The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has made some more interesting observations about the phenomenon that is cryptocurrency. Earlier this year, the Managing Director of IMF talked about how the introduction of cryptocurrency could very well be the catalyst for the complete overhaul of the world economy. Although we are yet quite far away from the abolition of government-issued fiat money, all the signs of a revolution within the financial space are there. Now the man behind IMF’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department has written an article putting the emergency of digital currency into an evolutionary perspective.
Blockchain as a general-purpose technology
Martin Mühleisen from IMF writes that digital platforms, such as those underpinned by blockchain technology, are classified as a general-purpose technology. According to him, only three other kinds of technology in human history have the same capabilities, and these are the steam engine, the electricity generator, and the printing press. What makes general-purpose technology so important is that it continually transforms itself and affects all industry sectors — often creating completely new ones.
The only issue with these kind of transformative technologies is that human culture is often very slow to catch up. Mühleisen notes that it is not only important to adopt a new technology, but also for society to adapt to it. Without adapting to new technology, we cannot fully benefit from it. As an example, Mühleisen shows how James Watt invented a functional steam engine in 1774, but no actual steam locomotive ran until 1812. That is many years worth of wasted potential.
Cryptocurrency will change the financial industry
While Mühleisen notes the dangers associated with cryptocurrency, such as the ability for criminals to use them for money-laundering and drug trade, he also acknowledges the potential benefits of the blockchain technology. Among these are faster, cheaper, and more secure financial transactions. Mühleisen also mentions how government regulations are a bit behind the evolution of the technology, and are only now being put into motion. This is another example of adopting a new technology, but not necessarily adapting to it fast enough.
Mühleisen also mentions some of the new technologies on the horizon. Quantum computing will allow for calculations at a speed and on a scale that is unprecedented. As quantum computing becomes more mainstream, it will completely change industries relying on processing power. One of these industries will be cryptocurrency mining, and the blockchain space will undoubtedly see lots of changes as a result of the introduction of quantum computing.
Disruptions are on the horizon
While technological advancement is generally seen as a good thing for humanity in the long term, there are short term issues that need to be dealt with in the present. New technology like blockchain is very disruptive, and can create a lot of chaos and confusion. Mühleisen warns that jobs will disappear, and it is a good idea to start thinking about which new jobs will be created, and what qualifications will be needed. Therefore, he advises both public and private institutions alike to start considering which policies they will put in place to prepare for the digital revolution.