Bitcoin’s Highs and Lows: Where to Next?

Since the critical acclaim of Bitcoin and digital currencies in 2017, there has been a lot of talk about its future. Bitcoin was the first digital currency to attract mainstream attention, and after that, 2018 was less than glamorous, with the price plummeting. Are cryptocurrencies a thing of the past already, or a Hard Trend of the future?

Since the critical acclaim of Bitcoin and digital currencies in 2017, there has been a lot of talk about its future. Bitcoin was the first digital currency to attract mainstream attention, and after that, 2018 was less than glamorous, with the price plummeting.

Are cryptocurrencies a thing of the past already, or a Hard Trend of the future?

A Bitcoin Overview

Cryptocurrency uses peer-to-peer technology, similar to the file-sharing technology of the early 2000s. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, it being virtual and decentralized. This means no one is in charge of it and it isn’t backed by the government. Bitcoin’s value is protected only by a distributed network that maintains its ledgers and protects its transactions by means of cryptography.

The concept behind Bitcoin first emerged in 2009 by an anonymous programmer (or programmers) using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. A single Bitcoin is today valued at $8,204, while the market cap is now at $145.66 billion.

Every Bitcoin is connected to an address and every Bitcoin is sent or received by a digital wallet attached to the address. Names aren’t associated with the transactions, creating a system that is wholly transparent while remaining functionally anonymous.

Bitcoin: A Soft Trend?

What exactly can you do with Bitcoins? It’s digital currency, so saving or spending them seems to be the immediate answer. However, in order to spend them, individuals and, more importantly, businesses must accept your Bitcoins. While a growing number of businesses accept Bitcoin, such as Overstock.com, most popular merchants and service providers including Amazon do not.

Let’s first discuss my Hard Trend Methodology and the differences between Hard Trends and Soft Trends to assess Bitcoin’s longevity.

A Hard Trend is a trend that will happen and is based on measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects. They are future facts that cannot be changed.

A Soft Trend is a trend that might happen and is based on an assumption that looks valid in the present, and it may be likely to happen, but it is not a future fact. Soft Trends can be changed.

While Bitcoin itself grew in popularity, its future success is still a Soft Trend. During 2017, Bitcoin was treated by many as more of an investment than actual currency and likewise faced backlash when it was used for illegal online transactions.

However, the concept of cryptocurrencies is a Hard Trend, and here’s why:

Cryptocurrency: A Hard Trend

Cryptocurrencies are here to stay, including the underlying technology (blockchain) that enables them to function. Cryptocurrency, as well as blockchain, represents a radically new idea in finance: a decentralized system for exchanging value. Due to its open-source nature and its copyright-free core program, there will always be room for improvement. Programmers around the world have already developed military-grade encryptions and new ways to trade, thus stabilizing the prices.

Cryptocurrencies exist as mere entries in a blockchain-enabled accounting system. That system acts as a transparent public ledger that records transactions among “addresses.” Owning cryptocurrency isn’t analogous to having paper money in your pocket. Instead, it means a personal claim to an address, with your own password, and the right to do with it as you see fit. Over time, this will increasingly disrupt traditional models and global currencies, playing a role in a number of future digital transformations.

The Future of Currency: Digital Payments

Imagine you want new shoes, and your favorite shoe store accepts some form of cryptocurrency. If you don’t already possess cryptocurrency, you purchase some from a crypto-currency kiosk or an online exchange and assign it to your online account, known as a “wallet.”

When paying for your new shoes, you open your “digital wallet,” which is unlocked with passwords and/or biometrics, and the currency network is publicly informed that you’ve transferred $100 worth of cryptocurrency to the store. This happens fast, and there are almost no fees and no personal information divulged. Compare this with the slow debit or credit card counterpart, often with a third party involved. The benefits become more clear.

Other Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin was the first digital currency, but not the last. A large number of cryptocurrencies now exist, and the list is expanding. Litecoin, for example, was launched back in 2011 on the same blockchain as Bitcoin and was meant to improve it. Ethereum was created in 2015 by Vitalik Buterin and is a blockchain-based platform that can be used for developing decentralized apps and smart contracts. The list of cryptocurrencies is actually quite large and, as I said earlier, growing. And the enabling technology, blockchain, is being applied to a rapidly growing number of industries creating both disruption and new opportunities.

In Conclusion

Bitcoin versus the technology category of cryptocurrency gives us a clear example of the difference between Soft Trends and Hard Trends. Cryptocurrencies will continue to evolve and integrate into our economy and everyday life, as will the enabling blockchain technology, making cryptocurrency a Hard Trend, while the future success of individual cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is a Soft Trend: It may or may not have a bright future. When you’re able to distinguish between the Soft Trends that might happen and the Hard Trends that will happen, you will dramatically improve your ability to understand and manage risk as you become more anticipatory.

Learn how to accurately manage risk with my latest bestselling book The Anticipatory Organization.

Embracing the Power of Blockchain Technology

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

During the digital transformation, we have witnessed traditional forms of physical media fall out of favor as users abandoned their treasure trove of CDs, DVDs, books, magazines and even photo albums to partake in an entirely clutter-free life. Digitally optimizing our lives has enabled us to remove shelves, cabinets and dust magnets while we get our entertainment fix from the likes of Netflix, Spotify and the endless list of streaming alternatives.

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

Over in Europe, Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden are leading a charge toward a cashless society that will see the end of tooth fairy payments for children, but will equally wave goodbye to a world of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion. The bonus of replacing scrambling around for loose change for a purchase, or riding public transportation with contactless payment by swiping a card or smartphone, is incredibly appealing for most users.

The concept of handing over a handful of silver coins in exchange for any product or service can feel quite primitive in our modern world dominated by technology. However, contactless and smartphone payments are not the end-all, be-all payment options, as there is another game changer in the form of a cyber currency. But does this technology disruptor have the power to transform our traditional banking system?

Blockchain is the digital ledger software code that powers Bitcoin. As this system has grown in popularity, the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters,has her sights set on changing the way banks trade loans and bonds in a way that could dramatically change the way we look at both business and banking. Blythe delivered a massive wake-up call to finance leaders when she compared the influx of changes to the arrival of the internet when she advised, “You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the internet in the 1990s. It’s analogous to email for money.” The speed in which technology trends can go viral illustrates how an internet of finance could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The interesting aspect of Bitcoin is the ability to buy and sell without the need for an intermediary. This represents a paradigm shift in the management and structure of the financial services industry. However, adopting innovation and changing entire ecosystems is not something that the notoriously cautious financial industry and affiliated regulation committees are famed for.

Because this technology has the potential to reduce the role banks play in the lives of individuals, it is understandable why financial institutions are skeptical. However, these developments cannot be written off just yet. They could save consumers and the financial industry billions of dollars while also removing their reliance on middlemen to offer a speedier, modern and more efficient banking experience.

The ultimate goal is to move payments globally much faster while simultaneously becoming more transparent and lowering costs. We will likely begin to witness early adopters making waves in the private market before the ever-cautious big players speak of standardization and implementation. However, there are already a few of them dipping their toes into the water.

According to the PwC, there are already over three hundred technology startups developing ideas that will allow blockchain to revolutionize the financial industry. Big players like Visa and Nasdaq are already investing heavily into a blockchain startup, and there are also plans to modernize the London Market. Lloyds is looking to blockchain technology to improve its data access and reduce costs associated with administrative paperwork.

There are daily stories of heavyweights within the financial industry becoming increasingly eager to capture the tamper-proof benefits offered by a future web-based cryptocurrency. Technology leaders such as Microsoft also have thrown their hats into the ring to demonstrate the possibilities that blockchain technology can offer.

There is exciting potential to completely revolutionize the way in which the finance industry works. But in its infancy, many will continue to exercise great caution before rushing into a shiny electronic cash system that is fully peer-to-peer. The future of cash and pockets full of loose change is indeed looking numbered, as many wonder if in just a few years we will be looking back at our quaint primitive payment methods in the same way many do with physical media now.

Cryptocurrencies that thrive in a transparent environment might seem like a foreign concept today, but the rise of blockchain technology is one Hard Trend that will quickly prove to be impossible to ignore.

Finance trends can be anticipated – when you know how to look. The Anticipatory Organization Model has the power to shift an organization’s operating mindset from the default of reacting and responding to changes coming from the outside in, to a place of empowerment by anticipating and shaping the future from the inside out.