How has technology changed the dating scene

Risk, return, revolutionHow blockchain technology is changing the world

A Bitcoin ATM in Toronto, Canada: The device is hidden in the corner of a small grocery store. It looks like an ordinary ATM, but you can also deposit and withdraw the digital currency Bitcoin here. Young entrepreneur Michael Gord has just put one hundred Canadian dollars into the machine.

"You just click on the digital currency you want, then you tell the machine what amount you want to invest in Canadian dollars. And then you enter the address to which your Bitcoins should be sent. Everything is fully automated."

The bitcoins end up in Michael Gord's digital wallet - a so-called wallet - in just a few minutes. Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are not just an investment for him. He also pays many employees in his young company with it. Transfers abroad are often faster and cheaper this way, he says. He also pays with Bitcoin online, but so far only a few merchants have accepted digital currencies as a means of payment.

Toronto as the center of the cryptocurrency scene

There are more and more Bitcoin ATMs in Canada: there are now around 300. A good third of it is in Toronto alone - a center of the global cryptocurrency scene. Germany, on the other hand, has not yet had a single Bitcoin machine for legal reasons.

One of several hundred Bitcoin ATMs in Toronto, Canada. The entrepreneur and interviewee Michael Gord is currently depositing one hundred Canadian dollars into his digital Bitcoin wallet. (Deutschlandradio / Kajetan Dyrlich)

For Michael Gord the matter is clear. He hasn't trusted the conventional global monetary system for a long time. The so-called fiat money - Canadian dollars, euros or the US dollar - which is issued by central banks and has no real equivalent in raw materials or currency coins and can therefore be multiplied at will, no longer has a future in his opinion.

"Nowadays, 99.999 percent of global trade is done with fiat money. And only 0.001 percent with digital currencies. And I am convinced that the proportion of digital currencies will increase exponentially until the ratios are completely reversed."

In fact, the performance of Bitcoin is breathtaking. In 2011, it was not even necessary to spend ten US dollars on one unit of this digital coin. At the end of 2017, the value was at a record high of almost $ 20,000. And then crash again shortly before Christmas within a very short time: by a good 40 percent.

It is precisely because of these violent fluctuations that digital currencies are unsuitable as a means of payment, say critics. Many market watchers fear a gigantic bubble that will soon burst. Others simply consider Bitcoin to be a fraud or even speak of a pyramid scheme. A house of cards that could soon collapse.

Others, on the other hand, consider prices of tens or even hundreds of thousands of US dollars for a single Bitcoin to be possible in a few years. After all, the maximum amount of Bitcoins that can ever exist is limited: to 21 million units.

Tremendous interest in digital currency

But why are so many people currently interested in digital currencies like Bitcoin? The answer could be the technology that is behind it and that inspires visionaries, economists and entrepreneurs around the world: blockchain technology, a global database that stores all transactions and makes them practically forgery-proof.

Don Tapscott: Leading thinker of the tech scene and head of the Blockchain Research Institute in Toronto (Deutschlandradio / Kajetan Dyrlich)

Don Tapscott teaches management at the University of Toronto. For decades he has dealt with the consequences of digitization for the economy and society. He wrote books about the digital revolution as early as the 1990s. Today he is considered one of the thought leaders in blockchain technology.

He wrote a book about it with his son Alex Tapscott. And with his "Blockchain Research Institute" in Toronto, he also advises companies, banks and non-governmental organizations.

"What if there wasn't just an Internet of information, but an Internet of objects. A kind of huge, globally distributed account in which everything that has value - from money, to securities and music to voting rights for an election - can be secured, stored and sent in a completely private way. What if there was a separate digital medium for all of that? Well, all of that is basically the blockchain. "

For example, if you send an e-mail on the classic Internet, you are not sending an original, just a copy of the e-mail. But how do you send 100 euros over the Internet? Not as a copy. But as an original.

Bitcoin was invented in 2008

The solution came in 2008 when an anonymous developer or group of developers under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin. And with it the code: the blockchain, which suddenly made transactions peer-to-peer and completely decentralized, without the intervention of a bank, government or company. From now on, trust was only created by the code.

Nowadays, anyone who wants to send money from Germany to an economically insecure country, such as Zimbabwe or Venezuela, not only needs a lot of patience until the money finally arrives, but also has to pay a considerable part of the transaction fees to the intermediaries.

"When they send money, money transfer companies such as Western Union collect 10, 15 and even 20 percent to transfer a few bits from one country to another and exchange them for another currency. That is usury. There is another way of doing it With the blockchain. With it you can, for example, send money from abroad with your mobile device to your mother, directly into her digital wallet. And you don't pay 20 percent, but around one and a half percent. An intermediary like Western Union is no longer needed. "

But when intermediaries are no longer needed to move money or other things from A to B, who still needs banks? Could digital currencies even replace the euro or the dollar?

Cryptocurrencies: more efficient and cost-reducing?

Alex Tapscott is the head of NextBlock Global, an investment firm that invests exclusively in blockchain startups. Above all, he dealt with the economic consequences of technology and, for example, shared his findings with the business elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos with his father Don Tapscott.

Alex Tapscott runs an investment firm in the blockchain space. In particular, he dealt with the question of how blockchain could change the financial world. (Deutschlandradio / Kajetan Dyrlich)

"I think we will see in not long time that non-government currencies like Bitcoin will coexist with other government currencies. And many governments are already working on it: the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Russian, Chinese and Canadian central banks They are all looking for ways in which they can use this technology to improve the functionality of their own currencies. So there will be a lot of cryptocurrencies in the future. Some will be government issued and some will not. But they will all be more efficient , Reduce costs and give more people access to the capital market. And that's a good thing. "

It is estimated that two to three billion people around the world are cut off from the capital market today. So far, it has simply not been worthwhile for banks to offer bank accounts or other financial services to this part of the world population.

In addition to Bitcoin, there are other cryptocurrencies, for example Ripple, Litecoin, Dash or Cardano. There are currently more than 1,000 so-called coins and tokens listed.

For a long time, Ethereum was the undisputed number two of the cryptocurrencies, measured by market capitalization. However, it was overtaken by another cryptocurrency - namely Ripple - a few weeks ago. The Ethereum blockchain enabled so-called "smart contracts" for the first time. A type of digital contract that comes into force automatically without human intervention as soon as pre-programmed events occur. Put simply, the flow of goods and services can be programmed. And at the end save it in the blockchain. This can be anything: property, insurance contracts or even voting rights for elections.

Banks create money that is not secured

Anthony Di Iorio is one of the founders of Ethereum. He is celebrated as a hero in the crypto community because he and his team took the idea of ​​the blockchain to a new level with the creation of "Ethereum" and the possibility of "smart contracts".

Anthony Di Iorio, co-founder of Ethereum. The (until recently) undisputed number two of the crypto currencies. (Deutschlandradio / Kajetan Dyrlich)

“My story begins in 2012 when I first heard about Bitcoin. I've been involved in technology my whole life. I studied economics. And then I saw the real estate crisis and the banking crisis. I asked myself: Why did companies fail that existed hundreds of years ago? And I understood that our monetary system is based on debt. It is one scam in the end. Banks all over the world are creating money that is not backed by anything. That leads to recurring booms and slumps. It there was no technology that could solve this. But then I heard about Bitcoin and the blockchain. There wasn't just a theory, there was a technology that enables people to be their own bank without the need for third parties. It can Creating freedom and independence. I said to myself: This is fantastic! I have to take part! "

All well-known credit card providers - Visa, Master Card and American Express - have now announced that they will soon want to make transfers from country to country faster and cheaper, initially only for business customers. Based on blockchain technology. This is worth mentioning because credit card providers in particular were previously considered to be advocates of the "old" system and do a large part of their business with high transaction fees.

In Germany, too, there are now the first services that are offered on the basis of the Ethereum blockchain. The large French insurer AXA, for example, has been offering insurance for flight delays for several months. In the future, the customer no longer has to actively take care of his reimbursement with the insurer. This happens fully automatically through a "smart contract" in the blockchain. The insurer promises to be quick and unbureaucratic.

But new possibilities also create problems: If everything should go easier and faster with the blockchain. What does that mean for established companies that have so far made money with it? For example banks.

"The big problem is: The banks are not able to move fast enough. With their view of the world and their infrastructure, they are still in the 1970s. They are also too big to move fast. And the technology is developing so rapidly that I seriously believe that one day there will be a technology that could completely wipe it off the market. "

Large banks are also dealing with blockchain technology

Large banks in particular want to anticipate this development and have long since set up departments that deal with blockchain technology. Deutsche Bank has also been investing in this area for several years. Patrik Pohl heads the "Digital Factory" at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt am Main. The goal: Understand blockchain, develop your own applications and continue to earn money with it in the future.

"Clearly, from the perspective of Deutsche Bank, blockchain is one of the big issues. Blockchain has the potential to change large parts of the financial sector, large parts of the business models of banks, but also in many other industries, the business models of our customers Berlin has an innovation lab, we have an innovation lab in London, we have such a lab in Silicon Valley. We have a digital factory here in Frankfurt. So that we are always up to date. So that we can feel the pulse Market. And that we see developments. And blockchain is one of the main developments. "

And Patrik Pohl is convinced that this is more than just a passing hype. A bank that is now oversleeping this development could be overwhelmed by technological developments in a few years.

"We are therefore dealing with these issues because we believe and know that we will have to set up our business model as we know it today, differently in the future. That we have to change things. The market participants who are not developing a strategy for a digital world now, and it It's not about a digital strategy, it's about a strategy for a digital world. The market participants who do not take up this now and work specifically in this direction will have problems in the future. I can definitely see that. "

This is how Andreas Park sees it. The economics professor at the University of Toronto has advised many banks on blockchain issues. He knows what's going on in the boardroom, especially in Canada.

"My impression is: The banks are investing massively in blockchain technology. No bank boss wants to end up and have to explain to his shareholders: 'Sorry, we didn't see that'."

Technology with open questions

But the technology does not only bring advantages. In many places it is not yet fully developed. And questions arise: How should transactions via the decentralized blockchain be taxed? Can the number of users be expanded - i.e. scaled - without the system collapsing? Andreas Park sees yet another challenge for societies. More efficiency, lower costs also mean: fewer jobs. The blockchain: a job killer?

"Many people, the typical office workers in a bank, for example, work today in areas that will be automated in the future. And that will affect many industries. It is very likely that employees who still believe they have a demanding job will soon be replaced That will have a huge impact on our society. From an economic point of view, it will be a better future, I see great potential there. But it will also have other social consequences. And they will be irreversible. "

Andreas Park, Professor of Economics at the University of Toronto. Among other things, he also advises banks on the role that blockchain technology could have on their business model. (Deutschlandradio / Kajetan Dyrlich)

But economics professor Andreas Park is certain that the advantages outweigh the advantages.

"Blockchain technology will bring revolutionary changes in many areas. I am thinking of elections, for example. They can be held very quickly and very cheaply - at least compared to the current costs of an election. You no longer need voting booths. there is no need to register or verify an identity anywhere. All of this will ultimately be automated and managed by a blockchain. "

Michael Gord is tough in business. He's on the phone non-stop: with employees in New York, Tokyo or Seoul. He advises company founders on how they can get money for their projects and ideas without banks or the traditional capital market. For outsiders, this seems to be a parallel universe that has formed in recent years - with enormous profit opportunities, but also extreme risks. Michael Gord is sure of his cause.

Nobody wants to miss the blockchain revolution

"In five years we could have a global team. Could have a regional manager in all the major cities of the world who is driving the projects in the respective regions."

But he's not the only one. The word "blockchain" alone attracts young crypto nerds, tinkerers, investors, visionaries and speculators in his hometown of Toronto and around the world. Nobody wants to miss the party. They all want to be part of the - they are convinced - blockchain revolution.

"A year and a half ago there were meetings with maybe five or ten participants. Today there are around 50 companies in Canada alone that specialize in blockchain. And these meetings are now every month. The last one had 700 participants. The community explodes - not just in Toronto, but around the world too. "

Bitcoin logo, a white "B" on an orange background. (dpa-Bildfunk / AP / Marc Lennihan)

It's not just the hope for big money. Many of them have a good dose of idealism behind them. Don Tapscott.

"Over the past few years I've always tried to understand what the next big thing in technology will be and how it will change our economy and our society. I've now come to a point in my life where I really still have something I think we have a lot of problems in this world.The world is too unequal, unsustainable, unjust and vulnerable. Once again, the technology spirit has come out of the bottle. And he won't solve these problems. Because only people can solve them. But he gives us a kick in the buttocks. Another chance to reshape the business world. So that humanity as a whole is better off. "