Valery Vavilov is the CEO and founder of Bitfury Group, a leading blockchain company that delivers software, hardware, mining and consulting solutions focused on the technology.
In this CoinDesk 2016 in Review special feature, Vavilov discusses his vision for the future of blockchain technology, and why he believes it will prove key to providing a more secure and inclusive world.
2017 is here. There is tremendous optimism for the future, but there is also reason for tremendous concern.
Cybersecurity was one of the biggest stories of 2016. Now everyone is looking for a better solution - and not a moment too soon. With our current Internet-based infrastructure, every database, every server and every asset is vulnerable.
This is, in many ways, because the Internet was not built for security - cybersecurity describes protections added to a vulnerable system.
And while many digital natives were raised on the understanding that cybersecurity is an integral part of life, others are only beginning to understand this pervasive threat. The real story of 2016 is much larger than cybersecurity - it's a story of broken systems and declining trust in institutions.
Across the globe, many fundamental themes remain constant.
People want to provide for their loved ones; institutions are broken and sometimes fully corrupt; barriers to industry and entrepreneurship can sometimes seem unsurpassable. High unemployment, growing income disparities, poor or inaccessible education - some combination of these problems affect billions of people across the globe.
A microcosm of this dreary landscape can be found in contemporary banking.
Exclusionary banking policies often make it impossible for low-income populations and new businesses to open accounts; the costs of transferring money and assets within countries and across borders stultify mobility and innovation in the globalized economy. More broadly, fear of imminent and uncertain shifts in the tectonic plates of geopolitical power have given rise to pervasive timidity - which is never good for growth.
It's a bleak picture, but there's good news. A major tool has emerged to help us combat each of these universal challenges.
In the next few years - maybe three, maybe five, maybe 10 - anyone, anywhere will be able to transfer any asset to anywhere on earth from the palm of their hand. Through a new system called the bitcoin blockchain, unparalleled ease of access, trust, transparency and security will become the default across the globe.
It's simple, it's inexpensive and it's happening now.
As Wi-Fi access rapidly spreads across the globe, universal access to smart technology is expanding and inevitable. Accompanying this increased opportunity is increased risk. Security is one of the most exciting aspects of the bitcoin blockchain; since its inception eight years ago, it has never been successfully hacked.
Never. Think about that.
In a world where everything from the Nasdaq to the Pentagon has been compromised, the bitcoin blockchain stands as the most secure system on earth. Trust is literally built into the technology and the data is decentralized, stored at no fewer than 5,000 locations around the world.
The bitcoin blockchain does not function without security - security is the lifeblood. On this blockchain, every single exchange is stored in an immutable record - it's unalterable and forever stamped in time.
Every time someone adds a new transaction, it must be verified by the entire decentralized network and therefore becomes more secure.
What's more, the bitcoin blockchain self-audits - any transaction that is illegitimate is caught before it can even be recorded on the ledger. This means attempts at fraud, duplication or tampering are immediately detectable, a security structure unparalleled by any other system.
Realizing a vision
I was born in Latvia - a former territory of the Soviet Union.
When established systems failed in my country, many in my family lost everything. As a boy, I could only dream of helping create a world where arbitrary and unjust reversals of fortune were no longer possible.
The bitcoin blockchain is the beginning of the realization of that dream.
The bitcoin blockchain can set us all down a path toward a brighter, more accessible, more mobile world - one where broken systems are transformed and opportunity is expanded for millions.
No technology is a panacea, but with the further adoption and understanding of the power, potential and security of the bitcoin blockchain, 2017 will help usher in a new era of optimism and trust in institutions.
It's been decades since the Internet disrupted and reorganized the global status-quo. Now, it's the blockchain's turn to change the world.
Fragile world image via Shutterstock