, it becomes much harder to give them the treatment they need since you have no way of accessing that data. But if that information was universally available on the blockchain, so long as you have your patient’s key, you could access their entire medical history — wherever you are, no matter the conditions.
Essentially, any process that connects two entities through the conduit of some institutional middle man stands to be disrupted by the blockchain. Enter: education.
In the future, the blockchain will make it easier for students across the world — regardless of geography or income level — to obtain a quality education.
It will do this by rendering the institutions that are typically relied upon to connect students with educators or educational materials basically obsolete. Students in the Middle East will be able to access educational content created by professors in the United States, and vice versa.
Although this is technically already the case, the problem for students is that accessing those materials is too often prohibitively expensive. One reason is that students, as part of their tuition, are forced to pay for things they don’t need.
If courses were available on the blockchain, however, students would have the ability to access only what they need in order to obtain their degree or even just to acquire the most relevant knowledge.
But it’s not just students who will benefit. Teachers who are currently underpaid can make their services available on the blockchain independently of universities or institutions, and in the process be paid in accordance with how valuable those services are determined by the community to be. Teachers, coaches, tutors, and content providers who over time earn a quality reputation will then be compensated more fairly.
In fact, one of the companies I’m advising, Teachur, is already tackling these issues through their own token, providing accredited degrees for as little as $1000 thanks to their token offering on the Ethereum blockchain.
Finally, the blockchain also has the ability to more efficiently connect the Internet of Things. Soon, phones, cars, medical devices — even refrigerators — will all be connected on the blockchain, enabling them to more effectively and predictably communicate and collaborate with each other.
For example, let’s say every thermometer in a given area was connected on the blockchain. In that instance, we would more efficiently be able to predict the weather for that region, since we’d have more data available to help us make conclusions.
Consider, also, smart cars. Right now, we have a lot of smart cars on the road, and they could all hypothetically be connected with each other. If drivers could communicate with each other on the blockchain, we could better manage traffic.
Ultimately, the blockchain will disrupt all of these industries and aspects of society because it more effectively connects people in their given communities. As the world shifts more and more to the sharing economy, this benefit is only going to become increasingly influential.
The shift is already happening — the disruption will be decentralized.