A lot of things need to improve for cryptocurrencies to gain adoption, both on a micro and a macro level. On a basic level, those things can be divided into three categories: better infrastructure, clear and fair regulations, and frictionless user experience. Improvements in all three of these areas are crucial for the crypto space, and we need them all at the same time. Thankfully, there are plenty of intelligent and capable innovators working in these areas. Because of them, a broad adoption of cryptocurrencies can arguably be forecasted within the next decade. However, broad adoption isn’t the same as the level of utility as efficient and life changing as the internet.
Plenty of people in the crypto space have taken it upon themselves to be educators, so I can’t really say that education is an unforeseen problem. On the other hand, despite all their best efforts, we seem to still be banging our heads against the wall of uneducated people. That lack of education is painfully visible during government hearings on anything in the crypto space.
One of the things the banks have taught us is that we don’t have to be careful with our money. You can go to the bank and stop a check or freeze a payment. You can make a decision on a large purchase, change your mind up to three days later, and back out of the purchase without punishment. This approach to monetary transactions conflicts with the permanent nature of transactions on the blockchain, so it falls to us to change how we think about money. The burden of unlearning falls on each individual.
Unlearning is only the first of two fronts in increasing education in cryptocurrency. This is the root of what most educators in the crypto space are undertaking to do for our society. Only ten years after the creation of bitcoin, these educators are to thank for where we are today and necessary moving forward. There is a second educational front that remains largely ignored, and that is the education of our youth.
The internet is a good comparison to cryptocurrency, and we can gain some valuable insights into crypto’s future by looking at the internet’s past. Through the mid to late 90s, AOL sent CDs to practically every household in America, offering the internet to the masses. At that time, intelligent and capable innovators didn’t wake up thinking, “I want the internet to clean my cat litter.” Instead, they developed file sharing and more efficient email. What changed?
To most people over forty, the internet still seems like a convenience. Reacclimating to a life without the utility of the internet would take some time, but they know how to read a map and use a library card. At the same time, today’s youth have never known a time without the internet. The thought of the internet going down would be like having roads suddenly turn off. Since the UN declared internet access a human right in 2011, the internet has become a utility like running water and electricity. The change that drove the internet from AOL CDs to being embedded in every aspect of our lives happened when the Millennial generation became the intelligent and capable innovators. The truly life changing innovations were thought up by people who grew up with the internet as a given instead of a convenience.
For the same thing to happen with cryptocurrency, we can’t continue to teach the rising generation to lean on buyer’s-remorse-like contingencies. They should understand that an individual is ultimately responsible for what they do with their money just as much as they understand quadric equations and the Gettysburg Address. Financial Literacy shouldn’t be a high school elective, but a core subject taught as early as Elementary School and tested alongside Math, English, and Science. Our youth need to learn they don’t have to trust a bank to handle their money, they need to fundamentally believe they can do it themselves.
True mass adoption of cryptocurrency won’t happen until people who are in grade school right now reach their 30s and 40s. Cryptocurrency’s life changing innovations will be dreamed up and implemented by these people, and we have the opportunity to invest in their education and therefore our future. If we hope to leave the world better than we found it, we have the duty to save our children from the burden of unlearning.