Blockchain vs. Bullshit: Thoughts on the Future of Money

Here’s a wonderful presentation from Andreas Antonopoulos:

If you don’t know Andreas, you probably are not interested in cryptocurrency as he is one of the best popularizer of cryptocurrency.  In this presentation, Andreas covers a range of topics.  The key takeaways for me are:

  1. Misuse of the term “blockchain”
  2. Working and investing in blockchain technologies

Misuse of the term “blockchain”

The Blockchain is “sexy” these days. There’s a lot of hype surrounding it.

For startups, it allows getting more money for their ventures, either through ICOs or through standard VCs. No doubt that over time, a lot of these ventures will be found wanting. It reminds me of the tech bubble we had in the early 2000s (yes, I am that old). Everybody had to have shares of Nortel, JDS or in small technology startups. It was about changing the world… well not really, it was about greed. Human nature is what it is. There’s bound to be a lot of greed in the present blockchain bubble… If you want to invest in ICOs or hot startups, do your homework!

One of the difference from that early 2000s mania is the play of the incumbents (e.g. banks, insurance companies). Banks, insurance companies have “adopted” the word “blockchain” and are building products with this technology. There’s probably benefits for these players to use blockchain, as it allows them to bypass their middlemen (i.e. clearing houses) and therefore increase their margins…. but is the blockchain peddled by these incumbents equivalent to the bitCoin blockchain? I doubt it. The beauty of the “open blockchain” as Andreas calls it resides in the mining, the proof of work, the Byzantine consensus. You have a system of reward and punishments, you have a very large network of security that brings about security. Security is baked in the core of the bitCoin system. Cheating on the “open” blockchain is extremely hard and costly. Can the same be stated for a blockchain offered by a consortium of big banks?

Working and investing in blockchain technologies

Your a software developer? Working on blockchain is appealing isn’t it? It’s hot, it’s cool, you may change the world. If you want to do that, please do… but do your homework… even as a developer. Don’t be part of the problem. Work on “open blockchain”, don’t spread the crap around, don’t misuse the term “blockchain”. Don’t participate in Ponzi schemes, don’t lie (to yourselves or to your investors) about what you are building, don’t do what so many of us did in the 2000s and just go with the flow, think. Go with the idealistic view, even though you might not get that Ferrari you dream about. There’s nothing wrong with driving a used car or taking the bus, it’s still gets you from A to B.

If you invest in blockchain, either through traditional means or through ICOs, do your homework too. Don’t be lazy. Small investments made by you and others are driving sharks in the market. Don’t be part of that scene… again DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

I like the way Andreas puts it; The element of success in an industry are to:

  1. Identify a viable market: Forget the blockchain, does the market by itself makes sense…. does the blockchain bring something truly disruptive to it?
  2. Timing: Is the product offered at the right time? Is it too late, too early?
  3. Sequencing (i.e. the prerequisites): Are all the required technologies that build it present?

Whatever happens the technologies and concepts that make up bitCoin will stay. The genie is out of the bottle and there might be ups and downs but one day bitCoin or some other currency will prevail.

This is a beautiful thing for billions of people, especially the “unbankable”.

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