The January 21 issue of the NY Times Magazine included a very good article, Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble, by science writer Steven Johnson. His article aims to explain what blockchain, cryptocurrencies and related technologies are all about as well as their potential impact on the economy and society. These are not only complex but esoteric subjects, as nicely illustrated in this funny video. While blockchain and Bitcoin have been frequently in the news lately, beyond knowing that they have something to do with money, most people don’t really know what they are or why they should care.
This is not surprising. In their early years, it’s hard for most people to appreciate the potential of a transformative technology. There’s generally a considerable time-lag between the time we start reading articles about their exciting potential and their adoption by companies and industries across the marketplace. This is particularly the case for general purpose technologies, like electricity, the Internet and blockchain, which are the most potentially transformative due to their widespread use. Their deployment time-lags are longer because attaining their full benefits requires a number of complementary co-inventions and investments, including additional technologies, applications, processes, business models, and regulatory policies.