The Future of Crypto: 10 Year Outlook

There was a time when I wrote much about the future. In 2011, an unpublished manuscript of mine was even cited in the Journal of Future Studies, in an article by Oliver Markley titled "Manifesting Upside Recovery Instead of Downside Fear: Five Ways Megacrisis Anticipation Can Proactively Improve Futures Research and Social Policy." Now, ten years later, the global 'megacrisis' anticipated by this paper has arguably begun. That means the next ten years are going to be dicey.

It's harder to write about the future now than it was to write about the future ten years ago. Then, it was obvious that the economic system was out of alignment with the ecological and social requirements of the 21st century. Equally obvious was the fact that governments and big companies had it in their power to change course, becoming more socially and ecologically responsible. But as the years passed, no political will for meaningful economic reform was demonstrated. Big companies didn't stop polluting. And instead of working to lessen industrial contributions to climate change, the Trump administration actually rolled back more than 100 important environmental protections.

Today, it makes no sense to look to our broken political system for solutions to the social and economic megacrisis in which we find ourselves. Policies that could genuinely realign societal values around equity and sustainability are non-starters. Universal Basic Income funded by a wealth tax is clearly off the table. Universal healthcare is likewise not happening. Instead, there's corporate welfare and widespread poverty, leaving average people at the mercy of big companies that value shareholder returns over human lives and environmental obligations.

The Future

Through this lens, the political future looks bleak. Not so with the future of technology. Things like blockchain and AI are advancing at a breakneck pace. Crypto is even beginning to solve some persistent problems of the legacy economy, such as the unreasonable cost of international remittances. Over the next ten years, crypto and blockchain may come to replace meaningful segments of the total system.

Smart Contracts

In an increasing variety of situations, a blockchain smart contract can execute an element of business logic more effectively than a traditional company can. As more and more functions of banking, insurance, and other services are performed by smart contracts, more and more of the economy will become automated at the microservice level. This network of crypto-automation will process enormous amounts of funds and data. On the surface, it will doubtless be abstracted away from average people. But many contracts on chains like EOS and Ethereum will be visible and accessible. The implications of that are worth considering.

As enough of the right business logic components are deployed as smart contracts on public blockchains, the economy will reorganize around the new mechanisms. It'll take time to get there. I estimate five years, give or take a year. But when this point is reached, hordes of companies that never touched crypto before will flood into the space. In my opinion, crypto won't be fully mainstream until this happens.

Identity

Identity secured by cryptography makes sense. So does using phones for 2fa. Adding a biometric component of identity to the equation makes sense in some situations, too. The United Nations World Food Programme has been using blockchain in combination with retinal scanning devices to distribute aid to refugees in Syria and Jordan. Due to their high cost, eye scanning devices probably aren't the future of blockchain identity. Biometrics that can be captured by existing mobile devices are.

Many companies have already started offering services in this and adjacent spaces. Apple phones now capture face scans. Companies like Clearview AI offer next-level facial recognition services to law enforcement agencies. My computer won't even let me use it without a fingerprint scan. But no one is yet offering the combination of biometrics and blockchain that will solve all the problems of identity in crypto. I expect we'll see such a solution brought to market in under five years. This will make it much easier for the unbanked to access financial services.

Data

Blockchain data is persistent, resilient, and secure. These qualities give blockchains advantages over traditional databases in areas like medical data and supply chain. Major companies are slowly becoming aware of these advantages. As this awareness spreads, the use of blockchain for data management will greatly expand. We're already seeing hints of this in supply chain, with VeChain providing turnkey solutions for everything from logistics to document management.

One area that I expect to see explode in a few years is blockchain carbon tracking. VeChain is all over this. "VeChain's Digital Carbon Ecosystem is a ground-breaking blockchain and IoT powered carbon reduction platform which utilizes economic incentives to encourage both individual and enterprises to participate in the reduction of carbon emissions," according to the VeChain website. ICOs were all the rage a few years ago. Now, NFTs are what everybody's talking about. Carbon markets could easily fuel a future round of extreme excitement.

In 10 Years

As trends in smart contracts, identity, and blockchain data converge, it will revolutionize the crypto world. In finance and many other industries, crypto will no longer be fringe. It will be front and center. We'll likely see some degree of price stability after a few more boom-and-bust cycles. Energy hogs like Bitcoin and Ethereum's current embodiment will likely lose relative importance during this time. But mining may also become much more efficient, offsetting some of their environmental impact

Ten years from now, in 2031, I expect the blockchain economy to be a major contributor to GDP. This new economy will incentivize different things than the legacy economy has. Ideally, these new incentives will promote social and environmental responsibility. But this is far from guaranteed. So now is the time to move the crypto community in that direction.