If I weren't so passionate about the ways that mobile devices are changing the world, I'd be spending my time in one of the following three areas: Crypto currencies like Bitcoin, the commercialization of drones, and the rise of 3D printing.
Oh, time is so our enemy. Even a long-lived life only amounts to 750,000 hours or so. And as per my recent keynote at the 2013 Mobile Outlook on a "Framework for Stupid Ideas," one of my guiding principles is to "focus on focus" to maximize the value of each of those hours. Since mobile is my deepest passion, I'm not willing to dedicate the time to dive into any of these other things.
Another of my framework points is to play in a "space that matters." And these three spaces really, really matter -- that much will be obvious to everyone in the span of a few years. So I'm hoping that some other entrepreneur will be as passionate about one of these three spaces as I am about mobile. I figured I'd present a few highlights from each of them to showcase why they're such a big deal.
Some people liken Bitcoin to the Dainish Tulip speculation and crash of the 1600s. And that's just fine with me, because another one of my framework points is that I love it when others think something is a stupid idea. (The trick is to find a really good idea masquerading as a stupid idea -- that's where the multi-billion dollar opportunities are).
So why is Bitcoin actually a big deal when others think it's a fad? Because a decentralized crypto currency with a built in supply ceiling and a well thought out structure and execution has the potential to create a global currency. And creating a global currency carries with it all sorts of massive disruptions, like:
Those are just several of countless disruptions that have the potential to change the way humans interact as a species. And that's a really big deal.
The network will increase the money supply as a geometric series until the total number of bitcoins reaches 21 million bitcoins (BTC).
Bitcoin releases a 25-coin reward to the first node in the network that solves a difficult mathematical problem requiring a certain amount of brute-force computation. Everyone in the network is then notified of the solution, and competition for a new block and its 25-coin reward renews. Currently 25 bitcoins are generated roughly every 10 minutes.
As of March 2013 more than 10.5 million of the total 21 million BTC had been created. Theoretically all bitcoins will be generated by 2140, with the last one consisting of fractional parts. To ensure granularity of the money supply, each BTC unit can be divided down to eight decimal places (a total of 2.1 × 1015 or 2.1 quadrillion units).
So about half of all the bitcoins that will ever exist have been mined to date, and it's going to get harder and harder to mine them moving forward, making each Bitcoin more valuable over time (this is exactly why they were created to contain eight decimal places -- it's very possible that one Bitcoin may be worth, say, $10,000 at some point (or way more) and you'll pay for something worth $1.50 with 0.00015000 Bitcoins. One Bitcoin is worth about $120 today -- up from just a couple of dollars a few years ago:
(Note the recent spike to $260 and subsequent crash -- something that Bitcoin naysayers associate with the Tulip crash. The thing they don't realize is that anyone can grow as many Tulips as they like, but the number of Bitcoins has a finite supply, and it's getting harder to mine them every day, as illustrated by this WIRED article on the topic of mining Bitcoins).
If you really want to geek out on Bitcoins, then read this whitepaper written by Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin's anonymous creator. (Some people think that Bitcoin was actually created by a government.) The whitepaper goes into elegant detail on the theory behind Bitcoin, for example showing how a dishonest seller's chances of defrauding a buyer by creating a parallel chain would be thwarted by additional honest blocks in the primary chain, with a Poisson distribution of the defrauder's expected progress, illustrated with the following formula and code:
Commercialization of Drones:
Drones to date have been seen primarily as military hardware, but that will change over time. Currently, it's illegal to fly dones commercially in US airspace due to FAA regulations, but new regulations are due out by 2015 (there's a lot of pressure on the FAA to draft regulations that are more drone-friendly). The regulatory barrier is temporary.
The commercial application opportunities of drones are tremendous. Parody sites like Tacocopter.com and aerial newspaper delivery by drone highlight some of the possibilities. (One side note -- mobile devices will likely play a tantilizingly central role in the world of drones. I have a post here about how mobile apps are super relevant in hardware innovation).
Another example: Here's a video from a company that was taking aerial videos of luxury homes as a service for real estate agents (before getting shut down):
But aerial photography is just scratching the surface of the possibilities. Drones will disrupt industries like:
Those are just a few examples of a long list of societal, commercial and technological changes that drones will usher in.
The thing I love about 3D printing is how obvious yet nebulous it is to people. Existing 3D printers are very primitive today. They typically can only print small objects using injection molded plastic, rendering items that look like this:
And so people say, "yeah, I get it. So I can print out my very own set of plastic shoes. Why would I want to do that?"
But what 3D printing really is all about is the decentralization of manufacturing. Over time, 3D printers will begin printing in all sorts of materials, not just plastic, and they'll become much more sophisticated.
Imagine being able to print:
3D printing has far reaching implications in many of the same ways drones do -- disruptions to logistics and shipping and a slew of societal changes and indeed the very fabric of the way we live our lives. Someday in the not too distant future we may be ordering an item off of Amazon, and then receiving a license to print one qty. of the item at our neighborhood (or at-home) 3D printer.
Hopefully these areas of interest spark some passion in you; I'd love hear what you do with any of these in the comments below.
I completely agree. If I wasn't doing SETT, I'd probably be doing something with Bitcoin or 3D printing.
Here's a GREAT article about what's coming down the pike:
"As the Internet of Things slowly takes shape, an estimated 50 billion devices are expected to come online by 2020. They will be powered by autonomous agents, transact on top of the block chain and connect to each other via mesh networks. As more of the decision-making moves from the application layer down to the agent layer, the global system will start becoming more intelligent."
Here's a beautiful way to think of Bitcoin:
"In this way, Bitcoin would start to become the IP layer of payments"
from this Stripe blog post.
I also want to specifically call out the value of the Blockchain, outside of Bitcoin specifically. This quote sums it up:
"For the first time, two people can exchange a piece of digital property, without any prior relationship, and in a secure way, over the Internet"
You can have a trusted transaction with a stranger, online. That's HUGE. #GameChanger
Here's a great article on Bitcoin 2.0 with some details on what's coming next: http://voices.yahoo.com/bitcoin-20-explained-colored-coins-vs-mastercoin-vs-12475857.html
Finally got round to doing a post on mining a crypto-currency. It's a great way to get some hands on learning on the subject.
A great find by @Jason Polites: A Kickstarter project for a $100 3-D printer! http://www.kickstarter.com/
Another find by @Sean Shadmand! http://m.techcrunch.com/2013/
re: 3-D printing organs -- well, that didn't take long: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/22/18425715-doctors-print-up-a-splint-for-babys-blocked-throat?lite
CEOs are busy. It's easy to be distracted with competing priorities coming from all directions. But there's one darkhorse mega-trend that I believe will catch many CEOs by surprise, and even cause some of them be fired by their boards for missing it: The Mobile Crush.
Two years ago, I did an in-depth screencast describing why I believed mobile would be way bigger than most people realize. And now the crush is starting in earnest.
There's a great quote by Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga in an article today by the New York Times:
Alas, while I would like to say that there is a single one-stop shop about bitcoins, there is not. As a general rule, avoid most news articles, as many are inaccurate, oversimplified, and repetitive.
As a background, read what a crytographic hash function is and how RSA cryptography works. You don't need to know every step of the algorithms, just what their inputs and outputs are, as the algorithms are purposely designed to be so complicated that nobody knows everything they do (that's the reason for a hash function).
Teach yourself the basics of bitcoin mining, transaction fees, and the blockchain.
For development, I would focus on locating things produced by specific sources who are involved in the development of bitcoins. Read anything written by Gavin Andressen, as he is the primary developer of bitcoins at the moment and everything I've read from him seems to be accurate. Review his plans for development in bitcoin version 0.9, and find his roadmap for future features.
Research the current technical issues facing bitcoins. The only issue I see that can prevent bitcoins from becoming the world currency is the 1MB transaction limit. Get an understanding of how it takes 95% to upgrade the network to get rid of the 1MB transaction limit, and how bitcoins may have already passed the point where everyone can agree on a solution to this issue. Also, read about mining pool centralization.