Increasingly, online marketplaces are beginning to mirror the freedom of their offline counterparts around the world. With the continual growth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, online transactions between buyer and seller are becoming increasingly autonomous from officiating bodies and with that, restrictions, licensing and taxation.
Decentralization is a good thing. Considering that big banks wilfully gambled with the world's debts to essentially crumble the global economy in 2008, with full knowledge that their hubris would be met with no real repercussion, we shouldn't trust them. Thanks to decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and platforms like Ethereum, we no longer have to.
The feeling of anonymity and spontaneity that comes from walking through a marketplace is a liberating experience. When we shop online, we're essentially creating profiles of ourselves, reducing us to money with legs. The controlled environment of online shopping means that targeted advertising and 'If you liked that, try this' retains the claustrophobia of aggressive sales like in a marketplace, but offers few of the other experiential benefits and freedoms.
Following on from the models of early online marketplaces like Silk Road, the anonymity and matter-of-fact manner in which business is conducted replaces the claustrophobia with the sense that anything is possible, within moral reason, as long as you have got the money.
First they hate it, then they embrace it. Such has been the case with big brands forever. They don't understand something and react accordingly, in this case it's by decrying the emerging technology as a 'fad' rather than trying to understand it, although the tide is slowly turning.
The lack of restriction naturally means that goods will be bought and sold that are illegal, like in most marketplaces around the world. So is it safe to leave people to their own unrestricted devices? Your answer says more about you than it says about the people you are concerned about.
There's no doubt that it's a contentious issue. Where there are opportunities to do something bad, eventually someone will. But part of the draw of cryptocurrencies is the philosophical idealism that decentralisation relates to. There's no doubt that freedom in the online marketplace has potential problems, but is the consumers choices really the thing we should be worried about?
It's the third parties that are consistently being revealed as the problem, especially when it comes to the increasingly important issue online - our security. It's the people collecting our data on social media, the banks charging exorbitant fees for people to send money home to loved ones or worse, when banks use their clients money to gamble on risky investments. The use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology will solve these issues - beyond that, it looks set to change the global marketplace forever, inducing a return to the kind of capitalism that boils down to the fundamentals of supply and demand - where the quality of product and competitive pricing reigns supreme. It will bring out the best in everyone. But how does it work?
User's have their own cryptocurrency wallet, either online or offline that can store the currency of their choice. Transactions are documented on a decentralized database (the blockchain) which is an infinite ledger supported by users. These transactions from wallet to wallet (another user or a store) remain anonymous and this money can't be played with by other people. Once it's yours, it's yours to keep. The downside is that these cryptocurrencies are more volatile to price changes than fiat currencies (dollar, pound, euro etc), although the overall trend has been that of growth.
Money is controlled and backed-up by countries and governments, whereas cryptocurrency's have no central bank or controlling body, which allows it to be accessible to everyone - it doesn't judge you. The fact that it is online also means that transactions are settled a lot quicker than wiring money or assets between countries, having a lot less bureaucracy to pass through. This is the primer for the real return of the marketplace, this time on a global scale.
Walking through the energetic and bustling streets of Marrakech is now becoming possible online. The smells, the people and the atmosphere might not be there, but the real purpose of the market - the goods, are all available to buy and without the constantly encroaching nanny state culture that is coming to define life online. It's no one else's business what legal goods you buy, unless of course the goal is data-mining to allow services online to tailor their service - whilst being occasionally helpful, there is no doubt that it is intrusive.
The decentralization of global finance is fast becoming one of the most significant economic and sociological ideas of the modern world. The monetary system that has taken up until now to establish is being torn down, or built upon, depending on your corner in the fight, allowing us to interact with the economy in a whole new way - a way that pays closer homage to the original reason fiat currencies developed than the digitized world of finance at the moment that is unrecognizable to the early days of trade.
The cryptocurrency 'movement', whilst becoming more and more well known by the day, thanks in part to the drastic rise in the stock of Ethereum, a platform which one can build their own cryptocurrency based asset, has something else that standard currencies don't - likeable figureheads that people want to invest their money in. One of these is the co-founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin. At only 23 years old he has built up a significant fanbase online, groups that are more than willing to invest in his vision of a whole new financial system built on a whole new type of decentralized internet.
Some people think the boy-genius is an alien, others think we should build a cult around him. This level of good-natured fervour has an undercurrent of true hope and belief that one young guy has managed to create a utopian vision of our future. So far he has come up against leading thinkers and opinion-makers and allowed his work to talk - although it's becoming more of a yell.
The utopian vision is intrinsically inclusive. There's no American Express level elitism, it's about giving the people power. Financial tech companies are now beginning to cater for the large amount of people in the world that don't have access to or aren't qualified to open their own bank account and cryptocurrencies are being adopted as legitimate sources of payment by companies consistently. The only enemy it seems are the supporters themselves. Whilst these coins continue to scale at such a drastic rate, the instability will keep many larger companies at bay. But when the market stabilizes, the world will slowly begin to change, taking back some of the power that government's have tried and are trying so desperately to hold on to.
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