"So crypto-economic systems like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum grow, compete, and evolve in the landscape of crypto-economic systems. But Ethereum is a bit different.
Ethereum is a crypto-economic system whose product is a platform for crypto-economic systems. So while the Ethereum system competes and evolves alongside other crypto-economic platforms like Tezos and Neo, yet more crypto-economic systems compete within and across these platforms.
In order for Ethereum to serve as a platform upon which other crypto-economic systems can be built, it needs to offer some kind of building block which can be used to construct these systems.
Smart contracts serve this role. Smart contracts are special accounts on Ethereum that run code when Ether is sent to them. They execute a Turing-complete programming language, so they are like general-purpose machines living inside Ethereum universe.
These machines can be designed to implement all manner of crypto-economic systems including money systems like Bitcoin, decentralised file storage and computing markets, name registries and many others no doubt that haven’t yet been thought of.
They can also control money. So imagine future self-driving car services that are ‘self-owned’; no owner, no employees, and all profits going towards expanding the fleet until the demand is met and the system shifts toward a zero profit model.
Not only are these machines able to control money, they can also interact, and trade with each other. An internal ecosystem can emerge where smart contracts compete in their own markets in an autonomous way.
These smart contract ‘agents’ can also be composed into meta-machines or cooperative organisations. Some of these organisations may end up controlling vast amounts of wealth. Some may serve as governmental institutions.
So, we could see an alien landscape of ethereal entities develop where individual agents, as well as collections of agents compete and evolve and cooperate. We could see machine economies emerge that are unrecognisable and incomprehensible to us, and yet control huge amounts of money, and massively influence our lives.
I think such an organic, competitive ecosystem could produce truly brilliant systems that orchestrate our world in ways we never imagined possible. I suspect these systems will appear very strange at first and then in retrospect we will realise their impact was on the scale of things like the car, the Internet, even Democracy itself."