Sunday, May 16, 2021

Heaton: Ole Miss Can Fix the Brain Drain with Blockchain

Most top universities share something in common – one great idea. MIT had George Eastman – instant photography. Stanford had Frederick Terman – Silicon Valley. It’s a little-known fact that MIT and Stanford were nearly defunct before these ideas took form.

Today, Mississippi faces a “brain drain” It’s too late to invent instant photography or lure Silicon Valley to Water Valley, but there is a technology that could take Mississippi to the top, and Ole Miss has the resources to do it. That technology is Bitcoin, or more precisely, Blockchain. Recently some commentators have opined that Bitcoin is to Blockchain what Netscape was to the Internet. That’s when the lightbulb went off. (Stay with me here – it involves beer.)

Most Mississippians are familiar with “proof and trust” transactions – small town merchants who conduct trade with a ledger. For example, Turnage’s Drug Store in Water Valley knows me as “Tim and Gayle’s boy“ (I’m 56!). Since they know my face, and I know them (proof), we exchange goods for a signature (trust) on a ledger. The problem is that in larger communities that there are too many faces for Mr. Turnage to memorize.

Blockchain is just an electronic Turnage’s. (Stay with me, remember there is beer.)

So what, you might ask? Unfortunately, very few merchants have a Mr. Turnage, so they use Visa. Visa charges merchants five percent for proof and trust. Hold up – I should say you pay five percent more for everything in a store that takes Visa because merchants simply mark up their prices. This hidden fee amounts to $2,500 a year for a typical American family whether you use credit cards or not. It really is a hold-up!

You might say: I like the float, and credit cards help manage my money. Blockchain will help you manage in ways you that Visa will never do. (The beer is coming soon.)

The real power of Blockchain is that it will enable you to acquire hidden assets. For example, somewhere in your wallet, car or between the cushions of your couch, there is a $1 coupon for Big Bad Breakfast. Let’s suppose the coupon expires today. You’ve forgotten about it, but blockchain hasn’t. You don’t have BBB plans today, but someone in your network does. That person will get notified at the register that you have a coupon, and offer you 50 cents for it. Your net worth just went up by 50 cents automatically by selling an asset you didn’t know you had! Or you could swap your coupon expiring today for another one expiring later, which would be my preference – I like BBB.

Since your blockchain identity represents your total assets, all sort of things become a source of net worth. Your employer, for example, is also a bank. Why? Because people get paid after they’re worked the hours. So if you make $100/day and it’s Noon Monday, your blockchain value has increased by $50 automatically.

How about warranties? I’ve got files and papers all over the place for the car, refrigerator, and electric dog-polisher. Like the BBB coupon, I never know about half of them. But blockchain does know and would be able to navigate through the legalese and save me money at the dog-polisher shop.

It turns out your bank account is wrong, not only are you worth more, but you can earn money 24/7. Blockchain is all about communication, banking is just a side effect. (Still no beer, but this point is important). Your mobile phone is your new bank.

Okay, so an electronic Turnage’s is a good thing. It saves money, and it finds money. Here’s the kicker. Did you know that only about half the adults in the world have a bank account? As one would expect, there is a big difference between banking in the West (89 percent have accounts) and the developing world (41 percent). The difference is wider still when it comes to credit cards; half of the adults have them in the West, just seven percent in developing countries. However, 75 percent of the people in the world have access to a mobile phone – and that number is expected to rise to 90% by 2020. Cell phones are poised to free up a lot of capital and opportunity.

This is where a “back to the future” concept of money comes to play. You don’t need a bank when you trade on a ledger, all you need is a telecommunications device (cell phone) that calculates your net worth. I think Southerners have an advantage with this idea in that we are comfortable with looking at money not just as a dollar, but also as a bale of cotton, acre of land, or can of beer.

Come on now, who hasn’t at one time in their life valued something on how much beer it would buy?

Blockchain will change the way everyone on the planet transacts business. Proof and trust are irrefutable in blockchain: No money changes hands, no currency exchange is needed, and the transaction is just a ledger entry, just like Turnage’s Drug Store.

Let’s put the connections together. You already know the names. Ole Miss Alumni are the brains behind the success of the internet, C Spire, and the University’s top tier media groups. Mississippi actually has an advantage over other states in that there isn’t a huge infrastructure needing taxpayer support. If this idea interests you, let’s talk.


timheaton

Tim Heaton is an Ole Miss Alumnus from Southaven, Mississippi who supports The Flagship in a variety of public relations efforts. He is a contributing writer to HottyToddy.com and actively volunteers his technical, database and social media expertise to several community service organizations in his current home in Morristown, New Jersey and in his home state of Mississippi. He has been awarded over a dozen US Patents in technology and is also a published author, chef and physical fitness enthusiast.

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