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How Bitcoin May Affect The Worlds Future

Bitcoin is one of the oldest and most widely-known cryptocurrencies. There are no coins to mint or bills to print. It is decentralized, which means there is no banking institution or government in control. Owners remain anonymous; rather than using names, Social Security numbers, or tax IDs, bitcoin uses encryption keys to connect sellers to buyers. Bitcoin is mined by extremely powerful computers, rather than being issued like conventional currency. It involves math, technology, social dynamics, and economics, and although it has been around since 2009, it’s rapidly gaining traction. In this guide, readers can learn about some of the basic concepts of bitcoin while getting answers to some common questions.

The Effects of Bitcoin on the World Economy

During the last few years, bitcoin has rapidly risen to global prominence. In becoming the world’s leading cryptocurrency and a top performer among currencies overall, it has gained an astounding 35% over the past year. However, attaining this level of recognition hasn’t been easy. Bitcoin’s association with crimes such as the narcotics sales and money laundering that commonly occurred on dark-web sites like Alphabay and Silk Road, as well as its high level of volatility, left conventional financial market participants very wary of its risks.

How Bitcoin Has Changed Banking

skyscrapersBitcoin’s potential impact on the central banking system should not be underestimated. The BIS, or Bank for International Settlements, which is owned and operated by the world’s top central banks, observed that Bitcoin could potentially affect their ability to control the global economy and issue currency. As of the time of this writing, many of the world’s central banks are closely monitoring Bitcoin developments. Others, such as the central banks of Ecuador and Canada, have already taken action by creating proposals for issuance of digital versions of their countries’ fiat currencies.

Bitcoin’s Effects on Industry

Bitcoin has recently brought changes to a range of industries as well. Most industries that accept Bitcoins as payment are run online. For instance, Cheapname, which provides domain registry services, accepts payment in the form of Bitcoin. Other online companies like WordPress, which allows users to set up personal and professional blogs, also accept Bitcoin payments. Finally, Steam, a gaming platform, accepts cryptocurrencies as well. Bitcoin’s success has brought it from the online realm into the brick-and-mortar world. Virgin Galactic, a company with a known preference for state-of-the-art technology, research, and development, somewhat unsurprisingly accepts Bitcoin, as does Elon Musk’s Tesla car company.

Bitcoin’s Political and Societal Effects

Along with its benefits, Bitcoin brings a fair amount of political upheaval. As stated before, it is not controlled by any single government or bank. Because it’s a highly individualized type of wealth, and because of the cryptography involved, no state can take away that individuality. As people begin to understand that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are advantageous because they’re governed by code rather than by human bias, the political controversy is likely to continue.

Cryptocurrencies’ effects on society haven’t yet been fully realized, nor will they be felt immediately. Despite the rise of digital currency, it is just now becoming mainstream, and many people are still unsure how Bitcoin works. An increasing number of sellers are accepting cryptocurrency payments, and it’s a matter of time until more follow suit.

How Bitcoin May Affect the World’s Future

Most of today’s international and digital transactions use one type or another of virtual credit or currency. Bitcoin is built to provide the same convenience and security assurance afforded by credit, while bypassing additional processing fees and time requirements. International remittances, or payments sent home by those working abroad, are the area with the biggest growth potential for cryptocurrency. As of now, money sent home must pass through several wire services, banks, and currency exchanges.

According to a recent Businessweek study, the average international remittance fee was 9% of the total transferred, with cash conversion costing an average of 5% more. Companies like Western Union work on profit margins of nearly 16%, and many of their costs are incurred because of the technology involved in moving money from place to place and guaranteeing transactional legitimacy. In short, what these companies spend billions of dollars to accomplish, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can do at no cost.

Which Sectors Will See the Most Significant Changes Because of Bitcoin?

Many of today’s financial experts predict that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology will be the biggest disruption since the Internet was created. With the number of industries that can potentially be affected by this technology, it’s easy to see the truth in these predictions. While the financial sector is testing and using blockchain tech to increase operational efficiency and decrease per-transaction costs, other sectors face potential effects, as listed below.

  • Private transportation: The industry will see potential disruption in two forms; the development of eWallets for in-car use, and the advent of decentralized, blockchain-based, peer-to-peer ridesharing. For instance, companies like Innogy, ZF, and UBS are now developing eWallets that allow auto owners to quickly and seamlessly pay for parking, tolls, and electric car charging with the car’s blockchain-based, built-in eWallet. Ridesharing services are likely to increase as a part of the global sharing economy, and basing these services on blockchain tech takes the control away from central third parties. Here, owners and riders can agree on ridesharing terms and conditions via secure, smart contracts. Startups currently building such services include Israel’s La’Zooz and New Hampshire’s Arcade City.
  • Cybersecurity: This has become a popular topic among corporations and individuals as cybercrime becomes more common around the world. In fact, the World Economic Forum highlighted it as one of the biggest risks in the world. Because of its immutable, decentralized nature, blockchain technology can be utilized to prevent the theft of data, because that data is stored using secure, safe cryptography. Furthermore, blockchain tech can be used to build a more secure Internet that’s less vulnerable to distributed denial of service or DDoS attacks. Startups like Nebulis are developing new blockchain-based domain name systems, which can’t be harmed by DDoS attacks.
  • The distribution of music: Today’s music industry will also be affected as cryptocurrency changes the way things are bought and sold. Several startup companies are using blockchain to change the way music is shared and royalties are paid, further disintermediating an industry that has previously been heavily centralized. These companies are building new ways for artists to sell their albums and singles directly to fans, with no need to go through a record label or other distributor. This will create a more open, fair music industry where artists receive direct payment and are able to form closer relationships with listeners.
  • nurses and doctorsHealthcare: The health sector will greatly benefit from the use of blockchain tech. Hospitals and nursing facilities often struggle to securely warehouse and share data, and they regularly fall victim to cyberattacks. Using the distributed ledger method to safely share and store data will improve the security of that data while allowing for more accurate, faster diagnoses.
  • Storage in the cloud: Most sectors are wholeheartedly embracing the concept of cloud storage. However, with the current condition of the cloud, the sector’s users must trust third parties such as Dropbox and Google to safely handle their important data. However, by combining blockchain and cloud storage, that doesn’t have to be the case. Startup companies are now allowing users to share unused space with others for a low fee. This creates a crowd-sourced, decentralized storage solution that’s less likely to suffer from data loss and cyberattacks.
  • Management of the supply chain: This industry is primed for serious blockchain-related changes as it continues to focus on transactions that must be noted in a transparent but secure manner. There are multiple startups working on blockchain-related supply chain management methods.
  • Voting: One of the most significant areas of societal disruption will be the use of blockchain tech for vote tallying and voter registration. As the world saw during the last US presidential election, a process in which the Russians were alleged to have interfered, a publicly viewable, immutable ledger of votes would be a big step toward fairer, more democratic form of global politics. Several startups are trying to hack the democratic process by creating online identity verification and voting processes that use blockchain technology.

Some of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency skeptics are starting to accept that blockchain will play a substantial role in various industries by storing, recording, and sending data in a low-cost, secure manner.

Tips for Investing in Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s exploding popularity has created a significant buzz among investors, traders, and consumers. Low fees, high transaction speeds, increasing values, and other factors have convinced millions to adopt the cryptocurrency as a primary method of exchange. Large trading groups have capitalized on the Bitcoin boom, but in this turbulent environment, dedication and discipline are two requirements for success. Below are several tips to help investors turn that volatility into an advantage.

  • Become a technical analysis expert: Bitcoin’s nature makes it much different from other currencies. As there’s no governing body to affect its value, it’s highly susceptible to effects from outside sources such as news event. Bitcoin’s value model is highly speculative, and it disregards a large portion of conventional financial theory. Understanding how to perform technical analysis is an important prerequisite for entry into the cryptocurrency market.
  • Set a pace that’s sustainable for the long term: As in conventional financial markets, trading isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. One of the most vital steps cryptocurrency market participants must take is to establish a schedule that can be kept over weeks, months, or even years. No one can do their best trading at all hours of the day and night, and the ideal practice is to set a manageable timeline by focusing on optimal trading times.
  • Stay updated: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are unique in that most news events’ effects on the market can’t be predicted. There are no inventory reports or GDP releases to influence pricing and increase participation. However, unexpected happenings can significantly affect the price of Bitcoin, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the news feed, just in case.
  • Implement a stop-loss policy: Long-term volatility is a Bitcoin attribute that’s especially compelling to active investors and traders. Valuations can fluctuate by up to 10% each day, which creates ample opportunities for traders who are willing to take a few chances. Whether a trader works in the Bitcoin futures, CFD, or cash markets, a stop-loss policy is essential. It’s important to use a stop-loss somewhere in the market to protect open positions.
  • Use leverage wisely when trading or investing in Bitcoin: While it seems cliché, leverage really is a double-edged sword. It magnifies one’s gains, but it substantially increases their losses as well. If leverage is excessive, an investor is more likely to mismanage their money and lose everything. However, too little leverage can inhibit performance because trades may not always perform to their full potential. In the end, effective management of leverage is a delicate balancing act, but it’s an important one for Bitcoin investors to perform.

An easy way to define a position’s size is to use the 3% rule. Under this guideline, only three percent of the trading account’s total is assignable to each trade. This ensures that the risk matches the reward in regards to stop-loss location and position sizing.

In Conclusion

The world is quickly approaching the ten-year anniversary of Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency, decentralization, and blockchain are continuing to evolve. Cryptocurrency is in a bit of a bubble right now, and like others, the bubble will burst eventually. Surviving currencies such as Bitcoin will become the Amazon, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan of the next few years, and they may even form the basis of future governments.

As existing players enter the system, they will leverage their power to protect the system from outsiders. Decentralized currencies will become a parallel economic OS for the world, especially in countries that saw the most significant effects of the US dollar’s dominance. However, to accomplish these goals, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have to become indispensable.

Blockchain Technology

Exploring Technology’s Cutting Edge: Can Blockchain Work for You?

Blockchain TechnologyAs cybercrime and snooping become increasingly common, more and more consumers, business leaders, and private individuals are getting quite concerned about the safety of their sensitive information online. This is particularly relevant when it comes to financial transactions, which often happen in insecure and dangerously transparent digital forums. If you’re dissatisfied with your current online security options, it’s time to become familiar with blockchain technology. This relatively not-so-new technology is gaining major traction in the business world for the myriad possibilities it offers for online security and anonymity. Also interesting: a secure dataroom for safe business transactions.

Blockchain Basics

What is blockchain? As with all complex technology, it’s difficult to give a quick, simple answer. Further complicating the linguistic distillation of the concept is the fact that this is a truly international technology that has been developed, altered, and defined by different people across the globe. Plus, translating complicated computing concepts into plain English can be quite difficult. Chances are that if you’ve heard of blockchain before and tried to read about it, you’ve walked away somewhat confused. Essentially, a blockchain is a database that’s used to create and store a series of chronological records relating to a specific item or event. The blockchain is often mentioned in the same breath as Bitcoin because it’s the technology used to track Bitcoin digital currency as it is spent, sold, or traded.

Bitcoin

The name “blockchain” is descriptive. These databases are a series of digital “blocks,” each of which is distinguished from the blocks ahead and behind in the chain through the use of timestamps. One great thing about this structure is that it’s nearly infinitely scalable, making it suitable for a variety of complex tasks. This recordkeeping system is also designed to be extremely secure and resistant to tampering, making it a top choice for a variety of different situations in which anonymity, protection, and integrity are at a premium.

Part of what makes blockchains so secure is that they can be decentralized, meaning they aren’t linked to a central authority or manager that’s responsible for overseeing the security of each record. This means that cybersecurity attacks in which millions of users’ data becomes compromised are highly unlikely with a blockchain. It also means that if one node in the network of databases stops operating, the entire system can continue operating. Blockchain applications that use this decentralized approach are known as decentralized applications or DApps.

Diving Deeper

Blockchain technology can trace its origins to the early ‘90s when developers worked on creating discrete records of cryptographically secured information they referred to as blocks. The goal was to create distinct data structures that could be kept private and secure through the use of encryption. The concept really took off when the digital currency Bitcoin was first under development. The anonymous cryptocurrency designer known as Satoshi Nakamoto needed a way of creating timestamped records to show the details of financial transactions. Thus, encrypted blocks were linked into a chain, and blockchain was born. Of course, this simple overview doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what blockchain technology is, how it works, and what it can do.

It can be helpful to compare and contrast blockchain with other digital technologies in order to understand its potential. One common analogy comes from journalist Sally Davies, whose comparison between blockchain/Bitcoin and the internet/email is frequently cited by those attempting to give a basic, beginner-friendly overview of the blockchain. Essentially, blockchain is to Bitcoin what the internet is to email. That is, just as the Internet can be used for much more than email, the blockchain technology that supports Bitcoin transactions has many potential applications beyond mere cryptocurrency exchanges. Limiting our Internet use to email only would be a mistaken waste of technological potential and, so the analogy goes, it would be a similar mistake to limit our use of blockchain technology to cryptocurrency transactions alone. Bitcoin is just one blockchain technology application out of potentially thousands.

In the context of this analogy, though, it’s important to note that there are some essential differences between blockchain and the Internet. One major difference is that the Internet is a communications network, while a blockchain is a database of information. On a very high level, the two technologies function in a theoretically similar way, but blockchain isn’t a replacement for the Internet as we know it. In fact, blockchain is more of a function of the Internet, like email, than a standalone communications network. At this point, you’ll need an Internet connection of some sort to access a blockchain.

Think of it this way: There’s only one “big I” Internet that the average person use, but there are multiple different blockchains. You can create intranets and extranets, but when you’re talking about “the internet,” you’re talking about the network that uses TCP/IP protocol that you can access with a connection through an Internet service provider (ISP) like Comcast, Charter, or CenturyLink. You can also have “a blockchain,” referring to any distributed database of a specific type, but when you’re talking about “the blockchain,” you’re talking about a specific company or application’s database. Blockchain technology in its current form is strongly tied to Bitcoin, but it’s not the only blockchain that exists.

The Ledger: Blockchain’s Public Face

Blockchain’s Public Face

So, as an encrypted, decentralized, tamper-resistant database, blockchain is a completely opaque, shadowy world, right? Well, not exactly. Privacy and data security are top priorities, but there’s a degree of transparency involved in the standard blockchain. Bitcoin is actually a great example of this; you can see when Bitcoin transactions happen in the blockchain wallet. You just can’t see specific information about who was involved with a transaction.

Tech experts often describe blockchain technology as a “decentralized ledger,” with “ledger” being the operative word in this situation. A ledger is a record, and that’s exactly what a blockchain is. Data integrity is central to the blockchain concept. Each of the blocks in a blockchain serves as a record for an event and to go back and alter those events is next to impossible. If you want to go back and alter part of an agreement, for example, you’d need to add a new record stating that the change was made rather than going into the original record of the agreement and changing the terms. These features make trustworthiness an element of operation in blockchain technology, which is a somewhat unusual feature for this kind of tech tool.

The idea that there’s a degree of integrity, trustworthiness and public transparency associated with the blockchain concept may come as a surprise to some. If you don’t know a lot about Bitcoin, you may be wary of the association of a technology with currency that was hyped as a way for criminals to get paid online. This isn’t a fair characterization. In short, blockchain and cryptocurrency are not the sole provenances of criminals.

Though it can’t be denied that the anonymous, decentralized nature of blockchain technology makes it alluring to black market types, Bitcoin trading, much of which is carried out with blockchain wallets, is becoming a legitimate financial market of sorts. As of this writing, Bitcoin price is has skyrocketed, indicating the minting of some major financial players. Plus, the public ledger doesn’t lie. As mentioned earlier, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to alter the record of a blockchain. The participants in the transaction may remain anonymous, but the transaction itself typically is not.

All of this points to some highly disruptive potential for blockchain technology in the financial sector. It’s important to remember that blockchain is not proprietary to Bitcoin and that means there are lots of other ways to use this technology for financial transactions. At this point, blockchain is still a relatively inside-baseball topic in tech, but you can count on that changing in the coming years. Blockchain may even represent the future of banking. Blockchain wallets are streamlined and secure in a way most modern banks are not, which could be broadly appealing to consumers if they’re introduced to the technology in the right way. Also of potential appeal to consumers is the fact that participants in a blockchain transaction have equal status with respect to information access. This would put the customer on the same informational footing as a financier when monetary transfers are being made.

Other Uses for Blockchain Technology

Transactional financial applications aren’t the only way blockchain is set to shake up the way we do business and access personal information. The blockchain wallet is certainly useful, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are already some interesting applications for blockchain being put in practice right now. One blockchain-based Bitcoin alternative is the cryptocurrency competitor Ethereum, which took the technology a step further by allowing computer programming code to run from its databases. As a distributed public network, Ethereum is becoming a playground of sorts for developers who want to build DApps of all sorts, not just those relating to cryptocurrency. This is a highly promising development that shows how powerful a blockchain can be.

One highly vulnerable area that blockchain technology can improve is the storage and retrieval of medical records. As our personal health histories are digitized, many people simply take for granted that their doctors’ offices are doing the right thing and protecting personal healthcare information in a reliably secure manner. Unfortunately, though, this is often not the case. Hospitals are major targets for cybercriminals looking to perform massive medical identity theft hacks, and the implications of these attacks are frightening. Medical identity theft exposes its victims not only to the stress, hassle, and financial ruin of traditional identity theft but also to potential criminal charges. If the person who steals your medical identity uses it to try to scam dangerous prescriptions from doctors and breaks laws relating to insurance fraud using your name, you could be in serious trouble. All of the blockchain’s powerful encryption, privacy, and decentralization abilities can revolutionize the way we think about protecting, sharing, and housing records of our healthcare.

In essence, anything that involves recordkeeping can make use of blockchain technology. As consumers become more concerned with what’s in the products they use, companies committed to transparency can easily use blockchain to automate supply chain transparency and make each step in the manufacturing process available to their consumers. Blockchain may even have a role to play in the future of elections, providing the right balance between privacy, integrity, and transparency.

Smart Contracts and Modern Labor

One last example of blockchain’s potential to disrupt all aspects of our lives: Smart contracts. A smart contract is essentially a computerized agreement between two parties that makes the execution of that agreement dependent on specific conditions. For example, if a small business owner hires a graphic designer to create a logo for a rebranding effort that business owner and the designer could enter into a smart contract stipulating that $250 will be paid out upon the successful completion of the job. The business owner puts $250 into a blockchain wallet, which is then held by the blockchain application until the designer submits the logo and asks for funds to be released, which the business owner will do after agreeing that the job has been completed in a satisfactory manner. It’s quick, easy, secure, and possible without a middleman.

Business leaders in all fields should be particularly interested in the opportunities presented by smart contracts, a blockchain application that automates and digitizes contractual agreements for the sale or exchange of goods and services. One major reason is that smart contracts can easily cut out middlemen in the gig economy. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, Ebay, and even the Amazon seller marketplace may find that their contractors and merchants are fleeing in order to use peer-to-peer blockchain networks to conduct business directly with their own customers. Why pay a user fee when you can do business directly with a service provider?

Clearly, blockchain is a force to be reckoned with and it’s going to have a growing influence in all areas of business in the years to come. Stay on the lookout for news about blockchain, and as you make hiring decisions in tech positions, be mindful that those who are in the know about blockchain are likely to deliver value in the future.