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5 Reasons to tell your friend what a Blockchain is

Blockchain is one of the most talked about, buzz worthy and often misunderstood technology developments of the year. Which is exactly the reason why we programmed a 75 min session for our cross-industry delegates to learn more and talk about the transformative potential of this open and distributed ledger system.

Blockchain challenges our need for institutional systems potentially disintermediating everything from banks to insurance brokers. Trust of a third party to conduct and verify a transaction no longer has to be placed in the hands of a third party. Instead it’s directly into the hands of those transacting on the global network. The Economist dubbed Blockchain “The Trust Machine.” It has the potential to transform everything down to what you eat.

If all transactions are open and visible and verified by the network, the blockchain can take the power of information away from Big Food Industry and place it into the hands of you, the direct customer. You may soon be able to scan a QR code on a package in the supermarket and receive a full and complete history of that food’s journey from Farm to Fork. Chew on that.

Here’s a contributed piece on Blockchain by Harvest Summit speaker Alison McCauley, Founder, Unblocked Future. At Harvest Summit she will be joined by Matt McGraw, CEO of Dispatch Labs; Chelsea Rumstrum, founder Blox7 and Blockchain for Good; and Cory Johnson, Chief Market Strategist, Ripple.

Friends Help Friends Understand Blockchains

If you’ve been deep in the crypto-craze, you already possess a wealth of knowledge on blockchains of which the rest of the world remains unaware (whether it’s a deep understanding, or just “seeing the big picture”). It’s up to normal people, like you and I, to help relieve some of the esoterica that veils these technologies from the masses. Here’s some reasons why you should educate those around you on what we’re diligently working to build, together.

Minding the Gap

If you spend most of your waking hours thinking about blockchains, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that there is an extreme chasm between what the “insider community” understands about what’s coming with this nascent technology — predominantly technologists, investors, and financial services executives — and what the rest of the world knows.

Does it really matter if people “get” the underlying technology?

This is a valid question. While I believe more technical knowledge is always better, there is no correlation between knowing how TCP/IP works and knowing how to write a good email. And it’s quite likely in the decentralized future that everyday dApp users and token holders will not know they are interacting with blockchains, either. But at this moment in our evolution, the lack of understanding is starting to become a problem —and soon may even hold the space back.

Every stage of this space has had its unique characteristics. To get through the next stage, we need more people to understand what this technology enables — and that requires some understanding of how it works.

“They do WHAT?!?!” Photo: Ben White, Unsplash

Here are five reasons you should care if your friends and neighbors know what a blockchain is:

ONE | Inspire an Army

To build a true foundation for the future, we need a multi-disciplinary mashup of expertise and knowledge. On a recent Unchained with Laura Shin, Chris Dixon emphasized the need for skill diversity:

“The way we win is we grow the army. We need ten million people — programmers and researchers and entrepreneurs and product designers and creative people . . . so anything we can do to bring more people into the fold, that’s great.”

Only a small percentage of this potential army can describe accurately what a blockchain is today. That’s a long way off from enlisting.

TWO | Grow your TAM (Total Available Market)

It’s getting better every year, but we have a long haul before User Experience (UX) is truly friction-free. Early adopters are willing to tolerate some hiccups, but limiting your Total Available Market (TAM) to the relatively small cadre that is the insider community is going to limit growth. Although true adoption won’t spike until proper UX is addressed, we need to grow that pool of people willing to be early adopters to sustain us on the long journey to viable UX. This will require getting more people excited enough to sustain enthusiasm through some very awkward growing-up moments.

THREE | Support Better Projects

The best technology doesn’t always win (see the history of Betamax and VHS). But the more people know, the better chance they’ll be able to see beyond the marketing sleight of hand, and make good decisions to support better projects. Right now, decisions are concentrated among people immersed in the space. But soon decisions (to use a token, try a dApp, refer a friend, etc.) will be made by relative newbies, and it serves the space to have those decisions be good ones.

Also, in the future, people will be making decisions between staying with an incumbent or trying a dApp. As the pressure from decentralized alternatives increases, incumbents will be making gentle moves toward transparency, accountability, and other values of the decentralized future (check out thisFacebook video for an example). If potential users don’t have the knowledge to visualize a truly new possible, they are more likely to settle for “good enough” and stay right where they are.

FOUR | Ease the Mind Warp

This space has a tendency to flip and morph conventional wisdom about business models. Of course, there is competitive advantage in seeing this first. But eventually, it’s going to be a hindrance if business decision-makers can’t do the mental gymnastics and grok the new conventional wisdom (What? It works better for all of us if I am more collaborative?!).

FIVE | Stop Money Going to Bad Places

Retail investors have funded all sorts of scams. This helps no one (except maybe the small number of scammers). It concerns regulators, it creates skepticism of the space, and it distracts from the real business of creating a foundation for a better world. The more people know, the better questions they will ask before investing. The more actively we self-regulate, and diminish the influence of those with unsavory intentions, the better for the market overall.

Top 10 Must Reads for Your Friends

Unfortunately, reading one article or watching a video isn’t going to do it. In his book Radical Technologies, the urban designer Adam Greenfield calls blockchain the first technology that’s “just fundamentally difficult for otherwise intelligent and highly capable people to understand.” And the more knowledge you have about blockchains, the harder it may be to explain it to a blockchain “virgin”. In his recent New York Times article, Nathaniel Popper said, “if you ask even the people who work with blockchains to define the technology, you are likely to get a stuttering response.”

That’s why I’ve gathered the top 10 list of articles, videos, and other “must reads” that I send my own friends on this page. They are pretty high level, but as you can see, I’ve snuck in a few extras in the hopes that they’ll be inspired to learn more. And yes, I balanced more meaty content with John Oliver’s coverage.

To see these resources, click here.

But, Don’t Forget

Share this with your friends and neighbors, because friends help friends understand blockchains. And, hopefully, in time, we can all look back on the rapid growth and evolution of blockchains, and be humbled by what we didn’t know, but also feel proud we were open to inviting as many others to the party as we could — educating those with curiosity along the way.

How many claps does this article deserve?

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to clap many times or share with a friend. And thank you — it fuels my focus to write more like this.

Edited by: Steven McKie

About Alison

Connect on Twitter @unblockedfuture or follow me on LinkedIn. A social scientist by training, I’ve devoted my career to driving behavior change in new technology markets. I have helped entrepreneurs and business leaders with adoption in dynamic environments for over two decades. I believe that blockchains and a decentralized future represent an opportunity to remake foundational systems — and with that opportunity comes great responsibility. I write to encourage thoughtful strategy and conscientious execution in these critical early days of crypto technology.


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