Cryptocurrencies are the strange new kid on the block, not exactly respectable but also a subject of way too much discussion. They are often hyped as a means of faster, better financial transaction. Bitcoin is denounced with equal fervor for its volatility. Like gold, there have been people who made a fortune off of bitcoins, but most people barely strike it even.
But cryptocurrencies could save the world.
The latest developments in the cryptocurrency world is building platforms off of existing blockchains. Steemit, the platform on which this blog is written, is such a platform. People are paid in shares of the blockchain for the attention that readers give them per blog post. Each blog post has the potential to make a lot of money, or none at all. But the incentive keeps people returning for a chance at a bigger payout.
It's sort of like gambling, but with no possibility of losing everything.
This is the ultimate incentive system, then. You cannot bottom out on a cryptocurrency platform, but there is a nearly infinite amount of money to be earned by the best and brightest. This is not capitalism, per se, since capitalism requires a profit motive and in fact Steemit (or StarJoin or any of the other emerging platforms) do not strictly allow you to profit. You produce a product and receive an incentive, to be sure, but you are splitting shares instead of receiving a wage. This makes you a part owner of the blockchain.
This system could be incredibly powerful when applied to the ecological crisis besetting our planet. Capitalism incentives the destruction of natural resources by requiring extraction of resource wealth. This basic resource extraction problem will not be going away anytime soon. But the damage done to the environment can be mitigated.
A large portion of that mineral wealth flows into powering the data centers that run the internet, the electricity that powers our homes, and the fuel that powers our cars. All of these things are metered devices that involve a transaction of some sort. All of these activities can thus be put on a blockchain.
The crucial step in this process is realizing that people would now be making money off of running their electricity and cars and Netflix, instead of paying or being advertised to.
But won't this in fact increase fuel consumption as everyone rushes to make money?
It will increase fuel consumption, to a degree. However, there is also a statistically valid link between poverty and inefficient energy consumption. Whether this is being unable to afford insulation to retain heat (and thus burn less fuel in wintertime), or being unable to afford hybrid cars (and thus delaying the development of electric car recharging networks), or consuming the least sustainable foods, being poor is bad for the planet.
Increasing passive wealth for the masses through blockchain will give millions of people the ability to invest in a sustainable lifestyle.
The generations that are growing up, today's children and teens and young adults, are the most ecologically conscious individuals on the planet. I know this because I teach them, and am one. They want to be able to afford the SolarCity solar shingles, but can't afford a new roof and, besides, they're renters. They want to buy local produce, but can't afford to attend the farmer's markets because they are staffing the Starbucks down the street. They want to start small businesses that will provide local economic benefit without massive supply chains that destroy the environment, but they don't have the starting capital.
By putting blockchain on the habitual utilities of their life, today's young people could save the world.
So keep on writing, Steemit. Your fights over whales and orcas and minnows might amount to averting the Meltpocalypse.