Cryptocurrency has been changing the world since it was unveiled in 2008 by Satoshi. Before this event took place the world had a handful of slow and invasive choices for transacting efficiently on a peer-to-peep (p2p) level. Now that much of the world has been reached by this exciting technology, it is hard to imagine a world in which it does not continue to proliferate further into our every day lives. It would not be helpful to look to the past to extrapolate to the future of the state of crypto. This is a monetary system upheavel on a global scale never seen before. Instead, in order to look ahead and relish in beautiful applications of future blockchain implementations it will take some ingenuity and knowledge of cryptoeconomic systems.
Today's versions of blockchains do not meet the high bar set for them in the past. The benchmarks used for meeting this bar are many but among them there are a few that stand out as more important than the rest. Specififcally, transactions-per-second (TPS), cryptographic security, and the actual size (number of nodes) that exist in a network. These are related to one another but each pose their own tradeoffs when considering design implementations of the blockchain's software.
There are varied accounts of which chain has the highest TPS threshold. After a few DuckDuckGo searches, it seems that EOS is TPS king with a certified TPS bottleneck of 3000, followed by Tron with 2000. Compare that with the Visa, who themselves have have an opaque method for verififcation, from 1700 to 65,000+ TPS. Visa does not actually process 65,000+ TPS, they have an equation which governs their algorithims which says, in optimal conditions without any latency or hiccups the system can handle >65,000 TPS. There is a coin called Futurepia which claims to have a TPS threshold of 300,000 or roughly 5x that of the optimal ability of Visa. It doesn't need to be said but this is almost certainly a lie, though they do have a certificate from KOLAS proving it. By the way, BTC and ETH have a TPS threshold of 7 and 15 respectively. This slow speed is embarassing in a world of microseconds.
Cryptocurrencies are stuck, not in a literal sense, but in a theoretical one. When blockchain tech first started to become recognized as the revolutionary tech it is, somewhere around late 2016, there was a large amount of hype placed on the field, and suddenly anyone with a laptop and an internet connection could conjure up 'the next bitcoin', put their ideas in a white paper, and recieve a small to extra-large payday.
All this hype made some ridiculous claims about what blokchain can really do. There was talk of tokenizing everything, autonomous vending machines with blockchain compatibility, and overall the replacement of all fiat currencies. This all sounds great, and fundamentally these promises are attainable, however many overestimated the actual capacity of distributed networks at their current scale and got carried away in overinflated promises.
There is almost no practial reason to attempt making a 5 year price prediction on anything, let alone the most volatile assets in economic history. To suggest some theoretical possibilities however is not as difficult. There has been a clear trend towards the scaling up of investments in the cryptocurrency world, which is extremely important to move forward research and development. That being said, there is a lack in the scaling up of actual research and development of these cryptocurrency networks. This gap between rising market caps and stagnat blockchain activity is building an inverted pyramid. On top there is a large, growing pool of money, specificially ~347 billion dollars, precariously teetering on a small base of actual usability.
There are a plethora of beneficial blockchain projects and use cases, many of which are under development today. The main issue in the way of progress within the crypto space is currrently one of access to computer resources. That is, these networks have the correct approach to distributed computing and securing of the network, but it doesn't do much when the network is on such a small scale as it is today. As more and more access to computer resources become avaialble to people at cheaper prices and continuously improved hardware, the capactiy of these networks will slowly begin to scale.
As these networks scale it is important to remember the basic trilemma all cryptocurrencies must learn to find a balance within. As a network scales upwards, so does its speed. This increased speed is good for end users but also good for attackers looking for new places of vulnerability within the network. Sometimes if not scaled correctly, an increase in speed can cause an issue with block propogation where part of the network is working on the next block before the previous one has been seen by the whole network. This leads to more orphaned blocks which is an attack vector for a malicious node.
There are many pitfalls that can come about when a network focuses too much on one thing, and that is what is currently happening with TPS. This is an important benchmark for blockchains to be able to prove that they can actually handle global scale processing capabilities. To focus to much on this one corner of the triangle will create an unbalanced network which will eventually fail. The key is to find a sweet spot of tradeoffs where the network can perform optimally, conceding some things in place for improvements which benefit the network in a greater way.
Over the next five years the main issues we need to be focused on as a community are development of the actual capabilities of blockchain netowrks. Visa and mastercard are good starting points, but the projects blockchain was made for will require TPS throughput of a much greater volume when processing not just payments across networks but the state of crypto assets/tokens, the state of wallets, the metadata, and more.The need for larger networks is crucial in expanding blockchain to being able to fulfill the most obscure promises of the media in years past, and this will only be possible if the tech is developed with sound fundamentals in mind.
The issue of finding the sweet spot described above is of great and immediate importance. This does not mean it is the only project to be undertaken in this ecosystem. The inevitable development of quantum computing promises to recind all the progress made in this field if there is not a solution provided for securing the network in the event of a new attack vector: quantum computers.
A brief run down, cryptocurrency is based on cryptography, specifially Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC). ECC is not an unbreakable system, it relies on prime number factorization and one-way math functions which make it impossible, with classical computers, to break the cryptography used in a reasonable time. That is you can factor the primes and break into someones account, so long as you can afford to wait a few thousand years for your computer to calculate the answer. This changes with the advent of quantum computing machines.
A well known algorthim for breaking ECC, RSA, and SHA algorithims, the main ones used in crypto and every day internet security, has already been developed called Shor's algoritim. With current state of the art computers using the properties of classical physics to compute the algorithim it takes hundresds of hundres of trillions of operations to compute Shor's agorithim, with quantum computing? Just under 2.1 million operations. This means we go from a safe, secure method of encryption to all of cryptography having about 12 hours to become quantum-proof once the first quantum computer works. Unlike high school homework this assignment should not be put off until last minute.
It is essential that this issue is addressed on a large scale and that at the very least the largest legacy chains such as BTC, ETH, LTC, and DASH need to be upgraded. If we are able to scale the network and create meaningful applications, it will mean nothing if quantum computing comes along and turns back the clock another 5 years or more.
These lager networks are useless if the most gripping application we have on it is Cryptokitties. Cryptocurrency has progressed quite far from being incorrectly labeled as only for drug dealers and money laundering but we still have a long way to go. There is a lack of representation in the media of well-educated humans who have a passion for crypto and understand the implications of this system failing. More than likely there will be many more 'Bitcoin Is Dead' articles to be added to the list. Persistance is key to moving forward as it has been since the beggining. The world needs blockchain, and the blockchain needs the world.