Bitcoin price prediction is just the start.
2017 has been a breakout year for crypto — with Bitcoin surpassing $10,000 and more than $3.8 billion raised this year in ICOs. We’ve seen truly mind-bending appreciation (like Ethereum’s 50X gains YTD) and witnessed the beginnings of countless new projects. In all the funding frenzy, we’ve also likely sown the seeds of some of the larger calamities that will befall the space.
One thing is certain: this technology has been distilled to practice and open sourced to world. It’s out of (Pandora’s?) box, and there’s no putting it back.
Pundits are quick to argue, given wild asset appreciation, that we are in something that looks like the internet bubble. Even if this is true, the question is whether this is the year 1994 or the very twilight of 1999.
So without further ado, let’s make our way to 2022, and see what world we may be inheriting.
1. Bitcoin Price Will Surpass $100,000 per Bitcoin
The champagnes were popped, balance screenshots commemorated and last-minute Vegas trips planned while Bitcoin price soared past $10,000 this week.
Short of entire system failure, Bitcoin is currently the most battle-tested crypto asset — and we are still early in the exponential curve. Many along the sidelines may call tulip bubble, our society has never had an element so global and so artificially scarce before. [Disclosure: this is not investment advice; author invests in and holds crypto assets.]
Some in the financial community are already calling for the $40,000 price mark in 2018 alone.
2. Commodity Markets for Everything Digital
One of the biggest areas facing disruption will be electronically deliverable (and verifiable) services: compute, bandwidth, and similar. Advances in blockchain technology will make it easier for marketplaces to form — and bring a huge amount of supply online. Why have every hosting company compete for user acquisition and retention, set up billing accounts, etc. when you can simply hook your equipment into a standardized service that has payments baked in?
We expect to see one or more major digital commodities traded readily. We may even see miners for hire — who will provide their hash power to secure a particular coin with a contractual bounty — above and beyond the transaction and block rewards the protocols offer natively.
Still uncertain are which protocols, existing or yet to be created, will be the winners. The winners will naturally bring the speculators (both purely financial and node providers) required to make a market. Also in question today is how much these markets will eat into Amazon’s AWS or Google’s cloud businesses — or whether many speculative operators will run their businesses on top of these platforms.
3. Fully Decentralized Exchanges
Many are quick to note the challenges of building a liquid and deep market in a decentralized fashion. Current centralized exchanges — while currently minting a huge amount of profit — are eager to see how their business will evolve. Market forces will drive all decentralized order books to share and interconnect — but once the entire market is completely connected, exchanges become completely, well, exchangeable.
A major driver spurring decentralization will likely be regulation — as certain currencies or exchange of currencies becomes more heavily regulated, it will drive behavior either to institutions that have proper compliance (for institutional investors) or underground.
For instance, even if a token offering is deemed an illegal equity offering, there still may exist a market of buyers and speculators. As a historical example, look back to penny stock spamming pump and dump schemes of 10 years ago. Brokerages would block trading of equities suspected of being manipulated in their UI, but buyers would still call their brokers to manually override and ride the pump (either up or down).
There is a lot of underlying infrastructure yet to be built — to help decentralized exchanges discover and share order volume, split economics — as well as the consumer and professional trading infrastructure to make this easier and more approachable.
In 2022, many trades may not actually be settled on chain. Additional layers of abstraction off-chain is currently a very ripe area for R&D. (Consider the Lightning Network and Rootstock projects.) These kinds of projects, while still in their infancy, suggest an even braver new world: where assets can be traded instantly without any public trace of their movement. The very first public cross chain swap, a trade between Litecoin and Bitcoin, just happened weeks ago. This is an area to watch closely.
4. New Organizations: Profits OK, Not Necessary
The increase of liquidity — both for employees and supply of risk capital — will drive more and more savvy entrepreneurs to skip registering their company in a local domain. Or cause the creation of value to happen outside of this standard corporate formula.
The “vanilla” terms that investors typically look for — and the importance of stock options for employee compensation — may no longer be the dominant way of organizing for companies. The Delaware C. Corporation itself may fall out of favor for new innovation that takes advantage of blockchain technology.
Furthermore, we will see more and more organizations created without profit as an explicit purpose. Economic activity may well be arranged more around organizations that look like public benefit or mutual corporations — and have for-profit activities take place around the fringes.
We can look to the original in-person financial exchanges as another example — one “seat” (token) was membership with equal rights and equal benefits. Profits were expected from an individual member’s own trading activity, not from ownership of the “house.”
5. Crypto Equities Emerge: Registered Equity Tokens
Just as more new projects will organize around a token-economy, look for more businesses to tie their ownership or value to a legal tokenized equity structure.
Easy trading, liquidity, and ability for any exchange to list the assets — these aren’t just benefits for token economies. More regulation will have to take place, but look for private equity investors and other trapped value to seek liquidity without listing on the NYSE or Nasdaq.