The Blockchain is Hungry: Looking Beyond Software and the Sharing Economy?

Software Is So 2011

In 2011, Marc Andreessen made a claim that still resonates loudly today. He claimed, most notable in a popular Wall Street Journal article, that “software is eating the world.” Since then, software has fulfilled this predictable 2011 prophecy by systematically consuming everything in its path. First slowly, and now very quickly, software is seeping seamlessly into every crack and crevasse of our lives — leading to what we now call the sharing economy.

Some of the biggest companies own almost nothing and employ almost nobody.

How do these companies survive (and thrive) with little/no employee base or physical ownership of any kind? Very simply, with well-written software; crafty code linked to computers making almost any aspect our lives easier and more efficient (ok, this is an oversimplification, but there’s accuracy in the essence).

So what’s next? Do we march forward as software giants continue to infiltrate our lives like capitalistic, well-intentioned cancers spreading amongst cultural cells of the past? Inevitably, the answer is yes. There’s no reason to think that the next Airbnb or Uber are not already well underway. But there’s also a new player in the game; one which has the potential to systematically eat software, in the same way that software is eating the world. What that means for our future is anyone’s guess.

The Blockchain

Here’s where things get interesting. Just as software continues to eat the world, blockchain and decentralization could eat software in similar respects. With the rise of things like Bitcoin, and more importantly for this discussion, Ethereum, we could very well be on the edge of a compounding effect that would make Uber seem like Pong on a mainframe. While blockchain-based technologies are still reliant on software, they allow for a new level of durability, interconnectivity, and most importantly, processing power.

There’s an assumption that this technology is only infiltrating the economic domain (mostly due to the hype of Bitcoin), but the simplicity of Merkel trees and blockchain have quickly blossomed into an entire ecosystem of software-hungry technologies with appetites that will grow exponentially and well beyond finance. Take this less than exhaustive list of software-slayers that have already gained serious traction:

Startups Be Warned

Whether or not you buy into the idea that software is eating the world (by the way, it definitely is), there’s very little downside in trying to better understand our inevitable future (one which is always much different than predicted). Especially among software-based startups, there’s no reason to be unaware of what this movement might mean to your efforts. Too often, we dig our heels into what works comfortably(software) instead of hedging our bets on the hungry and unfamiliar — that’s the blockchain!