My vision of the future - Peter Smith

Peter Smith, sat in a studio.
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by Peter Smith
9 August 2017

Future Visions is the series that explores the surreal world of tomorrow through the finest minds of today. In this chapter we hear from Blockchain co-founder, Peter Smith, who explains how new technologies will drastically change every aspect of our lives during the next two decades...

Meet our expert, Peter Smith. Peter is the CEO and co-founder of Blockchain, a financial technology and data company. He is also a regular contributor and speaker on new pioneering technology in the fin-tech space.

Key insights from Peter’s vision of the future

  • We are at the precipice of a digital revolution that will change every aspect of our lives, with a global computer fabric changing the way we interact, work and live.

  • We will see limitless customisation emerge, fuelled by artificial intelligence and massive data platforms that will be able to anticipate customer needs and deliver goods and services instantly.

  • The way we buy and sell will fundamentally change. Imagine, for example, a refrigerator that manages its own budget and negotiates with Amazon to purchase your weekly groceries - which is then delivered by drone in less than an hour.

This is my vision of the workplace in 20 years’ time...

While we’ll still eat food, go to work and travel on vacations, the ways in which we do these things will be drastically altered thanks to generation-defining changes in technology. In fact, I predict that by 2037 a complete global computer fabric will make interacting with goods, services and people easier than ever. Citizens of the world will be more closely connected through technology, communication and networks.

The rate of change is going to get increasingly faster and catching up will only get harder, so it’s key for individuals and businesses to stay (or become) nimble and able to adapt to an ever changing environment. Also, it’s vital that everyone becomes fluent in digital technologies. Your business may not be a technology company in the traditional sense, but it will need to use technology to compete in a global marketplace. Having a foundational understanding will be an integral part of your success.

We’ve already seen some incredible advancements across technology, healthcare, data, science, information, insight and computational capacity. Many of the developments we see today, like blockchains and artificial intelligence (AI), are gaining traction and broader acceptance by consumers globally. That said, the thing about real transformation is that it happens little by little and then all at once. We’re still in the little by little phase but I anticipate progress will compound in the coming decades and we’ll see ubiquity of these technologies in 20 years’ time.

Peter Smith, sitting at a table, looking straight into the camera
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The future of buying and selling

Connecting people who need things with people who have them will become vastly easier. Global channels will make competition fierce and optimised logistics will decrease costs and increase speed. Further, consumers and businesses alike currently pay a premium (e.g. credit card fees) for access to trusted intermediaries that power the exchange of value today. In the future, the exchange of value will be direct and much more efficient.

On top of this, digital profiles will be owned and monetised by consumers directly and businesses will be better equipped to understand and anticipate customer preferences, resulting in a better user experience.

Until recently, intermediaries were required for financial transactions in order to establish trust. That is changing. Blockchain technology is upending this trust model and allowing users across the globe to transact directly, at a fraction of the cost and time. Just like peer-to-peer technologies changed the way we shared files and made phone calls, the blockchain will make it possible for people to perform economic transactions with each other without a bank, without forex markets or merchant processors. This same technology will likely be used to disintermediate the real estate industry, law firms, trade finance and much more.

The use of blockchain technology has wide applications across multiple industries and new business opportunities will primarily be discovered anywhere an intermediary exists. Additionally, over the next 20 years, as billions of people get online, there will be greater opportunities for businesses to scale and reach more people, especially in frontier and emerging markets.

Technologies like blockchain combine deep platform resiliency, transactional transparency between counter-parties and completely new regulatory structures built on code that can be instantly audited. As more and more software gets created on open source frameworks, it will decrease the cost for service delivery as well as reduce the barriers to entry for billions of people who want to participate in the formal economy.

The speed at which new software is developed and compiled will be an impetus of change in IP practices and enforcement. More people will benefit from open licence agreements, resulting in less money spent on protecting and enforcing patents, especially in software.

Limitless customisation

Today’s consumers already value personalisation and customisation and businesses are competing to offer that high-touch experience. In the future, however, there will be limitless customisation fuelled by AI and massive data platforms that will be able to anticipate customer needs and deliver goods and services instantly. Customers will be able to get what they want, when they want. The added convenience will give them time to focus on the things about which they care most. Our businesses and homes will become highly automated and most of our appliances will be connected to the internet. For example, imagine a refrigerator that manages its own budget and negotiates with Amazon to purchase your weekly groceries that are delivered by drone in less than an hour - saving you valuable time and money!

We are starting to see a shift in shopping behaviours. Today, the majority of consumers prefer to purchase online or digitally, driving rapid growth in e-commerce and online shopping. This change is going to cause retail stores to be replaced by showroom type experiences where consumers can still have a tactile experience but inventory management and delivery will happen in the background. For other transactions, consumers won’t have to interact with a sales clerk, gas pump attendant, or check in representative as everything will be automated. Also, mass adoption of digital currencies that are affordable and flexible will make cash extinct, with the rare exception of a few remaining analogue cultural pockets.

We are at the precipice of a digital revolution that will change every aspect of our lives, including the retail and sales experience. This transformation will take time and it’s impossible to predict with any confidence what the future has in store. That said, it is not unlikely that stores will be replaced by VR experiences, everyday purchases will be powered by IoT and wearables will help to create a more personalised end-to-end experience for processes as varied as shopping and medicine.

How to prepare yourself for change...

  1. Learn as much as you can about programming and digital technologies. Doing so will equip your business with the right tools.

  2. Learn as much as you can about how people operate. Externally, it will help you understand consumer behaviour. Internally, it will help you build a high performing team.

  3. Build a clear mission and path. It will help you push forward when things get hard and ensure that you are defining the market rather than letting it define you.