Every now and again a new technology appears in our lifetime that has the power to challenge, change and transform the way that we live our lives.
Whereas the 19th century saw the transition to automated manufacturing processes known as the Industrial Revolution, the 20th century witnessed the beginning of a great technological revolution. This electronic revolution started with the invention of the world’s first programmable computer by Konrad Zuse in the 1930’s.
By the end of that century, most domestic homes and offices had computers which could communicate with each other through what we now refer to as the internet.
Something that is very relevant to the subject of this guide (and you’ll find out why later) was the development of cryptography, largely following the cryptanalytic developments at Bletchley in the UK and the development of the Turing machine in the 1940’s which assisted in the decryption of cyphers used by the German Army’s Enigma machine.
In case you haven’t seen it, this was immortalized in the film The Imitation Game in 2014 which starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and Keira Knightley as his assistant.
In the 21st century, technology has moved ever more forward. Today, it is estimated that there are globally over 2 billion users of smartphones, each with a computing power that would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago.
We all know that these gadgets, which each year get ever more sophisticated, can be used to instantly send messages and pictures to anyone anywhere in the world. But imagine if they could also be used as personal banks, allowing owners to store a currency which was under their owner’s complete control and which could be sent to anyone in the world at the touch of a button.
If you’ve ever tried sending money abroad, then you will know that it can be an expensive and timely process. Money needs to be converted to a different currency by a third party and then sent to the recipient’s bank account, often with significant transaction and exchange charges being applied.
But what about people who don’t have a bank account or people who don’t live near the branch office of a company that can pay the recipient? What about migrants who are leaving their countries or people who live in countries where the economy has collapsed with runaway inflation? Do you think that these people would benefit from being able to manage funds and pay shops for food to feed themselves and their families, just through the touch of a button?
And whilst we are talking about sending funds abroad, do you think that it would make sense if people donating to charity could be certain that their kind contributions would reach the intended beneficiary and not get “lost” on the way?
Today this is all becoming possible through a new technology known as blockchain. It’s a fascinating and exciting invention that will increasingly challenge conventional ways of doing business, and in the same way that robots, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact jobs, it is going to be disruptive and will change many business processes.
This guide is as much about helping you start to understand this technology as it is about explaining to you how you can personally get a stake in it.
Anyone who was alive in the 1990’s will remember the dotcom boom and bust when many people made fortunes but most lost their investments. But if you were around in the UK in the 1980’s you’ll remember the UK government selling off state monopolies, which by contrast mostly returned several times people’s investments.
But the difference between these examples of get rich quick opportunities and what is happening in the blockchain sector today is that for a comparatively small investment, anyone with access to the internet can become involved and make returns, which sometimes can be many times their investment.
This guide is not written for technical experts, programmers or the wealthy. It’s written for people like my wife who recently invested her first £100 in a blockchain company. I want to show you how you can take advantage of this new technology and perhaps have the opportunity of building a meaningful amount that could help you pay for your retirement, help pay for things that you’d like to own, provide gifts for your children or just a better lifestyle.
Along the way, my aim is to give you an understanding of this technology as well as to generate a curiosity that will make you want to learn more. You’ll also learn many new terms which I’ll try and put into plain English.
But a word of warning. All of this carries a lot of risks and therefore I urge you not to commit more money than you can afford to lose. You don’t need to start with more than the equivalent of a few hundred pounds or dollars, unless you can afford to lose it.
If you share my excitement for all of this, beware that you may risk becoming a blockchain bore! In the same way that people nowadays are notorious for talking about the cost of housing or Brexit at supper parties, in the future discussions might well be around such things as mining (which as you’ll find out has nothing to do with the coal mines of the Appalachians or the diamond mines of South Africa), decentralization, peer to peer facilities, ICO’s and wonderful words such as Ethereum as well as a whole new vocabulary which can be found at the end of this book.
You’ll discover why Vitalik Buterin is not a Bond villain (as his name might suggest) but instead probably one of the smartest people in the world. You’ll also learn why a mew is not necessarily the noise that a cat makes.
This guide is aimed at friends that I meet, people in jobs who don’t always want to watch television in the evening, people who want something to do after their children have gone to school or left home, people who have some spare change and those who regret not investing in Apple Computers or Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway many years ago.
It’s written for normal people like you and me.