This is the first of a three-part series about a technology that's likely to create a level of disruption, unlike anything we've seen. This article is to introduce the technology and put its disruptive implications in perspective. The next article will explain how the technology works. And the third will be about your likely first contact, and how you'll use it in your business and life. First, some perspective.
Since the advent of the Digital Age, the number of business model disruptions brought on by new technology has been unprecedented in human history. Legacy paradigms – complete with red-letter rules and legendary success stories – have shifted dangerously for multi-generational industries. Think Kodak. Other examples include email's impact on fax machines and the letter/parcel delivery industry; Airbnb hindering the hospitality industry without owning any real estate; and don't ask a cabby about Uber unless you want to hear cursing.
There's one thing all these disruptions have in common: The most breathtakingly-fast shifts of the past have been on a level that I call "next-step understanding." Previously, when an innovation disrupted and possibly even surprised us, what we saw happening was next-step understandable. As dramatic as any innovation may have been – personal computer, Internet, e-commerce, social media, etc. – we took it in stride because it was a single unit of variation above where we were operating.
But, now it's time to buckle up. What's coming at you won't be next-step – it will require what I call "quantum-leap understanding." A quantum leap requires at least two steps – maybe more – at once. Understanding this next disruption won't be like taking a course in Spanish or French. It will be more like learning Klingon. Almost maddening at first, it will seem like you're passing through a wormhole into another dimension. Tech writer Adam Greenfield said this: "This is the first technology I've encountered that's difficult for even the most intelligent and highly capable people to understand."
The quantum-leap disruption I'm talking about will come in the form of crypto-technology known as Blockchain. Its purpose is to identify, record, secure and distribute in digital form something of value – like cryptocurrency or a contract – to a network of distributed ledgers on computers across the Internet.
Quantum Leap Warning: If you're about to go off the grid for the rest of your life, this is a good time to stop reading. But if you're planning to be in the marketplace for the foreseeable future, gaining an understanding of Blockchain is as optional as not having a website.
Satoshi Nakamoto (the name attributed to Bitcoin's inventor) wanted to create a peer-to-peer crypto-currency. But to accomplish his goal of making Bitcoin immutable (read: trustable), for reasons you'll learn later, he created the foundational technology we know today as Blockchain.