“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators…”
― William Gibson
I’ve been trying to understand how setting up an e-commerce site works in the past few days. While checking on how to set up the shop and cart, I came to understand the different limitations of online transactions. To start accepting payments online, one would require a payment gateway(a middleman). This means that every time I’m able to sell a product, a fixed percentage of the transaction would go to the payment service provider as they are ensuring that the resources reach securely from point A to point B.
But, what if I told you that the Internet has evolved to aid us in eliminating this whole concept of a middle man. The Internet now is more than just a labyrinth of information, more than just a data bank. It has transformed from the Internet of information to the Internet of value.
What is to understand about the Net is that when one sends any form of information, they are merely sending you a copy and not the actual data itself, irrespective of whether it is a PowerPoint or an email. Moreover, one attempting to send money online is not transferring the monetary value directly. Instead, is sending instructions to the intermediaries (bank, PayPal etc.) to pass on the value. Clearly, in this Internet system, there is not much scope for the transfer of direct value.
This is, however, coming to change with the Internet of Value and development of the blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger – of an economic transaction – that can be programmed – to record – not just financial transaction – but virtually everything of value.”
Therefore, in blockchain, values exist in a decentralised cloud that allows multiple parties to manage and share a unified database. These parties can create and share a transparent source of truth that is mutually agreed upon. Though the transactions are typically economic, one can store anything of value, like money, stocks, votes, frequent flyer points, securities, intellectual property, music, and scientific discoveries. The most recently identified use of blockchain technology has been to monitor the COVID19 vaccine supply chain. Since data stored in it is encrypted and unchangeable, it ensures that all storage conditions are met, and no tampering is involved.
Even if we haven’t encountered the instances mentioned above, it’s almost impossible that one hasn’t come across the term “cryptocurrency”(digital money). Cryptocurrency is simply a manifestation of the Internet of value, whose transactions are stored in the blockchain.
While the use of IoV has become increasingly popular and irresistible, we need to be aware to monitor the flip side of such a technology. There are certainly speculated systemic risks, a situation of the collapse of an entire system. Further, since it is outside the control of one specific government, it can even become subject to illicit trade. Hence, there is no definite security. It requires optimal digital infrastructure, and in the case of an emerging economy like India, this setup could come off as a luxury. However, it is simple to imagine a dystopian future and urge our tech leaders to stop innovating. But we cannot control the future from moving forward. Many transactions might, after all, still be required to be handled by intermediaries. Nevertheless, a supplement such as the IoV might, after all, aid humanity to a more convenient future.