The current and future state of cryptocurrency comes into question as its real-world adoption is assessed by businesses and governments. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Since the inception of Bitcoin in 2009, cryptocurrencies have evolved rapidly, challenging traditional financial systems. As we progress into the future, it becomes evident that cryptocurrency is poised to transform various aspects of our lives, from finance and governance to technology and beyond their potential impact on the world, both positive and negative has to be noted.

From their steep rise, the future of cryptocurrencies undoubtedly lies in their widespread adoption. Over the past decade, we have witnessed a growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies by both individuals and institutions. Major companies, such as Tesla, PayPal and Square, have embraced cryptocurrencies as a form of payment, giving legitimacy to the digital asset class. Moreover, countries like El Salvador have adopted Bitcoin as a legal tender, further solidifying its status.

On a bureaucratic level, some believe the future of cryptocurrency can be positive. This positive outlook might be due to the fact that governments and central banks are also exploring the possibility of issuing their own digital currencies (CBDCs), after seeing the benefits and success of cryptocurrencies in various industries.

For instance, China has made significant progress in developing its digital yuan, aiming to enhance financial inclusion and promote the use of digital currencies. As cryptocurrencies become more accessible, user-friendly, and integrated into everyday life, their acceptance is likely to accelerate.

The current and future impact of cryptocurrencies

The current impact of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as a whole can be illustrated through their potential to promote financial inclusion and empower individuals who lack access to traditional banking services. According to the World Bank, approximately 1.7 billion adults worldwide remain unbanked. Cryptocurrencies can bridge this gap by providing a decentralised and borderless financial system accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

For example, in countries with unstable or underdeveloped banking systems, cryptocurrencies can offer a reliable means of transacting and storing value. In Venezuela, where hyperinflation eroded the value of the national currency, Bitcoin gained popularity as a store of wealth and medium of exchange. By eliminating intermediaries and reducing transaction costs, cryptocurrencies uplift marginalised communities and foster economic growth in developing regions. Thus, the impact cryptocurrencies have already had in disrupting traditional financial systems is likely to accelerate in the future.

Blockchain technology, the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies, has already started to revolutionise traditional processes like cross-border payments. For instance, Ripple's blockchain-based payment protocol aims to enable faster and cheaper cross-border transactions compared to traditional banking systems. Smart contracts, powered by blockchain, can automate complex agreements, eliminating the need for intermediaries and reducing costs. As decentralised finance (DeFi) platforms gain traction, traditional financial institutions may need to adapt or risk becoming obsolete as the decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies will challenge the monopoly of central banks.

This is because cryptocurrencies offer enhanced privacy features using cryptographic techniques, ensuring secure and anonymous transactions. As the world becomes more digitised, protecting personal and financial data is paramount. By leveraging technologies such as zero-knowledge proofs and advanced encryption methods, cryptocurrencies can provide individuals with greater control over their data and safeguard against identity theft and fraud.

The future risks of cryptocurrency

While the future of cryptocurrencies appears promising, the potential challenges and risks that are present are explicit. A significant concern is the volatility of cryptocurrency prices due to the fact that the significant price fluctuations, with dramatic increases and sudden declines in value, have made it an unreliable currency compared to other standardised ones. The real-life consequences of this can manifest regulatory uncertainties, something that can create market instability, with the sharp declines seen in cryptocurrency prices during the market correction in 2018 highlighting the risks associated with investing in this asset class.

Additionally, regulatory frameworks and government interventions can impact the adoption and growth of cryptocurrencies. Governments around the world are grappling with the need to strike a balance between innovation and consumer protection. Regulations related to factors such as taxation, anti-money laundering and investor protection can significantly impact the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Furthermore, the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies, particularly proof-of-work-based systems like Bitcoin, has raised concerns about energy consumption and carbon emissions. Therefore, with a future that is steaming towards a greener landscape, the question of the long-term application of crypto becomes a reality.

Overall, the future of cryptocurrencies seems to be brimming with potential, from mainstream adoption and financial inclusion to disrupting traditional systems and enhancing privacy. However, challenges remain, including regulatory frameworks, volatility and environmental concerns all remain pressing issues that need to be recognised and approached with caution within the industry.

As we navigate this exciting and transformative journey, the collaboration between governments, industry players, and individuals will be vital in harnessing the full potential of cryptocurrencies whilst addressing these challenges. The future of finance thus is still up in the air, empowering individuals to choose and create a more inclusive and transparent global economy.