Blockchain is held by many as the single biggest breakthrough since the arrival of the internet. But what exactly is it?
Imagine a long record of data duplicated across millions of machines and maintained day and night by them. There is no longer any need to depend on a bank to check how much money you have, or who you sent it to. Blockchain promises to do this quicker, cheaper and more accurately than ever before. Tech innovators from data services to supply chains are being inspired to explore its potential, as are independent content creators like artists and musicians. At its core, blockchain has a very simple premise: there are new ways to be certain of things - new ways to store information, new ways to authenticate processes, and do it more securely than ever before.
The empowered gig economy
In a society in which trust in traditional sources of authority is suffering, new routes to commercial truth and trust building are gaining in popularity. Blockchain heralds a future in which truth is tangible and mechanised, creating new relationships between organisations, employees and customers.
The ability of smart contracts to enable a pay-as-you-go revolution will further empower the so-called “gig economy” where freelancers only clocks working hours when there is consumer demand. If you can wake up, enable a smart contract to monitor your work for the day, based on your specific skill set, then why would you tie yourself to a single employer?
The economy generated by short term contracts and freelancers increased everywhere in the last 10 years, in the US it even increased with 50% (research by L.Katz and A.Krueger, 2016). The strongest cited motivations to join the gig economy are the ability to work flexibility and maintain a work-life balance.
Contracts to cut out the middleman
In a handful of years, we may look back and think that blockchain was the beginning of a data revolution. Its long-term impact on the future workforce is set to be profound.
EOS, founded in 2017, is an operating system in which multiple applications can be activated through the use of smart contracts, which self-execute according to a pre-determined code. Lawyers are likely to be under pressure from programmers to use them. Data-driven contracts will start to rely on algorithms rather than people.
The ability to keep a record of activity transparently and securely will lend itself to a world in which intermediaries are under increasing pressure to show their value. Verifying information and being the trusted intermediary will become increasingly obsolete with the proliferation of blockchain. Peer-to-peer relationships will no longer be as risky as they currently can be on the internet.
Steemit is a social network built using blockchain. Content providers to the network are rewarded “tokens” for creating content on it. The token structure of companies can dictate the revenue of the value creators, allowing people to earn a living in a peer-to-peer environment, without the mediation of a corporation.
Programming will be an increasingly important skill set in blockchain based services. Code will win arguments and be fed into blockchain without the need for any discussion or in-person decision-making procedure.
Already used across a number of industries, Project Provenance Ltd uses blockchain to create a system that anyone can use to guarantee the provenance of anything from coffee beans to a roll of fabric. The transparency embedded in blockchain solutions such as this means that companies are kept to a higher degree of accountability for their practices.
New corporate structures will appear that seek seamlessness between the value creator and the beneficiaries of that value. Using token structures, people will have an unprecedented ability to be their own boss. Imagine an Uber owned and run by the drivers.
Everledger is a fraud detection system for the diamond trading industry. By putting smart contracts onto a distributed ledger the provenance and history of the product are guaranteed, preventing fraud and illicit trading. Accountability like this will allow prospective employees to see a company as it really is, not just the image they wish to project. Reputation will become an even more essential tool in attracting talent.
What are the key trends and how are they likely to impact the future of work? We explore the following future trends: