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Blockchain: the most boring revolution in history?

Blockchain: the most boring revolution in history?

Comment on an interview with Paul Brody in ARA newspaper

Since it was proposed ten years ago -it is not easy to separate the technology from its most famous application, bitcoin-, everyone’s been speaking about blockchain, making it the latest technology to have raised great expectations. However, blockchain, seen as “the biggest revolution since the Internet”, has yet to revolutionize the world of trade, knowledge or communication, unlike its predecessor. Moreover: recently, and notwithstanding significant, well-established initiatives [1] which are pioneering in their application, public opinion is changing (maturing) with respect to the technology’s expected impact.

Some experts define blockchain as an “institutional technology”: a tool which is set to change the way in which agents are related or coordinated in an ecosystem. This new social agreement also depends on factors which are not strictly technical in nature, but rather legal, political, economic, and social. On a recent visit to Barcelona [2], Professor Jason Potts of the University of Melbourne, predicted that some “10,000 blockchains will dominate the world”. Will they do so based on geographical areas, markets or societies? One can speculate and make hypotheses as to the probable organizational design of these ecosystems, but one must remember that paradigms do not shift overnight. Individuals have a “digital mindset” and an “analogical heart” but the governance framework remains doubly analogue. Institutional disruption is, at the very least, unlikely.

Expected global business volume in the blockchain sector (Gartner, March 2017)

Aside from a simple definition, one can easily overlook the social implications or the crypto-mathematical effects of blockchain technology (how will developments in computational capacity affect anonymization and security?). Faced with the latest technology to have emerged, we need to ensure that any expectations are not inversely proportional to public understanding and that we do not contribute to their ignorance, but instead we debate, discuss and evaluate it. If “justice which fails to understand the people isn’t justice”, then the revolution that does not understand the people may not be a revolution either.

A balance needs to be found between novelty and complexity, since a change involving people (and the institutions that represent them) needs time for it to be assimilated: nobody can deny, however, that sooner or later, change always ends up happening. For this reason, blockchain may be “the most boring revolution in history”[3].

Bibliography

[1] Blockchain and healthcare: the Estonian experience (Taavi Einaste, Head de Digital Healthcare a Nortal, febrer 2018)

[2] Expert seminar: The blockchain economy (Seminari obert celebrat el 27 de febrer de 2019)

[3] “El ‘blockchain’ serà la revolució més avorrida de la nostra història” (Entrevista a Paul Brody al diari ARA, 3 de març de 2019)

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