For many, distributed ledgers and cryptocurrencies are still a strange invention that has piqued the interest of millennials, futurists, technology enthusiasts, and investors. Despite all the hype, cryptocurrencies have not yet hit mainstream adoption. They remain the ambit of a small group of forward thinkers, and retail outlets need to accept major cryptos en mass to facilitate wider adoption. When this happens, a critical mass will be reached.
But distributed ledgers are not a luxury to complement existing payment systems. They are a necessary paradigm to prevent the surveillance state as well as resolve some other global issues. The Chinese surveillance state is already fully operational, and control needs to be decentralized to prevent further limitations on basic freedoms.
China – the surveillance state
As noted by Vanity Fair, China seems to be shepherding in an “authoritarian hellscape” through the use of technology, as opposed to enhancing democracy. The current state of affairs in China is absolutely chilling.
China is already compromised in multiple ways concerning democracy and freedom. Tech startups willingly hand over data to the government, political dissent is quashed, and there are few laws to protect customer privacy. China has killed off ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges in the region, once a thriving hub, and is working on its own state cryptocurrency.
So far, Chinese government institutions have installed cameras to pinpoint thieves using facial recognition technology as well as to fine people merely for jaywalking. By 2020, China may have over 300 Million cameras to monitor its 1.4 billion citizens, spending over USD 30 Billion on the technology. Already in the Western part of the country, surveillance technology is used to track the Muslim minority, in an incredibly invasive manner. A startup called EyeCool gives over 2 million images daily to a big data policing system. The name of this system, if it can be believed – Skynet.
What is perhaps more chilling than the surveillance is the casual acceptance of numerous Chinese citizens. What would have a libertarian cryptocurrency advocate quaking in his/her boots is heralded as a positive innovation in China. Many citizens are welcoming of increased surveillance, most likely linked to a Chinese mentality of the greater good for wider society, as it would increase positive behavior. The perception of surveillance is enough to compel the majority of citizens to act “positively”, even though cameras in China are not completely ubiquitous nor interoperable right now.
In the USA, in many ways the Chinese opposite, the same surveillance operations are in place, but in an entirely different and more underground manner, with the wiretapping of phones and complete monitoring of all online activity. This is largely because the US public is vehemently opposed to government intervention of any kind. And yet, despite this strength, in all likelihood the US will eventually go the way of China. Unless alternative means of governance, finance, and regulation are provided in the meantime through distributed ledgers, increased surveillance will be used by the government for the “greater good”.
What distributed ledgers can do
The use cases and potential benefits of distributed ledgers are endless, yet there needs to be a shift or bump from the old ways of management and finance to new and more innovative solutions, particularly in the financial sector. There are distributed ledger operations underway to –
- Decentralize space missions so the public can invest in galactic projects.
- Force Facebook, Google, Youtube, and other platforms to release consumer data, and enable the customer to sell his or her data to advertisers.
- Create a decentralized internet, so all currently provided services (Airbnb, Uber, YouTube Facebook, Google, Twitter, Booking.com, etc.) are incorruptible, faster, and cheaper.
- Track food products on the blockchain
- Clean up the environment
- Provide decentralized e-voting as well as birth and death certificates.
- Provide secure decentralized identity management systems
The above is just the tip of the iceberg and DLT will disrupt all existing industries while creating many more. We are still in the preliminary stages and making the transition over, but there is still a danger of investing and supporting tokens that are decentralized in name only. Pure decentralization is the only way to ensure fairness for all participants.
No time left for fence-sitting
Those who are still sitting on the fence have to realize that the future can only go one of two ways. Either it becomes fully decentralized and the whole community votes via their tokens in a network or group of networks. Or we leave things as they are, and national governments around the world will simply enforce surveillance networks much like China, leading to the absolute end of democracy as we know it.
A pivot point is just around the corner, pushed forward by national crises such as that of Venezuela and Turkey. The time will soon come when fence sitting is no longer an option. It’s either an Orwellian state or a decentralized globe built on distributed ledgers. If left in limbo the government is going to make your choice for you.
Digital Nomad with an interest in Zen and Blockchain technology.
Law graduate with 3 years experience as a consultant in the capital markets industry and 4 years experience freelancing on UpWork as a Creative Writer.