As decentralization follows its path from hyped solution to
mainstream staple, one Eastern hub in particular offers lessons for the rest of
The Life Cycle of Technological Innovation
For any new technology to gain mass adoption, it must pass through
various stages. According to the Hype Cycle theory by Gartner, there are five such stages.
The innovation trigger phase involves a potential technological
breakthrough, proof of concept and significant media interest. Often, no usable
product exists at this stage and commercial viability is usually unproven. At
the peak of inflated expectations, a few success stories emerge, arousing
further public interest. However, many innovations do not get past this phase.
The disillusionment stage often involves declining interest as the
technology fails to meet inflated expectations. It is at this stage that
unsustainable technologies fail and the sustainable ones are improved to
maximize the satisfaction of early adopters.
During the slope of enlightenment, use cases start to become
apparent and more widely understood with further funding and investment poured
into the projects.
Finally, the technology reaches a plateau of productivity, a stage
characterized by mass adoption. At this stage, broad market applicability and
relevance have already been identified and the company, as well as the product,
Where Do Blockchains Come In?
Looking at blockchain technology through the lens of the Hype Cycle
theory, we find it currently on the slope of enlightenment. Satoshi Nakamoto,
the pseudonymous party behind Bitcoin, published a paper in 2009
detailing how blockchain technology could be used to enable peer-to-peer
From inception until 2013, the technology was in the innovation
stage, with little use cases and lukewarm media coverage. The peak of inflated
expectations gained momentum from 2014 until late 2017 when the price of most
cryptocurrencies reached an all-time high.
However, in 2018, we are seeing dissipating interest, as is
evident in the trough of disillusionment stage, with regulators entering the crypto
space and most cryptocurrencies losing at least half of their value. For all
those who believed in the value of the technology rather than the get-rich-quick
crypto market, entering the productivity stage is a welcomed development. With
mainstream acceptance, regulators getting involved and innovators who believe
in the technology now in the space, blockchain technology is closer to
development and mass adoption than ever before.
South Korea Is Leading Blockchain Adoption
The most exciting thing about South Korea as a global blockchain
hub is the speed at which it has gone through the Hype Cycle. While most
countries are still grappling with regulatory confusion, South Korea is in the
final stages of introducing regulatory guidelines for blockchain technology in the areas of
cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).
The Korean National Assembly has been very adamant on the removal
of ICO banning and the setup of new governance systems to systematically
develop blockchain policies and provide support to firms working with the
Likewise, the blockchain community in the country is very active,
engaging global thought leaders in various industries, discussing blockchain
applications and hosting blockchain awareness events.
For instance, in September of this year, the country will host one
of the world’s largest blockchain conferences of its kind, featuring over 40 speakers
from the corporate and legal arena. The three-day event is known as Block Seoul and will include presentations from
notable figures such as Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, and Michael Hayden,
a former director of the CIA.
And this is not the first global blockchain conference the country
is hosting. Beyond Blocks, one of the most
active South Korean blockchain communities, has been organizing such events
One thing that has enabled South Korea to make great strides in
blockchain technology is its investment in research and development.
Just a few months ago, the South Korean government announced a $200 million investment in blockchain research. While most
governments across the world have expressed interest in the technology, very
few have taken such significant steps.
Also, the lawmakers in South Korea are very vocal about new
technologies and have been on the front line in advocating for
innovation-friendly regulation. In countries such as the U.S. and the U.K.,
most lawmakers get involved only to threaten crippling regulations, even when
they do not understand the technology.
Another great thing about South Korea’s technology approach is its
proactive blockchain and crypto community, which organizes global summits to
discuss the pertinent issues facing the technology and involve participants
from across the globe. The openness to a global audience brings in new ideas
while cementing the role of the country as a global blockchain leader.
For blockchain technology to reach mass adoption faster, countries
must be ready to invest in research and development and implement regulations
that encourage innovation. Lawmakers must take some pages from South Korea 's
book and start implementing change.