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The Future of Bitcoin: Where will it be in 20 years?

12/28/2016 10:39 am ET
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve at least heard the term Bitcoin before. But just because you’ve heard of it, doesn’t mean you understand and to be honest, I can’t say that I do either.

While I may not understand it exactly, I do pride myself in being able to spot a trend and if you look at what leading venture capital investors like Mark Andreessen are saying, we’ve seen this story line before when it comes to emerging technologies.

In a 2014 article titled “Why Bitcoin Matters”, Andreessen goes on to explain:

“A mysterious new technology emerges, seemingly out of nowhere, but actually the result of two decades of intense research and development by nearly anonymous researchers. Political idealists project visions of liberation and revolution onto it; establishment elites heap contempt and scorn on it. On the other hand, technologists – nerds – are transfixed by it. They see within it enormous potential and spend their nights and weekends tinkering with it. Eventually mainstream products, companies and industries emerge to commercialize it; its effects become profound; and later, many people wonder why its powerful promise wasn’t more obvious from the start. What technology am I talking about? Personal computers in 1975, the Internet in 1993, and – I believe – Bitcoin in 2014.”

The similarities between these once emerging technologies and bitcoin is striking and while there is lots of buzz about Bitcoin these days, it’s fair to say that no one can truly know with certainty what the future will look like.

Even the most well known internet experts of the 90’s couldn’t go on to predict exactly what the internet would become today and just how many different ways we use it.

Despite that it’s impossible to truly know what will happen with these types of technologies, it is always fun to see what the experts have to say.

So, as we roll into 2017, here’s what 7 experts say they believe the future of Bitcoin will look like

Marco Krohn, CFO Genesis Mining

"Bitcoin will become the defacto replacement for gold as people begin to realize that the two share common properties. Like gold, Bitcoin has a finite amount, it is free from government control, and it is a scarce resource. Bitcoin has properties, however, that gold cannot provide, like being easily transferable. For example, I can send as many Bitcoin across the world as I want with ease, but the same couldn't be said for 50 tons of gold. Also, unlike gold, Bitcoin is impossible to counterfeit. As people begin to slowly understand the benefits of Bitcoin over gold they will start to make the shift.

Gold has a total market cap of nearly $7 trillion dollars. Bitcoin has a market cap of just $14 billion dollars. Comparing these numbers, it's understandable why people are so bullish on Bitcoin. If the market cap were to become even close to that of gold, Bitcoin's price would drastically increase."

Marco Krohn, CFO & Co-founder Genesis Mining

Michael Dunworth, CEO of Snapcard

“Satoshis (Which is the smallest unit of a bitcoin, just like $1 = 100c...) are going to be used as ways for machines to transact with each other. They're going to be sending each other requests to perform small tasks (e.g. An autonomous vehicle sending a small payment to another vehicle in front of it to overtake it on a highway). Bitcoin's are going to have a significantly large value, so transacting with them will be for the use of large purchases (e.g. House). Overall use will be to power the machine economy, which doesn't exist yet, but as devices get smarter and the internet of things takes flight, the currency and payment network is not going to PayPal, dollars, and banks. It'll be Bitcoin and its Blockchain.”

Michael Dunworth, CEO of Snapcard

Jonathan Johnson is the president of Medici Ventures, Inc., the wholly-owned subsidiary of Overstock.com focused on the blockchain.

"Ask someone when they last used the TCP/IP Protocol and you’ll likely get a blank stare.  Yet, chances are, most people use it dozens of times every day. The TCP/IP Protocol is the ubiquitous transport layer of data exchange that runs the internet.  We may not be aware of TCP/IP, but we know our lives have changed significantly since it became broadly integrated 20 years ago. In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin and, while he may not have realized it at the time, in so doing he also created what I believe will become a ubiquitous transport layer of value exchange – again, without most people aware of it at all. Over the next 20 years, what people will be aware of is that items of value – primarily things that can be represented digitally (e.g., financial instruments, cash, ownership records, and much more) – will move between entities with dramatically increased efficiency.  This will naturally follow as the many intermediaries insinuated into the process of value exchange today are made redundant by the cryptographically secured, immutable, distributed nature of blockchain technology.  Counterparties will no longer need to give their trust (and time and transaction fees) to third parties when engaging in trade.  Rather, they will be able to trust in the mathematics at the heart of blockchains.  On a practical level, this means stock trades will settle in near real time – not three days.  No more waiting three days for ACH transfers.  No more paying thousands of dollars to establish property title claims.  No more 20% or higher fees paid by immigrant workers to send money home. Twenty years from now, will the beneficiaries of these changes care about the technology that makes them possible?  Probably not.  Will their lives be better off because of it?  I believe that’s undeniable."

Jonathan Johnson is the president of Medici Ventures, Inc., the wholly-owned subsidiary of Overstock.com focused on the blockchain.

Paul Puey, CEO and co-founder Airbitz.co

"In 20 years, bitcoin, or other decentralized currency will at minimum be the reserve currency for settlement between nations, providing global commerce free of political currency manipulation. More likely, it will also be the digital gold that connects the decentralized application ecosystem. We will utilize potentially 10s if not 100s of digital tokens for various apps and services and bitcoin will be the gold standard store of value that will power these decentralized applications to enable everything from eCommerce, ride-sharing, insurance, and gaming."

Paul Puey, CEO and co-founder Airbitz.co

Fran Strajnar, Founder, Brave New Coin

“Bitcoin is an idea whose time has come. The ability to transmit value peer-to-peer has clear demand now and will continue to see growing demand into the next 20 years. The next two decades will continue to see geopolitical tension and failing fiscal policies in various nation states. This backdrop is churning bitcoin into a glowingly attractive alternative Asset Class to hedge into. Capital markets and sophisticated investors are already demanding structured income products based on bitcoin or it's Blockchain and we will undoubtedly see a an entirely new asset class evolve, issued and supported by the capital markets but due to the decentralized nature of Blockchain Assets, the inevitable end-game is a melding of the financial markets with the wider economy. Value is becoming materialized then democratized, we are witnessing the financial renaissance in the making.”

Fran Strajnar, Founder, Brave New Coin

Patrick Dugan, Omni Foundation

“My bias is I helped create the Omni Layer that lets people create currencies that ride on Bitcoin but aren't bitcoins. The Left will be resurgent in the wake of Trumponomics and unleash Basic income, but it'll end up going Argentina on us, leading to a multi-decade bull market in cryptocurrency. Decentralized banking done with smart contracts on blockchains will displace traditional banking; in the developed world the youth will fill jobs in sustainable agriculture backing mutual-credit/community currencies leading to a "Libertarian Left" growing and feeding the economy, while in the developing world youth now repressed by monopolized market access and governments will use these tools to become the baller capitalists they feel it in themselves to be. Financial repression is a multi-trillion dollar/year business for central banks but cryptocurrency is the weapon the people need to protect their wealth, opening an epoch of decentralized power. “

Patrick Dugan, Omni Foundation

“The significance of Bitcoin is not the cryptocurrency or even the financial applications that will benefit from blockchain. Rather, Bitcoin introduces the modern era of distributed consensus. The use of distributed consensus fundamentally changes the security of the Internet, and every industry will have networked, distributed applications.  

Distributed consensus algorithms enable communities of people, strangers who are both unknown and untrusted, to securely collaborate with each other over the internet without the need for a trusted central server. To explain why distributed consensus is important, we can examine the differences between a dictatorship and a democracy.

Today the trust model of computing is usually that of a dictatorship. Software is hosted on servers and centrally managed by individuals or organizations. We trust those organizations to provide 1) reliable storage of information, 2) secure computation, and 3) fair coordination & consensus. But placing trust in centralized systems creates risks - criminals commit cybercrimes by hacking servers, corrupt governments rig elections and corporations subvert their online markets by giving preferences to some users over others.

A distributed computing trust model replaces the use of central servers with a community of peers. To eliminate the use of central servers, we must manufacture trust in a serverless cloud. “Manufacturing trust” lets the community vote on what the “server” is doing, where we can trust the result of that election, even if we don’t trust the opinion of any particular voter. In other words, we must manufacture trust in a distributed “server” to perform the functions of 1) reliable storage of information, 2) secure computation, and 3) fair coordination and consensus. Distributed reliable storage of information and secure computation have existed for some time, however, distributed coordination and consensus of untrusted peers only recently came into widespread use. It enables the development of multi-participant, general ­purpose applications that execute without the need for a central server.

The first generation of distributed consensus algorithms (Bitcoin/Blockchain) served as a proof of concept of what’s possible. The next generation of distributed consensus will enable a cloud of applications, each with a constitution and managed by a democracy, not a dictatorship.”

Mance Harmon, Co-Founder and CEO of Swirlds

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