Crypto Mass Adoption: A Matter of When, Not If
The question is not if global adoption of cryptocurrency will happen, but when it will happen. The exact timeline is tricky to pin down; mass adoption could take place in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, or more. However, the point is that it will happen, and there are objective benefits to learning about cryptocurrency before mass adoption comes. Understanding cryptocurrency earlier rather than later can provide a smoother transition for all individuals. Just like those who adopted the internet early, the first wave of adopters of cryptocurrency will have a leg up on the second and third wave. So where are we exactly in the adoption cycle of cryptocurrencies? Are there any analogies from the past that can give investors an indication as to which trends to capitalize on right now? Lastly, how can we be so sure that the mass adoption of cryptocurrency is inevitable, like so many claim it to be?
"Gradually, then suddenly"
According to a recent study by Finder.com, roughly 27 million Americans own cryptocurrency, 44.5% of which own bitcoin. The percentage of Americans who own cryptocurrency has not yet reached 10% of the total population, but it has been on a steady incline since the inception of Bitcoin in 2009. The adoption of cryptocurrency is much like the adoption of any other technology: The rate at which adoption occurs grows very gradually until about 8-10%, then generally explodes upwards to mass adoption from there. We can characterize this general rate of adoption with the phrase “gradually, then suddenly”. Consider the adoption of the internet in the 1990’s as an anecdote. In 1990, only a handful of governments, universities, businesses, and individuals were using the internet. But in the year 2000 everyone had to have a website. Similarly, smart phones were scarce in 2007 when the iPhone was invented, but by 2011 every person over the age of 12 was carrying around the internet in their pocket.
We’re still early to crypto
With this in mind, I think it is safe to say that we’re still in early cryptocurrency days. Despite the massive valuations of bitcoin, ethereum, and a handful of other cryptocurrencies, the data suggests that there is much more room for growth. With each passing year we are seeing new developments come out of the space and capture the minds and pocketbooks of people all over the world. NFTs have taken the Philippines by storm, and the bitcoin lightning network is in use by the people of El Salvador for day-to-day transactions, for example.
CBDCs are on the horizon
Regardless of the future of cryptocurrency, governments are building their own digital currencies, called CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies). Although they may be launched within the next decade, I suspect that a certain amount of digital literacy is going to be required before they can be rolled out en-masse. This further illustrates the benefit of educating yourself and your business on digital money today. Although cryptocurrencies and CBDCs are likely to work differently, many of the fundamentals may appear to be the same. For example, instead of pulling out physical bills from your wallet, payments will likely be made using a digital wallet on your smartphone. Much like cryptocurrencies, independent financial technologies will be built around the CBDC, rather than within traditional financial institutions like banks.
As long as there are governments, there will be a demand for the currency of that nation. After all, taxes must be paid in the sovereign currency of that country. So while I argue that cryptocurrencies are the way of the future, I hesitate to argue that they will outright replace the USD and the currencies of nations, at least not any time soon. I think the more likely and reasonable future is one where people are faced with more choices as to which currency they use to do commerce and store value. The currencies one chooses to use will dictate the level of financial opportunity they are exposed to. The question at the dinner table will no longer be “what is your bank?” but rather “what is your currency?"
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.