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Bitcoin's blockchain technology is set to usurp lawyers FDA

Having devoured large swathes of the commercial world, software may for the first time be about to give back more than it has eaten up.

There is no doubt that Marc Andreessen's famous statement has come true for both the corporate world and the high street.

Kodak's technology-driven obsolescence has become legendary in the annals of corporate falls from grace. On the high street, Blockbuster recently had its Kodak moment. Then there was travel agents – remember them?

Big technology companies such as Google employ relatively few people and, like all multinational companies follow a tradition of paying as little tax as possible.

At first blush, the arrival of digital currencies like bitcoin would seem to spell more in the way of gutting existing industries, in this case payments and financial services.

IBTimes recently spoke with Coinsilium, a hybrid venture capital and business growth consultancy which nurtures a stable of early-stage blockchain innovations. The firm wants to offer investors exposure to a basket of start-ups using distributed ledger technology in a range of applications.

Executive chairman Cameron Parry believes there's a realm of possibilities that cannot yet be seen that will be "maybe 10 years in the future".

Parry, like everyone else working in this space, knows this disruptive technology will reshape markets but he thinks it will also create new economies.

He said: "We see this as changing the shape of industries. I don't think jobs will be lost. Good people find good positions. If you were to simplify the tax system too much then tax experts would no longer be needed. But they are smart people and would find something else to do."

"We see this as changing the shape of industries. I don't think jobs will be lost. Good people find good positions." 
- Cameron Parry, Coinsilium

At the moment Coinsilium has 10 investees, in which it holds ownership in the range of 5% and 20%. In terms of what's hot, Parry mentioned two areas, which are interestingly at either end of a socio-economic spectrum: monitising internet content using nanopayments and facilitating transactions for the unbanked.

Nanopayments company SatoshiPay aims to use the blockchain to offer frictionless payments of less than a cent so that you can read an article, or even part of an article, in the Financial Times, for instance, without taking out a direct debit.

"The big way to go has always been advertising – you built up subscribers and then advertising was the route to revenues. But as more people use mobile devices you can't actually fit a lot of the ads on this, so that advertising dollar is diminishing," said Parry.

Nanopayments using bitcoin may become one of the ways revenue is billed and transferred in the next generation of the internet.

If we are to see a massive proliferation of distributed ledger technology, this could also create spirals of opportunity.

Stephan Tual, CCO at Ethereum, a company which looks at decentralisation beyond cryptocurrencies, told IBTimes: "That's definitely one of my hopes, yes."

Ethereum's technology allows for completely complex, autonomous, independent ad-hoc economies to spring up out of thin air with zero infrastructure costs, said Tual.

"I think we're a bit far away from the example where people could just spontaneously pick up a broom and self-organise in a street-cleaning co-op where residents would validate a 'proof of clean driveway' but the concept is valid.

"Once the tools are a bit more developed, I do believe we'll see at first a few niche groups adopting it, then a viral spread. 'I have a tool, I have the skills yet I'm unemployed', why ask permission to get a job? It's permissionless innovation at its finest," he said.

The possibilities of the blockchain also invite a reckoning for global disparities. A sturdy appetite for ecommerce was proven by people in Kenya trading prepaid mobile minutes for other goods and services.

Companies like bitSIM are looking to offer wallets to the billions of unbanked and underbanked people of the world. This will create vast new markets which banks seem incapable of reaching out to.

By the same token, farmers in places like Kenya will have the ability to stamp ownership of a piece of land they may have farmed their entire lives using blockchain technology. Companies like Factom are working to put all record keeping and centralised contracts onto distributed ledgers.

The losers in this equation would be lawyers who would have been needed to handle the complex and expensive business of land ownership, contracts, deeds and so on.

Of course nobody wants to see anyone put out of a job. But then again, everybody knows the only difference between a lawyer and vulture is that lawyers get given free air miles.