What started with Bitcoin as a virtual currency, is leading to a multiplicity of blockchain-enabled businesses and implementations. All this represents a truly great and significant change: a new economy based on this crypto-technology, able to provide unparalleled global value creation opportunities.
Despite the current predominance of applications for financial transactions and the accumulation of capital in cryptocurrencies, we will see a generation of wealth based on the development of new products and services. To understand it, it is convenient to review concepts such as money, value, rights, revenues and payments …
Money is a form of value, but not everything valuable is reduced to money. In fact, we can agree that the value is something superior than money. In the digital realm, cryptocurrencies are the expression of virtual money. The blockchain, which rides on the largest connected network on the planet, is the perfect platform for these cryptocurrencies, allowing a fast, efficient and cheap exchange.
The purpose of money is to pay for something that has a value attached to it; typically, you pay to obtain “rights” for owning or using something. Cryptocurrency, because of its programmability aspects, embodies digital information that can enable other capabilities. For instance, when you “pay” via cryptocurrency, that transaction could include additional trust-related rights, such as for property, information, custody, access, or voting.
Therefore, the blockchain enables a new form of transaction where the value is represented by what it unlocks at the end of the transaction, not just by an intrinsic monetary value that gets deposited in an account. In contrast to the financial markets, this is an unregulated market in which an unlimited number of valuable items are exchanged. In addition, transactions are more distributed, more decentralized and capable of generating other actions directly wired into the real world.
How will these new forms of value be created? With most enabling technologies, it is usual to begin duplicating the same processes, now faster and more efficiently. Then we start to innovate by doing things differently and by applying new ideas not tried before.
With blockchain technology, new value-generating services can be developed. As it happened with Internet and the Web, a new ecosystem will be created that will get stronger and consolidate. At present, these services seem to be segmented this way:
- Those based on the truth and trust provided by the information stored on the blockchain: identity, ownership and membership rights, time stamping, content attribution, voting …
- Services where a contractual component is executed on the blockchain (family trusts, escrow, proof of work delivery, proof of compliance, wagers, …
- Decentralized peer-to-peer marketplaces for services managed by participants and without intermediaries
- Distributed Autonomous Organizations whose governance and operations run on the blockchain
All these services grow without central control and they are fueled by the incentives of the cryptocurrencies, which are partly earned as tolls, and in part as compensation for the users and providers of those services. This is how wealth is generated in this new economy.
We are in the early stages of a new system of distribution and creation of value, far from the traditional norms that regulated its transfer and appreciation.