I'm deviating a bit from my normal topics, but this is such an interesting topic - and perhaps even a world-changing topic - that I'm going to comment on it. Note: I haven't invested in any of these, but I'm considering it.
There has been a lot of interest in Bitcoin lately because of its astonishing price rise, but I think the most interesting thing is not Bitcoin itself, but the whole cryptocurrency environment it has spawned, which is exploding with a world-changing creativity that extends far beyond simple currency. See CoinMarketCap.com, which lists more than a thousand crypto coins.
The blockchain (at the heart of this environment) basically enables systems that can operate fairly regardless of how honest or dishonest the people hosting the systems are. So, for example, if you have an entire copy of the Bitcoin blockchain, containing all the Bitcoin ever created, and you try to cheat by modifying the chain, it won't do you a bit of good because the rest of the system, distributed around the world, simply won't approve your changes.
Some of these new crypto projects are no doubt frauds, or silly, or badly designed, but there is always that sort of thing in a period of rapid change and creativity. But there are also systems that are being designed that will enable all kinds of transactions for perhaps thousands of online systems, and that at far, far lower cost.
Some of the systems that interest me are the ones that make new online systems possible. These have particilarly caught my eye recently:
- Gems (https://gems.org/), which seeks to immitate the Amazon Mechanical Turk system (online workers performing small tasks) but with extremely low overhead, thereby providing workers with larger paychecks and employers with lower labor costs.
- Verify (https://verify.as/files/whitepaper.pdf), which seeks to replicate the sort of reputation record you see on, for example, eBay.com, but all handled using a distributed system. I think this sort of system is necessary for people to become comfortable buying and selling on a non-centralized, nobody-owns-it blockchain system.
- Chainlink (https://www.smartcontract.com/link). Some blockchain systems need to connect with outside sources of information. So, for instance, a financial tool might want to regularly check stock prices. This system would let that happen.
- Copytrack (https://copytrack.io/), a global decentralized copyright register for digital content. The blockchain is ideal for recording in a way that cannot be changed who owns what.
- BlockMason Credit Protocol (https://blockmason.io) A system for recording debts and credit. A basic but critical task for building complex financial systems based on the blockchain.
- Basic Attention Token (https://basicattentiontoken.org/) is developing a system to improve the efficiency of digital advertising by creating a new token that can be exchanged between publishers, advertisers, and users.
There are probably dozens of other equally interesting projects (sorry if I missed a favorite), but I just haven't stumbled upon them yet.