Blockchain is something so abstractly vacuous it's hard to pitch its values. Let's run down the history very quickly:
These are your exponential use cases. These are things that aren't hype, but actually really in use.
But there's a lot of stuff between the lines. Bitcoin literally got started because you could buy drugs off of Silk Road. It took immediate use in international remittance, but as a tall white dude who only recently started being across jurisdictions (EU vs. US) - I can tell you, this isn't a problem many people relate to. Buying drugs with zero risk? Yeah, definitely.
Next example - Ethereum. Bitcoin just did transactions - I send you Bitcoins, you receive Bitcoins, doneskis. Bitcoin is a spreadsheet. A big dumb expensive spreadsheet, that no state can control or censor. Ethereum is pretty much the same, but the spreadsheet is infinite. And you can make whatever you want with it.
So what did people make? More cryptocurrencies, duhhh! That's when the ICO boom happened (late 2016). Every man and his dog were issuing a currency not controlled by a nation state, all under a guise of doing something revolutionary yada yada. Not really.
Although it is interesting to note - the token replaced the VC. Before, if you wanted money, you had to go through things like convertible notes and shares, and showing powerpoints to people. Now, you just create a token, and sell it to anyone. Seems pretty easy, almost like anyone could do it, and oh wait...that explains a lot.
We've gotten pretty far, but now you're getting lost. Welll haaaaave you met DAI? DAI is about as simple as it gets. It's the same as Bitcoin, except the price doesn't change. Reaaaaally disruptive innovation. You figured out a way to allow anyone to be a bank, you've just replaced fiat money, and you're waiting for everyone to get the idea...$348 MILLION dollars later, people are now just getting it.
So, what can we do now that we've got magic internet money that doesn't lose all of its value in your lunchbreak? Well - remember that part where we were all inventing our own tokens (cc: dogecoin) a while back as a bit of a side gig? Well, unlike visiting your cousin's wordpress blog, to actually load those tokens you're going to have to sit down with a cup of coffee. Still after all of this inNOvATION, we have to register for an exchange and because of terrorists, find where is my bloody passport.
Yeah so, imagine if you didn't have to do that? That's Uniswap. If DAI is being your own bank, Uniswap is being your own exchange. Except, ew, other people do that for you, you just pay them 3% in fees. When this fanciful dapp came out, it took about 2 weeks for it to have 20,000 ETH in deposits. 2 weeks. The guy who built it? Doesn't even write clean code. The UX? Absolutely slick.
Oh, on the note of UX? It ALL SUCKS! All of it. Everything sucks. It sucks badly. Really really badly. You are inside twelve bubbles rotating around a trail of excrement. UX is so bad, someone made an app that wraps your app and it literally spiked usage 100x ($4.6 million to $40 million collateral) in 10 days.
Things that aren't there yet
TCR's. Token Curated Registries. Their main issue? No-one cares.
DAO's. Distributed Autonomous Organisations. Sounds really cool, but no-one has shown me an app that just works. Let me organise a meetup with it, then hit me up.
Augur: Prediction Markets. Daily Active Users? You can count on two hands. Was one of the first projects to do this, so their app is very sluggish based on the tech at the time. Veil fixed their UX, but still there's a big gaping void of user addiction/interest.
Scaling. LOL. Give it time - meta transactions are the closest I've seen, Austin Griffith's Burner Wallet being one.
Anonymous tx's. Mixers are up-and-coming. AZTEC still working hard, cannot wait to slap on anonymity to all of my ERC20's.
Matter(???): Mattereum is the weirdest, most dream-y project in the space. Basically let's make every barcode link to the blockchain, and then categorise and tag all the sizes/nutritional-info/which-artist-kissed-this-guitar-in-92 into a massive database, Wikipedia-style. insert crazy segues here
What are we actually trying to do?
No-one knows. But I'll take a stab. Blockchain is a techno-economic innovation - it touches upon the core of human society, the abstract fuzzy-wuzzy of what is valuable.
Blockchains let us decide what is valuable, by giving us the right to just make up tokens like DOGE and Bitcoin, and then make memes or actually get world leaders to hate on you (the difference nowadays is blurry).
They have leaders with their own values, like a Russian genius that believes in square-root oriented communism. Or libertarians from the Bitcoin subcultures, who are fine with the idea of assassination.
They let us agree on rules at internet-speed. This is new for most people, because the last time you did this was probably as part of a school council, if anything. No-one knows what this means, so naturally we the Internet made a venture capital fund overnight, and threw $160M at it.
Mostly boring stuff is where everything is happening. Insurance, shipping, tracking. These are all problems that are, by-and-large, solved by a nicely packaged shared database. Believe it or not, but tokenising things isn't just about selling them. It's about ownership, it's about responsibility.
One peek into the future - blockchains will become jurisdictions. Just like how we have common law (the UK, built from cases) and civil law, blockchains offer various security and ideological tradeoffs. Ethereum will always be open, but pragmatic. Bitcoin will be unwaveringly Wild West.
Just saw this quote:
Bitcoin broke the cartel of finance.
Internet broke the cartel of knowledge.
and MetaCartel... breaks the cartel of cartels