For all the talk of disruption, today’s internet is still young and hugely underinnovated. While it’s difficult to predict all the details—that’s the point of disruption!—I have little doubt that it’s technically possible to build a digital infrastructure that rewards creativity at many scales and protects our privacy. Bitcoin is not the answer, for a variety of reasons, but a blockchain scheme, along with a mixture of more conventional systems and cryptographic tools, might play a part. Whatever the solution is, we just need a combination of vision, smart regulation, and true innovation to advance it.
Right now, we’re stuck where the automobile industry was when cars were still “horseless carriages,” wagon-wheeled monstrosities with high centers of gravity and buggy seats. We’re still letting an older technology—credit cards, designed for in-person transactions, with high fees and financial surveillance baked in—determine the shape of a new technological paradigm. As a result, that paradigm has become twisted and monopolized by its biggest players. This is one of the modern internet’s greatest errors; it’s past time that we encounter “402 Payment Required” for real.