Identity may be the killer app that pushes blockchain technology into mainstream consumer use. That was one of the predictions at the Blockchain Conference in New York on Wednesday, where panelists took a look at the future of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain.
Left to Right: Meeta Yadav, blockchain chief data officer, IBM; Yorke Rhodes, blockchain global business strategist, Microsoft; Bobby Lee, CEO of BTCC and board member of Bitcoin Foundation; Joe Lubin, founder ConsenSys.
Joseph Lubin, the founder of ConsenSys and a major supporter of the Ethereum Foundation, compared the growth of blockchain to that of the World Wide Web, where it took nearly a decade for the Internet to become an indelible part of our daily lives. But blockchain adoption will happen much faster, maybe in five years.
Blockchain acceptance is probably at the initial flat part of an S-curve right now, and identity apps will take that to an upward, exponential growth, according to Lubin.
A verifiable digital identity, with a portable reputation system, would empower more people to open bank accounts, apply for loans, land jobs, and participate in the global economy.
“If you have access to Internet, you can establish your own identify construct. That is a boon to 2.4 billion people on the planet who don’t have identity,”
But Bobby Lee, CEO of BTCC and board member of Bitcoin Foundation, disagreed. He said digital currency would be the next killer app. Just as the Internet of Things and virtual reality will become part of our everyday experience in the next 20 years, so will digital currency.
“Bitcoin fulfills a promise of the first global money. It is instantly valuable in all countries of the world,”
Lee said, pointing to the current difficulties we have in exchanging one currency for another. The price of bitcoin will also continue to rise, predicted Lee.
“As long as the governments of the world, the central banks, keep printing more and more fiat money, and as long as we measure bitcoin price in that ever inflating fiat money—when Bitcoin itself is only 21 million forever—my logic tells me that price will keep going up.”
Panelists also discussed other future potential uses for blockchain, such as tracking knowledge assets, ideas, and allowing artists to attach their usage to content.
Blockchain will one day play a role in keeping contract negotiators on track, preventing them from doing things like changing already agreed upon parts of a contract. Yorke Rhodes, blockchain business strategist at Microsoft, stated,
“You can imagine a new market for legal documents that get signed at the legal clause level. If you can actually start to codify that with signatures as you go through those clauses, it makes it a lot harder for people to use those negotiation tactics.”
Blockchain may also have a potential spooky side as Lubin elaborated,
“Due to unstable, un-censorable code, there may be bad actors that do some disturbing things. There is a lot of positive activity on the World Wide Web, but there is also a Dark Web. I expect the same thing for blockchain.”
But he did offer reassurance, saying that if that if anything “unintended” were to happen, we would likely see some type of social solution or consensus to keep things under check.