The Age of Value

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Few people realize that the more digitally connected they become, the more power and freedom and control they give away. Living in the West, there’s a tendency to take freedom for granted. But people have far less control of their lives than they think.

I used to be one of those people.

For the longest time, I ignored the fact that I was making my private information available to third parties like Google and Facebook and countless others. I ignored the fact that I didn’t control my own money—the banks did. I even overlooked the fact that I had little control over my economic future—that governments and central bankers played a bigger role than I knew in shaping my monetary wellbeing.

Almost everyone wants to live in a free society where value can be created by anyone, anywhere, anytime. But the reality is, power has become increasingly concentrated. And much of it is channeled into the hands of intermediaries who control almost every aspect of people’s lives. Five companies control three quarters of global online revenue, for example.

Meanwhile, global financial intermediaries charge people trillions of dollars every year to “facilitate” their economic transactions. In the U.S., total compensation of financial intermediaries alone has been as high as ten per cent of GDP. (In Canada it is much the same.)

These are staggering numbers.

For centuries, people were forced to rely on trusted intermediaries when dealing with strangers. But now, a new way of thinking has appeared and new technologies powered by trust-less, frictionless, decentralized networks have emerged.

These emerging technologies are enabling people to create, store, transfer and receive value from friends, strangers, colleagues, businesses, anyone—without the assistance or cost of traditional “middlemen.” As a result, every sector—from marketing to manufacturing, from healthcare to energy, from law to accounting—is vulnerable to disruption.

This decentralized world is where I live and work. However, my goal in this paper isn’t to explain the mechanics behind the technologies. Instead, I want to share with you my own personal journey. I also want to share with you my perspective on how five elements—Economics, Technology, Gamification, Design and Community-Building—have come together, as one, to create something new and very special.

The Age of Information is giving way to the Age of Value.

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