HP: The Technology Behind Bitcoin Could Replace Lawyers, Too

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Computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) in partnership with Quartz has recently published an article on the disruptive potential of the blockchain. And according to HP, the blockchain is poised to disrupt banks, credit card companies, lawyers and tax collectors. 

Everyone has heard the hype about Bitcoin, but the real promise of the technology behind cryptocurrencies is smart contract management—that is, legally binding agreements that execute themselves through software.

In Bitcoin, the contract is the transaction itself: one party sending another funds. But in commercial banking or investments, smart contracts could execute unknowably complex contingencies based on the terms of the contract, all in real-time, with total transparency to the agreeing parties.

If that sounds fast, then it’s warp speed by comparison to the management time for human lawyers, accountants, consultants, and bankers, many of whom bill small fortunes by the hour. By comparison, a smart contract is just software—and not even complex software at that. What makes it unbeatable is its imperviousness to fraud: block chain transactions are recorded in a public ledger holding every transaction with a unique but anonymised key, so if someone modifies one copy of the ledger, everyone else’s copy makes the fabrication clear by comparison.

The question is: if two nerds on the Internet hold a transaction, does anyone care? The Fortune 500 had better. Innovators in the block chain space are experimenting with ways to use the protocol in B2B payments without all the usual limits on transaction volume. If they succeed, credit card companies, payments processors, and legions of accounting and law firms (and of course, the attendant consultancies) would be devastated.

That’ll cost jobs but save billions for companies and individuals alike. But it also will increase the speed (and potentially the anonymity) of transactions at all levels of the economy. With that kind of uptick in volume, the IRS might end up being the most disrupted entity of them all.

About Richard Kastelein

Founder of industry publication Blockchain News, partner at ICO services collective CryptoAsset Design Group (helped raise over $200m+), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) and ICO event organiser at leading industry event  CryptoFinancing (first ICO event in Europe) - Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of half a dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1200 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat.
 
Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London, Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, San Mateo, Shanghai,Tel Aviv and Venice. His network is global and extensive.
 
He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and Virgin.com and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French.
 
A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world.
 
In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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