Here’s a glimpse of what a decentralized future might look like. Imagine a world where decentralization through blockchain technology has gone mainstream, and assets have become digital tokens.
You start your morning by preparing breakfast, and then making your way to work on a shared bike that sits outside your door. On the way, you take a quick detour to Starbucks to pick up your favorite brew. Instead of paying with dollars, you can hold your phone against the payment portal and use Starbucks tokens, earning a few loyalty points for the purchase that you can reuse later.
The uses are widespread: owning the token has turned you from a stakeholder — a consumer — into a shareholder and Starbucks community member. The token you earn when buying from them makes you a part owner of the company. It allows you to take advantage of discount deals they offer for token holders, just like you, and if you hold onto the tokens, you can vote on the future of the company.
This means that your purchasing and lifestyle choices have become your financial investments. On global exchanges, you will be able to trade anything because everything is tokenized: your everyday consumer choices in the form of Starbucks loyalty rewards, brand commitments like Apple shares from iPhone purchases, or your monthly gym membership.
The reason these companies are rewarding you with powerful tokens is that they want to hold you close. Much of the decentralized economy runs on peer-to-peer platforms where you can directly connect to others across the world for services and goods, without relying on big companies any longer.
Fast forward to the afternoon, you may go through a list of suggested people and projects on the global peer-to-peer banking platform, and update your settings on interests and preferred risk level that you would like to give small loans at. Of course, others may still keep their money in banks, but why leave your assets in vulnerable centralized servers at banks, when it’s more convenient and secure to manage them yourself?
The platform allows you to view a variety of projects from local development proposals in disadvantaged regions to exciting startups in high-tech cities. To decide your risk tolerance for loans you give, you may pay a little extra every month to automated risk analysis providers that operate on top of the platform and help you with deciding what your risk tolerance is.
After a long day at the office, you’re tired and decide to connect to the local transportation and location network to get a self-driving car. It arrives within 30 seconds and confirms your identity with voice recognition or fingerprint authentication, whichever is preferable. Although everyone has had to give up some privacy, most services still give you different options.
Once you arrive to your destination, the car will automatically collect the payment from your wallet and deduct some percentage of the different assets you hold according to your preferred settings. For example, you just paid for your car ride with .01 of an Apple share and 1 Starbucks reward point.
Right after the ride, the car may notice it has to charge up, so it will drive itself to a charging point and pay the fees automatically. It optimizes itself for profit as an independent economic unit, and pays for its energy use and repairs itself, so no company will need to own it, although a portion of its profits may always go back to the car’s maker. The rest, however, will go into the city’s coffers to improve infrastructure.
This future requires successful implementation of scaling protocols that can enable the technology to power widespread use of payment, banking, and internet of things applications, amongst others. Convincing users to switch to peer-to-peer platforms, and pushing companies to empower token owners with more functionality and voting powers may pose an even larger challenge, given the enormous marketing machines, and lobbying power that new platforms are up against. The first step to this future begins with people believing and trusting the power of the technology to democratize the economy.
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This article was originally published in Tech Bullion on Jun 15 2018.