Peering into the Crypto-future through Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple XRP and IOTA

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 3.09.38 PMDisclosure: I hold Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple XRP and IOTA (MIOTA). But this post is not about finance per se nor is it about promoting these currencies as investments. Rather this post is about envisioning the four kinds of markets that the respective technologies underlying each of these four cryptocoins can help grow and power. These aren’t simply currencies and stores of monetary value – they are technologies.

In order to gain a clearer view of the impacts of the incoming future of technologies and their economic, behavioral, cultural, political and other impacts, categorization can perform useful veil-lifting.

I’ll let the reader do the deep-dive research into the technologies underlying each of these currencies, but here is a peeled-away breakdown of their respective categories:

  • Bitcoin
    • Underlying technology: Blockchain
    • Primary use: Decentralized financial currency. (Although the “powers that be” might change that 😉
  • Ethereum
    • Underlying technology: Programmable blockchain
    • Primary use: Global computational backbone for smart contracts (going beyond currency toward an open, virtually infinite, array of specific “plug in” decentralized solutions and applications). A sort-of energic hypertext lattice for getting things done
  • Ripple XRP
    • Underlying technology: Interledger Protocol, Ripple Connect
    • Primary use: Real-time cross-border transfer of wealth through established financial institutions
  • IOTA
    • Underlying technology: Tangle (radical alternative to blockchain – lighter and more nimble)
    • Primary use: Machine-to-machine transactions

Now, this list isn’t thorough – each of these technologies has more functionalities, capabilities and configurations than mentioned above. Many of the important features have been stripped-away to reveal the essence of what they mean. The point is to show that these solutions seek to solve these problems:

  • Bitcoin: establishing a common and reliable digital currency
  • Ethereum: empowering a distributed operating lattice for decentralized applications
  • Ripple XRP: reducing the time of transfer and settlement of cross-border transactions among financial institutions
  • IOTA: enabling payments among machines.  It addresses the need for speed and fee-less demands of currency among connected technologies. (Yes, it’s a bit crazy to think about machines paying each other, but it’ll sink in. Think about your smart toaster paying a drone to take out a hit on you.)

Whether these specific “coins” succeed the slaughtering rapidity of techno-culture shocks remains to be seen. Yes, they are traded assets that can make you rich or poor. That’s certainly interesting, What matters much more than their capital markets is that each has attempted to confront crucial problems that can liberate the ramifying “potential energies” of other technologies that can plug in to them. Their premises spur economy-generating economies.

Don’t feel bad if you missed the Bitcoin gold-rush. That’s in the past. Sometimes understanding the world confers its own wealth (insert Latin aphorism here). If you run the currency of knowledge through the circuitry of imagination you gain the power of foresight.

That’s my two cents: take them and spread the wealth.

Numbers Aren’t “Health”

Digital technologies geared toward supporting Health are growing at a rapid clip. Almost every day a new product is launched, promising some form of Health or Healthcare utility.

As the technologies evolve – especially devices that do the heavy-lifting that once required expensive interventions – their proper development, implementation, and proper understanding of their specific roles/functions become paramount.

There is one prominent keyword used in the marketing of these #DigitalHealth technologies that can be a source of great misleading hype (intentional or unintentional). That term is “track”.

A common tagline or general claim of these products is something along the lines of “X can track your health”.

But numbers and qualitative metrics, aren’t “Health”.

“Health” is such an encompassing term as to be so vague it has no meaning. Health derives from “whole”. You hear its origin in words like “heal” and “holy”. The cheesy idiom “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” applies here – the sum of numbers and quantified “selves” doesn’t quite get to the “Health”.

When you hear “this is healthy for you”, what does that mean? Water is “healthy for you”. It’s also “deadly for you”. It’s not the water that keeps you healthy: its water’s proper homeostatic processing within an organism’s system – its unique panoply of molecular, topological, and volumetric properties working as the body’s protective systemic armour under the right conditions that determines the life drive. Hypervolemia can kill you. Uncontrolled Pulmonary Edema isn’t a fun way to go.

Numbers are helpful guides, but they can be misinterpreted, and can lead to misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis. They can provide a false sense of being “healthy”.

So here’s the main point: it’s one thing to claim “X tracks pulse, weight, and oxygenation”. That equation specifies the exact metrics being tracked. It’s another to declare that “X tracks your Health” says nothing. There’s no specifics and even the term “Health” isn’t defined. It’s not a falsifiable proposition. You can count your steps, but the numbers don’t help you if you’re about to run into a brick wall.

Marketing Digital Health and other technologies and software that support our health (in whatever way it’s defined) is an essential activity in the evolution of Healthcare.

Bad marketing and sloppy thinking and vague claims might sell products. But in the long run, it’s counter-productive for the industries in the markets, generates problems for HCPs in proper diagnosis, treatment and management, and unsafe for consumers.

Smart, experienced, and knowledgable marketers know how to create copy that simultaneously sizzles and states facts.

Don’t be afraid to call out the amateurs. Who knows: it might even be healthy for you. That’s not a falsifiable proposition…still it could be fun to terrify a startup unicorn with a healthy question mark.

The Connected World and Its Disconnects

Internet of Things
The Connected World, strung together by the “Internet of Things” (IoT), is one of the hottest topics of conversation and commerce. The “things” take the form of hardware (gadgets, circuit boards) and software (social platforms, digital health records). It seems every industry has thinkfluencers and marketers determined to connect everything to the Internet – toasters to Twitter, pacemakers to spreadsheets, milk cartons to grocery delivery services and so on.

Many of the *concepts* of connecting things are useful.

For example, here’s a breakthrough idea: connect a 3D-printed liver to a monitoring system that checks liver function and configures adjustments to the artificial liver’s tiny digital gadgetry.

The problem – and it’s an all-infiltrating one the entire of the Connected World – is the virtually endless lists of Disconnects. (Think of the issues with a digitally-fatty printed liver – they could dwarf a lifetime of alcohol abuse.)

What do I mean be “The Disconnects”? Well, let’s list them:

  • The disconnect between IoT hardware and software updates (or lack thereof)
  • The disconnect between government regulation and manufacturing and coding
  • The disconnect between security practices and insecure configurations
  • The disconnect between the Internet’s original purpose and the fast-evolving purposes created in the Connected World
  • The disconnects among communication protocols
  • The disconnects among IoT manufacturers
  • The disconnects along supply chains and vendors
  • The disconnect between speed-to-market and need-to-secure
  • The disconnect between IoT software and patches (if they even exist)
  • The disconnect between consumer safety and corporate capitalization
  • The disconnect between product malfunction and self-repair
  • The disconnects within manufacturer teams (Executive Leadership, Product Development, Security, Customer Service, etc.)
  • The disconnect between our use of technology and our slavery to it
  • The disconnect between tinkfluencers and reality (this is painfully wide)

That’s the short version. The Disconnects Lists goes on…perhaps infinitely so.

The Connected World has its promises. But all technological promises in the long run break, and they break in unpredictable ways. The Connected World brings forth Disconnects we haven’t as a species fully explored, processed, formulated theories, nor developed universally-adoptable models for continual forward-thinking, safety, maintenance, etc.

The “Connected World” project is here to stay, even discounting the hype and thinkfluencing.

So what to do?

That’s a big question, and I don’t have all the answers. My purpose here is to point out the digital version of Civilization and Its Discontents.

Therefore, I propose that where we should start our thinking is with the Disconnects, then move towards the Connects.

Idea-generation and deployment for IoT is a task with enormous ethical, moral, economic, security, health and safety responsibilities.

But without considering – deeply, diligently – the disconnects, then the Connected World will be nothing of the sort. It will be a nightmare without morning. It will become the Disconnected World. Good luck with putting the pieces back together.