Blockchain technology is going to transform the “internet of information” of the past quarter century into the “second era of the internet, according to innovation expert and author Don Tapscott.

“The internet of information is becoming the internet of value,” Tapscott said during the Consensus 2018 conference Monday in New York City. “Most assets can be digitized, transacted and stored in a digital environment where trust is not assured by a middleman – call it the ‘trust protocol’ – and it marks the second era of the internet.”

Consensus, the world’s largest blockchain event, has focused on the state of the sector for the past four years. To be sure, the meteoric rise and subsequent volatility of cryptocurrencies has dominated headlines since Consensus 2017. But the more than 8,500 attendees from 100 countries attending Consensus and 30 related events that are part of New York City’s “blockchain week” represent a sign that growth in the space continues to surge beyond speculation.

“This last year we had the year of crypto mania. The focus has been on investing and speculating in this new asset class and less attention to what that class was,” said Tapscott, cofounder of the Blockchain Research Institute. “The internet of information’s first killer app was email. For blockchain, it was money. But [blockchain] is looking more and more like the World Wide Web, where you can build any application.”

Driving that utility is the growing range of crypto assets, each of which offers different real-world use cases. Tapscott categorized the world of crypto assets into cryptocurrencies, platforms for development, utility tokens incentivizing user behavior, security tokens (which, he said, should be treated like securities), natural asset tokens that represent real-world resources such as minerals or carbon credits, crypto collectibles (the much-mocked CryptoKitties, which he says will grow to a much wider range of interests), and crypto-fiat currencies and stablecoins that represent more consistent stores of value.

Blockchain is not going to solve all our problems, but once again the technology genie has escaped from the bottle,” says Tapscott.

Pointing to a broad range of emerging technological disruptions ranging from machine learning and autonomous vehicles to distributed energy and virtual reality, Tapscott said, “The most important technology driving all of these is the blockchain.” Even more importantly, the nature of the blockchain has the potential to disrupt existing enterprises.

“The main effect of blockchain on the economy will be to drop transaction costs,” Tapscott said. “Imagine a network state where everyone has a single truth the whole time… We’re going to see companies look more like networks… with decentralized and distributed value creation.”

Tapscott said the greatest obstacle to disruption will be leadership capable of shattering what he calls “legacy attitudes” about the challenges of transformational change.

“The technology is not going to solve all our problems, but once again the technology genie has escaped from the bottle,” said Tapscott. “It was summoned by an uncertain person with uncertain motives during a challenging time for the world,” he added, referring to bitcoin (BTC) creator Satoshi Nakamoto.  “It gives us another kick at the can.”

Mark Toner
Mark Toner is a Washington, D.C., writer and editor. He has covered business, technology, media, education, and healthcare for a wide range of trade and industry publications.