Repo No More? How Blockchain May Spell the End of the Repo Man


Smart Contracts + Self-Driving Cars + IoT = ?

Three of the most talked about “disruptive” future technologies today are the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, and blockchains.  Individually, each portends great changes in how we organize, what we can do, and how we can do it.  Extrapolating what each of these developments might do individually is one thing (what we’d call “linear thinking”); but the really important and strategic impacts of technological disruption frequently come out of left field, where multiple technologies or new ideas intersect to produce impacts that linear thinking won’t identify.

By way of example, and just to have a little fun today exploring how multiple lines of technology might come together, we present the potential emerging issue produced when blockchain technology, advances in automation, and the IoT come together.  Consider the following possibility:

In a not-too-distant future, where:

  • Self-driving and autonomous cars are mainstream;
  • Where the IoT has become backbone – we should say, background – infrastructure to daily life (as in, a great many pieces of our daily built environment are digitally and wirelessly connected to each other);
  • Where machine automation in the form of AI, bots, and robotics are even more fundamental to every day life, and;
  • Where “smart contracts” are common, everyday,  self-executing agreements that live across the internet (of things),

We can imagine the auto loan agreement between you and your financial institution being a smart contract with inviolable terms.  Payments are automatic and when you lack the digital resources to fulfill those payment terms, the contract will simply execute its repossession clauses and your car will leave you.  You might walk out of work one afternoon (if you even still assemble in a traditional “office”) to find that your car has driven itself back to your financial institution’s holding facility (or it might immediately route it into circulation with a fleet of self-driving vehicles for a ride service).

In fact, we could go further and imagine the emergence of distributed autonomous organizations with access to fleets of self-driving vehicles that, without human intervention, are not simply assessing and issuing smart car loan contracts, but also dynamically modifying the terms for new agreements to optimize congestion, safety, and financial stability for geographic communities.

All of this assuming, of course, that the business model of personal ownership of cars doesn’t disappear altogether.

Now, what other wrinkles could we weave into such a scenario…?


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