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If you’re not an enthusiast already, it’s time to start believing the hype about blockchain. In fact, it’s difficult to under-hype the significance of blockchain. It might be tempting to roll your eyes when hearing hyperbolic statements like, “it’s the most significant technological advancement in our lifetime. Or since the wheel.”
But this isn’t just wonky numbers geeks getting overly dramatic. It’s no exaggeration to say you need to understand blockchain, cryptocurrency and exponential technology in order for your startup to survive and thrive in the coming decades.
What is blockchain?
You’ve heard of and are maybe even trading in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency. But, cryptocurrency is just one example of what is possible through blockchain technology. It’s a distributed network of information, or a block of information, moving through a chain of agreed upon terms.
Investopedia describes it this way:
“Blockchains – which use what is known as distributed ledger technology (DLT) – are appearing in a variety of commercial applications today. Currently, the technology is primarily used to verify transactions within digital currencies, though it is possible to digitize, code and insert practically any document into the blockchain.”
In other words, blockchain can be used as an authentication tool for most any information.
Through my podcast, Onward Nation, I have the privilege of speaking with some of the very best minds in the business world. Two of the most fascinating interviews I’ve done recently were with Ric Edelman and Terry Brock.
Edelman and Brock both know about the potential of blockchain to alter the world as we know it. Ric Edelman is widely regarded as one of the top advisors in the wealth advisory field, having been named in 2016 among the country’s Top 10 Wealth Advisors by Forbes Magazine. His latest New York Times best-seller is entitled “The Truth About Your Future: The Money Guide You Need Now, Later and Much Later.” Terry Brock is a communicator who helps individuals and organizations master technology and relationship marketing to build their business and be more profitable. He currently is a leader in the blockchain and cryptocurrencies space helping people make sense of and make money with these game-changing tools.
Beyond the trust economy
Edelman explains that blockchain has the potential to eliminate the trust economy and replace it with authentication economy. Trust is expensive. Edelman uses the example of settlement on a home.
Normally this process takes 60 to 90 days. You are trusting mortgage lenders, real estate brokers, title companies, lawyers, etc. The title company needs to verify ownership of the land, and any liens or encumbrances on the property. Mortgage companies need to verify your income and credit history, all of which takes time. All of these services cost money on top of the price of purchasing or selling the home.
With blockchain, all of this information and all of these processes can potentially be accomplished instantaneously. You can settle on that house later this afternoon, if you want to. This is the future, according to Edelman.
Brock continues the theme, further expanding on it. Blockchain is all mathematics and the math is verified at every “link” in the chain. Terms are put in place, and there is no guesswork involved. Again, you do not have to trust multiple people and organizations in a transaction. This is the beginning of a trust-less economy.
Lifelong learning is more important than ever
Both Brock and Edelman see a larger lesson in the advent and ascendency of blockchain technology: the importance of lifelong learning. The job you are in now may or may not exist 10 years from now. Exponential technologies such as blockchain and AI are even now disrupting industries and making some jobs obsolete.
Brock points to an example from the late 1800s when machines were developed to gather grain from fields. This put people who wielded sickles for a living out of work. In order to survive, they needed to adapt and learn new skills.
Edelman and Brock both see jobs with repetitive tasks as on the way out, and not just areas we often think of, such as assembly workers and drivers, for instance. In the legal world, there are AI systems like ROSS taking over the role that used to be filled by first year law associates.
I asked Edelman and Brock for one or two big takeaways they could offer entrepreneurs.
Edelman advises startups to leverage the power of technology.
“The proper use of technology is not to do something once, but to do it 10,000 times. Tech allows you to scale up quickly, so take advantage of that scalability,” he said.
For Brock, the lesson is to not be afraid to spend some capital on lifelong learning. He closed our conversation with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Pour the coins of your purse into your mind, and your mind will overflow your purse with coins.”
Blockchain is not likely to be a passing fad – far from it. This is way more than watching the vertigo-inducing price of Bitcoin from day to day. Now is the time to pay attention. Pay attention to where the blockchain is likely to disrupt your business, and fields adjacent to yours where ripple effects might occur. These are incredibly exciting times to be an entrepreneur. Opportunity is at hand for all with the knowledge and desire to keep learning and growing.