Peer-to-Peer Technologies and Our Journey to “Personal Freedom”
What will happen to platforms and blockchain technology in 2018?
The Internet is full of discussion about the possible future uses and benefits of blockchain platforms.
My own reason for believing that platforms that enable more direct “peer-to-peer” transactions are here to stay is actually very simple:
A “flatter” world will make us all happier.
Here is why.
Escaping a “Centralized World”
We live in a world that has long been dominated by centralized authorities, formal and informal hierarchies and “proper” procedures.
Of course, pre-defined structures supported by “correct” procedures have traditionally been necessary to structure trust and to get things done. And technological revolutions have often led to an increase in such structures and procedures, as we come to terms with the impact of these new technologies.
But what is interesting today is that “peer-to-peer” technologies are disrupting this old world.
Peer-to-peer technologies are introducing a mind-set shift in our society.
The shortcomings of a “centralized”, “hierarchical” and “proceduralized” world are becoming clearer every day.
For a start, they make decision-making processes slow, cumbersome and expensive.
On an almost daily basis, we can see how “peer-to-peer technologies” actually lead to better and more satisfying solutions. And this goes much further than the advantages of Uber or Airbnb.
For instance, the advantages of networked mobile devices and platforms became very clear when a powerful storm raged over Europe last week.
The storm resulted in the cancellation of public transportation and rail services. While the “centralized” organizations were floundering around looking for a means of transport for the stranded passengers, a “bottom-up” solution (supported by the railway company) quickly emerged on Twitter. People started to use the hashtag #StormPoolen (or storm carpool) to search and offer rides between cities to strangers stranded by the storm.
There are many more examples of platforms offering “better” solutions to some very old problems. Problems that have traditionally been handled by highly centralized systems.
Take e-Court, an online private court, aimed at replacing traditional legal proceedings. Despite the uncertainties, ordinary people are attracted by the system’s speed and user-friendliness.
So, What about Blockchain and Smart Contracts
Of course, the idea that we are moving towards a new and “de-centralized” world doesn’t always create instant excitement. Whenever I introduce the idea to my students, I usually get some pushback. At least, at first.
Many students aren’t immediately convinced of the benefits of the move to a decentralized society and decentralized autonomous organizations. It is often conceived as a shift to a freer and less regulated “new Middle Ages”.
But they are quickly persuaded.
Most of them soon see the potential of blockchain technologies to replace hierarchical procedures.
The younger generation view centralization as a threat to personal autonomy and happiness. It’s a common refrain that an overly proceduralized society bogs people down. Formal structures and process kill creativity and lead to exhaustion and burn-out.
Think about it. Humans are hard-wired to embrace adventure, to connect and experiment. The younger generation intuitively understands that there is little room for manoeuvre in a highly centralized world.
Personal freedom and expression can better thrive in a decentralized world, provided, of course, that it offers a structured and secure environment.
This is why so many people are intrigued and captured by blockchain platforms.
And, of course, the younger generation are aware of the technological and regulatory shortcomings of blockchain platforms. They also know that many blockchain and smart contract initiatives and start-ups will fail. They know that “prime time” is most likely still several years away.
But this is just part of the trade-off.
It’s worth waiting and investing in the development of blockchain technology, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. The more initiatives and experiments, the sooner we will see mainstream applications. Decentralization and automated trust are just a next step in our evolution.
A Final Note
Bitcoin and Ethereum were in the media spotlight in 2017.
Everyone — business, government, investors, charities — are now experimenting with platform and blockchain technologies. “Become a platform or be replaced by one”. That is the mantra of this new world.
Various reasons are often given for conducting such experiments.
The main benefits? Cost savings that result from cutting out intermediaries and creating more transparency are often mentioned.
But these new technologies also empower people. They provide new secure environments in which opportunities for personal fulfilment and individual creativity are increased.
It is only to be expected that in 2018 personal happiness will be added to the list of benefits of a flatter, more open “blockchain-based” world.
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