I've been spending a good bit of time researching something fascinating. It's called Ethereum. It sounds mysterious, and it is. Its technically a bit arcane, for the moment, because it's new and therefore full of bugs, but it's going to change the world. No one quite knows exactly how, but there is agreement around the fact that it will.
Ethereum is a crypto-currency. Funny internet money. It's older sibling, Bitcoin, is one that you might have heard about (although it's still a very new concept to a lot of people too). They both enable you to send money anywhere in the world, within seconds, at nearly zero cost. They both chain blocks of their transaction records into what we call a blockchain, which then gets copied by every user of the system. This makes it really hard to hack and to defraud, which is why the price of one Bitcoin is over $500 Australian at the moment and the price of Ether has been sky-rocketing since mid January.
This has really started to press the legal part of my brain. Contracts that self-execute. It turns out that there is a heap of cool stuff that you can do with smart contracts ... and a whole lot of really boring stuff too, which in itself is interesting if you think about it in the right way. So, you could make, for instance, a door lock, that opened the door to your beach-house for your AirBNB guests, so long as they had pre-paid their rent and their security deposit. You could rent out your car in the same way when you didn't need it. It's a bit like being able to turn anything into a vending machine, but to be able to control who uses it. One the more strictly financial side of things, you can program an annuity, like pocket money for your kids, with whatever rules attached that you like. Or child/spouse maintenance, insurance contracts, subscriptions to your blog or organic veggie delivery service. If you want to get political, riddle me this. Blockchain voting. There are already companies developing the tools for this.
So, I'm running a series of free workshops at the Melbourne Bitcoin Technology Center, teaching what I know about the technical aspects of Ethereum. If any of this strikes a chord with you, and you're in Melbourne, Australia, and want to get your head around some code, come along. There is a fun community of people there, of all genders, shapes, interests and proclivities, and you would be very welcome.
The link to the event on meetup.com is here: http://www.meetup.com/mbtcenter/events/229404519/
If you want to simply be informed about events coming up at MBTC, join here: http://www.meetup.com/mbtcenter/