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The Next Digital Revolution: Is It for Your Clients?

New technology presents many investment opportunities.

Are you or your clients considering getting further into the next digital revolution? Are you interested in exploring blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) or any of the other new technologies this digital revolution is making possible?

Paul Mischenko, investor, advisor and founder of MK4 Capital LLC, has some ideas for you.

“One of the ways of thinking about these new technologies,” he begins, “is even before you consider investing in them, educate yourself and understand how they will impact society.”

To do this, he invites us to think of technologies that transformed society. “The key,” he observes, “is that it’s general-purpose technologies that have the most impact.”

  • The steam engine substituted mechanical energy for muscle energy. It was the basis for the entire Industrial Revolution.
  • Electricity meant gaining control over light in homes and offices, independent of the time of day, and it meant powering the factories that changed every aspect of our lives.
  • This next digital revolution is also altering nearly every industry, once again transforming how we live, work and communicate.

As investors, or those who advise investors, what are the opportunities that we should consider?

Mischenko sees fintech as a particularly attractive space for investing. “Look at how China has bypassed credit cards, jumping to mobile payments and are now using biometrics such as facial recognition for payment. They’re investing heavily in this space, are close to digitizing the Yuan and they’ve made a significant commitment to blockchain technology.”

“That’s the future and if the United States isn’t careful it risks falling behind,” he adds. “At some point all assets will be digitized, transforming the way value is exchanged. Investors need to take this into account,” he summarizes.

Mischenko is also interested in cognitive automation, which uses blockchain, AI and IoT together in an intelligent platform for asset tracking, tracing and monitoring. Some applications include supply/food chain monitoring, smart cities, luxury goods authentication and renewable energy trading.

Blockchain and Impact Investing

As an investor, Mischenko sees digital technologies as playing a major role in impact investing. He’s particularly enthusiastic about the possibilities of digital technologies to mitigate social problems.   

As an example, blockchain technology can solve one of the more troublesome problems the 500,000 homeless in the United States face. “One of the sad facts of homelessness,” he points out, “is an individual without a home has almost no personal security. When you can’t secure your belongings, the odds of you losing your documents are high.”

“If you’ve lost your identification, or more likely, if it’s been damaged or stolen, you’ll have enormous difficulty in accessing social services such as shelter, food stamps or medical care. And in an ultimate Catch-22 situation, to get a replacement id, you need an identity document to prove your identity.”  

A Permanent Digital Identity

Blockchain can solve at least this one tragic aspect of homelessness. It can do this by creating a permanent digital identity that the homeless individual controls.

Homeless people who have a digital record, accessed via a biometric IoT device such as a retinal scan, fingerprint or facial recognition, can have a permanent record of their identity. Proof of their personal identity is always accessible. It can’t be lost, stolen, forged or damaged.

Having a permanent digital identity allows a homeless person to go to a homeless shelter or to seek medical services. And if he or she needs medical care, the care provider will know the individual’s medical history, which in turn will aid in providing the person with individualized care.

That’s not the end of what Mischenko expects the new digital technologies to do in addressing homelessness. “As we develop better data about homeless individuals, services can be better tailored and there may come a time when we may be able to predict homelessness on an individual basis.”

 “Maybe AI could use social media or online search data to predict the likelihood of homelessness,” he speculates. “Existing social media and search platforms might be able to intervene earlier, tailoring ads on how to get help, when homelessness could be prevented.”

His hope for you and your clients is that you’ll think broadly about digital technology. It’s not only a way of creating wealth, it’s also a way of mitigating some of our more painful social problems. “As this next digital revolution is a combination of several emerging technologies, it’s impact on society will be much quicker than in the past. Existing occupations could be more broadly displaced and it’s important we are mindful of its impact to minimize further economic divide.”

Mitzi Perdue is a business owner, speaker. and author of the books, HOW TO MAKE YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS LAST, and 52 TIPS FOR PREVENTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Contact her at [email protected] or call her at 410 860-4444.

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