Bitcoin makes the biggest headlines, but it’s blockchain — the technology behind cryptocurrencies — that could transform everything from banking to health care to the music industry. Sound like hype? Just ask the Wharton pioneers who are building blockchain’s future.

By David Gambacorta 

For the better part of six years, the Long Island Iced Tea Corporation had a good thing going at its headquarters in Hicksville, about an hour outside of Manhattan. The company produced a line of what Samuel L. Jackson might call “tasty beverages”—lemon, peach, raspberry, half-and-half, a handful of other flavors. But a funny thing happened in December: Long Island Iced Tea underwent an impromptu makeover and was reborn as the Long Blockchain Corp.

The company would still sell its popular drinks, CEO Philip Thomas explained, but it was also going to invest heavily in blockchain, the 21st century’s digital equivalent of the California Gold Rush.

In almost any other era, a move like that would have been met with boardroom spit takes. But the markets took to Long Island Iced Tea’s reinvention like Jed Clampett to that oil well; the company’s stock jumped a mind-boggling 432 percent when word broke about its new focus on blockchain.

The episode served as a prime example of the curiosity, excitement, and outright mania that currently surround anything related to blockchain—the technology that makes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin possible and holds stunning transformative potential. Some of the brightest minds in finance and technology argue that we’re in the early days of what promises to be a paradigm-shifting revolution, one that will impact everything from Airbnb to banking, health care, and real estate.

“Because [blockchain] runs on top of the internet, it’s possible now for something to go from being a small curiosity to a major global phenomenon affecting the world’s biggest companies, and moving hundreds of billions of dollars in assets, in an incredibly short period of time,” says Kevin Werbach, an associate professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton.

But revolutions are, by nature, wildly unpredictable affairs, marked by missteps as often as success. The road ahead could be filled with fits and starts as industries gradually figure out how to adapt to new technologies. Or the blockchain-ification of the world could resemble the rise of smartphones, but on steroids—a swift, fundamental shift that will leave people wondering how the world ever got by without it.

Read the rest of the story on Wharton Magazine

Posted: May 1, 2018

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