Consider Blockchain, Think Non-linear!


In the Near Future

Imagine an autonomous car - managed by an algorithm and running in the cloud. It picks and drops you and gets paid. The car uses a part of its earnings for fuel and service. Gradually, it earns enough and places an order for another autonomous car, and keeps adding. What we foresee is a billion-dollar business - first autonomous company in the world - that is owned not by humans, but by a car or is it the algorithm?

While the above narrative sounds little far stretched or perhaps a little scary, the fact is that it is very much in the realms of possibility. We are fast shifting into an autonomous world. Machines, processes, systems, organizations or its parts that run autonomously taking productivity to a different plane. We will witness a hyper connected world, with infrastructural foundations that weave trust, consensus, traceability, security and dependability, into the very fabric of automation. Any machine, system, process or humans can build trusted networks with any other entity, unlike today, where innovation is happening in selected private networks of trust. Electronic and intelligent contracts will underpin seamless transactions between humans and machines, and between machines!

Blockchain Revolution

It is being harvested as we speak and is slowly defining the new internet that will set the foundation for tomorrow. A revolution that is not getting noticed as much because of the cloud of excitement surrounding Bitcoin, and all the cryptocurrencies, that represent the first real application of the magic created with blockchain. But cryptocurrencies are just the tip of the iceberg, hidden beneath is the blockchain, where the tomorrow is getting brewed.

Currently, most applications on the internet run on a server owned by someone. The Facebooks, Ubers and Amazons of the world and countless others like them. Online transactions are predicated on the notion of trust. We trust Uber with our payments and personal information for a consummate service they offer. Uber of course has incredible power in this relationship as it can control the price, the policies and single handedly decide who gets the service and who doesn’t?

Now imagine this was all changed to a model where there is no single owner of the applications. An application runs over a distributed set of peer-to-peer computers, with a constitution that is weaved into the algorithms. No one owns it all. Every transaction is managed and approved by the network. The record of all transactions is distributed and is immutable. It is all seamless for the end user, but behind the scenes everything is done via consensus, traceability, transparency and with very high level of security.

The Magic Has Begun

Few smart brains have noticed this astonishing phenomenon - the immutable and consensus based network of trust. Where you can provide business and application level security, and trust, without the need for explicit trust between underlying nodes. A system that is resilient and can enable new applications and possibilities that we cannot practically imagine today. That’s the magic that I am talking about!

Across industries smart people are figuring out real world applications. From track and trace in supply chains, to digital rights management. From P2P lending to crowd funding. From distributed loyalty solutions and cross border payments to digital securities trading. From decentralized legal records to binding digital content management foundations. From escrow management to digitization of contractual documents and enforcement. From anti-counterfeiting solutions to proof of ownership in marketplaces. And these are not just incremental possibilities. Startups are spawning across the globe to leverage blockchain into crafting entirely new business value propositions in all these areas and more. And this is evident in the fact that this industry - blockchain tech based new business solutions (and I am not talking about cryptocurrencies that are already a couple of hundred-billion-dollar market) - is already close to half-a-billion dollars today, and is expected to quadruple in the next 3-4 years.

Emerging Paradigm

It is imperative to realize that this is still at its infancy. While there is a true transformative potential, it’s important to understand that it’s not a panacea to all problems. Exploring the potential would require a well-coordinated technology, business thinking and an ability to push the boundaries that prevalent thinking models permit. It’s as much a new technology as it is about rethinking how you design value networks around a notion of trust. Amalgamating the new blockchain technology into the linear extensions of how your systems work today will not yield desired results.

My submission. Not another fad. It is one of those phenomenon that can truly bring in non-linearity. And this will. Whether it takes a couple of years or 5 years, can be debated. When you think blockchain. Don’t think linear!