What's going to happen to the world as crypto's develop? Why are they special? First let's define what they are. It's pretty simple, they're a digital ledger. That's not very innovative. That would be true if that were the only thing that classifies something as a crypto, and obviously it's not. The other key ingredient is that they are decentralized, and this is done with blockchain technology. Keep this in mind, 'digital ledger', as it defines how they work no matter what they are doing.
Where is the value in a digital ledger? This particular digital ledger system is new in how it provides security, transparency, accountability, and movement of assets. Let's start with the paradigm difference of existing security vs. crypto security. Traditionally computers & their programs have only been as safe as their ability to stay away from threats; be it a child smashing on the keyboard or being connected to your operating system's update manager. Duh. Consider that implies first and foremost the location of the system - or it's parts - are known. The defense is how big of a wall you can build while still having a gate keeper that gives permission for entrance. Cryptos on the other hand work in a total opposite way. In general, anyone can view the ledger, and anyone can change a balance if they have a key to the wallet. How is that secure, you've got to be kidding me, no firewall, nothing? Nope, nothing. If you just decided you're going to go collect wallet addresses… You're walking into some kind of galactic sized Sahara Desert looking for a specific grain of sand. That is a major part of the security, the impossibility of locating said part of the system that is also "cryptography" encoded. Fine, whatever, I can just hack the servers so the transactions will say what I want in new wallets of my own. So now you will be faced with traditional firewalls and security – and we call them nodes since they aren't exactly servers. But you've got a much bigger problem, the decentralization. You have to simultaneously hack the majority of nodes, which can range from many thousands to maybe even millions - and those have firewalls, etc. If you don't simultaneously hack the majority of computers running the ledger then the peers (nodes) will reject the changes to the ledger so that no one will recognize the change. That impossibility of hacking them is where the value begins because it makes them an immutable ledger that is decentralized (all over the planet, space?).
Yes, ok, but who cares about that? How is that more than just some nerd database, tracking nerd stuff? Because they are immutable they eliminate the need for trusted witnesses to validate the ledger changes. For example how much money you have in your bank is a sort of a ledger, and when you use your debit card it changes. But because everyone has their own systems that are regulated, but not immutable, clearing-houses are used as third parties to validate the movement of the funds. And? And, they have fees for the work they do. There are more players in the system that can influence what happens. Think about buying a house and how long it takes for the seller's bank to believe that the buyer's bank has the money, and it was moved from one to the other (it's complicated). So how does that change, it's faster? Yes, the fact that if the value on the digital ledger is immutable means that this could literally be as easy and clicking “yes” because the transaction did or did not happen on the specific ledger being used. And the actual value was moved, as if you delivered gold to the seller in a truck.
I almost understand this, what's my role this whole shebang? Right now cryptos need support from the public so that elected and appointed officials can't just willy-nilly decide that they actually know something about the technology they hadn't heard of until last month. Should I buy some? YES! Wait, you can if you want to, but understand it's an emerging technology and investments are not sure things – we don't know which will be the most widely adopted but there are current alliances of companies with different cryptos. It is a form of supporting them by getting in on some ownership, but you can also think about ways to adopt an immutable digital ledger in your business, other businesses, etc. Share, share with others all you can about them if they want to listen. Write to your elected officials and tell them you support the emerging technology. Err should I really care beyond deciding to invest or not? It's not like I write congress for things I claim I care about now. If you consider yourself interested in remaining a citizen of your country, then yes.
Cryptos will be a part of our daily life, even if it's just in the background doing the work between our Visa or iPhone and a business or bank. Competition won't let the USA escape using them. But if the USA is quick to regulate and punish crypto use within it's borders, it will be severely crippling itself. We could be talking about losing status in the world and being surpassed by other countries in terms of wealth, power, & influence.
Got an interest in something a little more technical but no programmer level? Recommended reading.