William Shatner, perhaps best known for playing the role of Captain James T. Kirk is making science fiction become science fact. While fans have become used to seeing Shatner commanding the iconic starship Enterprise into narrowly avoided certain death, he is also a talented writer and director – and some would say a visionary.
Shatner is the author of TekWars, a set of novels set in a dystopian future where people are addicted to “tek", and there is no such thing as physical money. Shatner brought the show to the small screen as its director twenty-five years ago and revealed a future where payments were made simply by touching credit cards together. Today's smartphones are packed with wireless and Near Field Connection (NFC) technology, but back in 1993, nobody could have envisaged how commonplace NFC would become.
In the show, people use a digital currency called "credits" generated on the Interactive Value Network, which can be used to pay for virtually anything. Fast forward to today, and this sounds uncannily like Zuckerberg's foray in the crypto space into which he is creating his unique brand of dystopian future with his deregulated Libra currency which is to be regulated and crucially claims to be borderless yet can be blocked for use in 'troublesome' countries.
In 2018, Shatner's vision for a cashless society took a step closer to reality when Canada based Solar Alliance, a company he represents, unveiled plans to use the sun's energy to power Bitcoin mining operations. Since then Shatner has created a second blockchain partnership with UK based Mattereum, a company which logs data on physical objects into the Ethereum blockchain, and incorporated Third Millenia which allows customers to legally transfer ownership as easily as they transfer their digital currencies.
Third Millenia embeds microchips into an object which can be scanned with a smartphone which is linked to its digital twin object including high-resolution images, serial numbers and video evidence of it being signed by a famous person. The technology could potentially unlock the value of any collectable object and, in the future, literally anything that can be entered onto the Ethereum blockchain.
One of the first uses of it, was quite fittingly, for an action figure of Captain Kirk himself. The figure had a serial number, autographs from Shatner, a hand-drawn Ethereum logo, and a video which will be added to the ledger once it is in full operation, providing provenance of the object’s past. Shatner believes proving an object’s authenticity helps retain its value, but the way that an item gets its value in the first place, is through authenticating its past ownership. In 2017, Star Trek global merchandise licencing revenue topped a colossal $271 billion and no doubt Shatner has his eye on this as he pursues plans to repurpose digital wallets to store “ownership tokens”.
If successful, this could have a massive impact in reducing counterfeit goods, while providing an increasingly vital service to the secondary luxury goods market as Mattereum plans to demonstrate, by logging a $9 million Stradivarius violin on the blockchain and then tokenising it in thousands of shares. Of course, other competitors are also investigating similar systems including London based Everledger who raised $10.4 million from Fidelity Investments and then formed a strategic partnership with diamond giant De Beers to develop an in-house tracking system for their precious stones.
The ability to reliably track ownership of previously illiquid objects will lead to entirely new opportunities to invest, and once again demonstrates the versatility and potentially limitless uses of the Ethereum blockchain.