Today, my 18th book, “Platform Revolution: Blockchain as the Operating System of the Digital Age,” will be released. A long time in the making, this new book declares a simple and important truth: Blockchain has achieved platform status. The future of the digital age and the novel technologies it offers — artificial intelligence, digital identity, internet of things, distributed energy, autonomous vehicles, quantum computing and more — will be built on a blockchain foundation, because without a secure and decentralized blockchain core, the promise of these emerging digital technologies will never be fully realized.
The first era of the digital age spanned the rise of mainframes, minicomputers and the internet. We are now entering a second era where digital technologies permeate everything and every business process. We are all familiar with how innovations such as machine learning, robotics, drones, cryptocurrencies, distributed ledgers, 5G, additive manufacturing, virtual reality and synthetic biology are reshaping the social and economic landscape. However, when all is said and done, it is the intersection of three of these — artificial intelligence, blockchain and the internet of things (IoT) — that will be most crucial. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Now these three things remain – AI, blockchain and the IoT. But the greatest of these is the blockchain.”
I call it the Trivergence. This three-part interplay between blockchain, AI, and IoT will lead to some of the most disruptive and large-scale solutions for a planet in crisis.
The internet of things describes the growing connectivity of everyday objects and the physical world to the internet. The proliferation of wireless sensors and smart devices is giving rise to a seamless computational network that connects every living being and inanimate object on the planet into a global Internet of Everything. Today’s IoT applications range from the mundane — such as your refrigerator ordering milk from Amazon — to the life-saving, like internet-connected glucose monitors for diabetes patients with real-time physician monitoring.
Artificial intelligence describes the ability for computers to perform tasks that typically require human thinking, including the recognition of complex patterns, the processing of massive datasets, and the optimization of that data for decision-making. Sped along by the exponential rate of technological progress, AI systems are already moving beyond high-volume, low-complexity data management to execute increasingly complex processes.
Blockchain is the distributed ledger technology underpinning the cryptocurrency revolution. We call it the “internet of value” because we can use blockchain for much more than recording crypto transactions. Distributed ledgers can store, manage, and exchange anything of value — money, securities, intellectual property, deeds and contracts, music, votes, and our personal data — in a secure, private and peer-to-peer manner. We achieve trust not necessarily through intermediaries like banks, stock exchanges or credit card companies but through cryptography, mass collaboration and some clever code.
Each of these foundational technologies is uniquely and individually powerful. However, only when viewed together is each of them transformed. This is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. IoT will connect us and our devices together. AI will process multitudes of data and enable autonomous decision making. Blockchain will be the underlying platform, where data is stored, value is transferred and everything is distributed for maximum security and resilience. Altogether, a complete end-to-end vision of an interconnected, automated, and decentralized future.
The Trivergence of IoT, blockchain, and AI provides us with an ever-learning, increasingly autonomous platform for innovation in the economy for decades ahead. It ushers in the semantic web (Web 3.0), a decentralized network where trillions of devices on the IoT generate sensor-direct data, a distributed ledger records and secures those data, and AI analyzes the data — managing and perfecting how it is stored, transferred and communicated.
New business models enabled by this Trivergence are beginning to disrupt industries, with weighty implications for every business, government and individual. There are lessons to be learned at every level of management. If we can overcome the dark side of the digital age, and that’s a big if, this Trivergence can help us reclaim our digital identities, rebuild our supply chains, effectively fight climate change, and help solve some of the world’s most intractable problems. It is my hope that we will emerge on the other side of this era of disruption with a more equitable, sustainable, and better-connected world.
Don Tapscott will be discussing his new book, Platform Revolution: Blockchain as the Operating System of the Digital Age, and the trivergence of blockchain, AI and IoT in a special fireside chat at the upcoming Bitcoin & Beyond Summit co-sponsored by Forkast.News. To watch the Nov. 10 virtual event, sign up here.