How Can Blockchain End Poverty?
If data and information are truly the most valuable asset in the world, what happens when you share that value with every participant in the system?
Under our current socio-economic model, rent seeking middle men control key choke points at the intersection of control over our money supply and the rapidly expanding data economy. Large organizations siphon value out of their user base and wield disproportionate power, producing widespread poverty and less than ideal outcomes for society as a whole.
Imagine a world where instead of greedy middle men, utilities and services were owned by the very communities that actually use them every day. Imagine the entire banking industry’s profit margin, the value generated from service fees and inflation of the money supply, and from the sale of data into the information economy, directed to all system participants instead of a few privileged administrators.
If you can imagine that, you can begin to see what’s possible when we introduce blockchain technology into the value distribution of the systems we interface with every day. If data and information are truly the most valuable asset in the world, what happens when you share that value with every participant in the system? After all, it’s their data and information that makes it valuable in the first place.
The advantages of non-national, digital money have already been proven in regions where unreliable financial systems have made it worthwhile to clear the hurdles of learning and integrate new ways of storing and transacting value.
The early rallying cry of our industry, “Bank the Unbanked” (perhaps more accurately described as creating universal access to basic finance), was not solely a moral position. It points to the best opportunity available to us as an industry, as an estimated 1.7 billion people are considered “unbanked” (ie. when no one in the household has a checking or savings account). It’s hard to overstate the value our civilization can unlock by using blockchain technology to give most of humanity meaningful access to the global economy.
Citizens of tomorrow will look back on this period of history and wonder how we allowed widespread poverty to persist for so long, and why we gave away so much of ourselves for so little in return. The idea of living in a society that only protects the advantaged and powerful will seem alien and abnormal. Instead, no one will be left to fend for themselves, left without options for medical care, healthy food, or plentiful educational pathways to exploring our diverse priorities. Our socio-economic models will serve all of us because they’ll be designed to do exactly that.
This is the world that’s possible when we leverage blockchain-based, non-national, digital money as the cornerstone of the coming age of abundance.
Could there be an easier detour around the monstrous debt the Baby Boomers have left for the rest of the world? As global debt surges to $250 trillion with millions still trapped in poverty, we may want to consider that few - if any - average citizens have a moral obligation to participate in the system that sustains the towering edifice of financial obligations.
I’m going to say that again because it bears repeating, and it’s a very important distinction our generation will need to make: Who cares about multi-trillion dollar debts we had no part in creating, held in a currency that no one wants to use anymore?
The path to jubilee is to withdraw our collective participation in a rigged system and instead put our energy, wherewithal, and productivity into systems that have specifically been designed to benefit us as individuals and as a whole.
The transition will be most difficult for those who have been comfortable for the majority of their lives under the existing financial system. Those privileged enough to have unfettered access to basic financial services, many living in first world nations with a relatively stable currency, will struggle to understand the urgent need for blockchain-based, non-national value exchange.
In time, however, the advantages of adopting non-national digital money and other blockchain-based decentralized finance tools will become so great that those arriving late to the party will be at a decided disadvantage. Our mission will be less about banking the unbanked and will shift instead to unbanking the banked. By that phase, most organizations will simply be scrambling to make their place in the emerging digital economy.
Expect blockchain-based branded reward systems by the hundreds, company based currencies, communal economies, regional markets with global market access, and rapid economic growth as the information age unlocks value across the globe. Even at this early stage, the industry is expected to unlock value at near unprecedented levels in the coming years.
The question remains, who should have access to that value, and why? A long line of centralized, for-profit organizations would love to take the lion’s share of this vast new wealth. The truth is, we as individuals will have to determine what systems most deserve our economic inputs. There’s no point in unlocking collective intelligence if we aren’t going to use it. Markets are truth-finding mechanisms, and last I checked competition was still good for the consumer.
For the first time the competition isn’t over who should get your hard earned dollars. Instead, the question becomes: Should we work hard for dollars and cents, or work for and towards something entirely new?
This simple paradigm shift has tremendous implications for those in poverty and communities around the world, representing the holy grail of blockchain-based currency projects. I believe it won’t be a single reserve currency that solves this problem, but rather a fluid system of myriad interoperable currencies.
Once our choice of currency becomes a true choice, we will unlock the path towards a brighter, more equitable future. While I resist offering up hopium in dark times, market data suggests the blockchain industry isn’t built on hopes and potential alone. It’s built on innovation and rapid expansion, two things you can always hang your hat on.
EDWARD DELEON HICKMAN
Founder / CEO