Is Blockchain 'the Amazing Solution for Almost Nothing'?


Long-time Slashdot reader leathered shares an investigation from the Correspondent about blockchain – and " what’s so terribly revolutionary about it? What problem does it solve…? I can tell you upfront, it’s a bizarre journey to nowhere. I’ve never seen so much incomprehensible jargon to describe so little… And I’ve never seen so many people searching so hard for a problem to go with their solution…"

[Y]ou can’t do much with bitcoin. But blockchain, on the other hand: it’s the technology behind bitcoin, which makes it cool. Blockchain generalises the bitcoin pitch: let’s not just get rid of banks, but also the land registry, voting machines, insurance companies, Facebook, Uber, Amazon, the Lung Foundation, the p0rn industry and government and businesses in general. They are superfluous, thanks to the blockchain. Power to the users…!

The only thing is that there’s a huge gap between promise and reality. It seems that blockchain sounds best in a PowerPoint slide. Most blockchain projects don’t make it past a press release, an inventory by Bloomberg showed… Out of over 86,000 blockchain projects that had been launched, 92% had been abandoned by the end of 2017, according to consultancy firm Deloitte. Why are they deciding to stop? Enlightened — and thus former — blockchain developer Mark van Cuijk explained: “You could also use a forklift to put a six-pack of beer on your kitchen counter. But it’s just not very efficient…”

[I]nformation and communications technology is like the rest of the world — a big old mess. And that’s something that we — outsiders, laypeople, non-tech geeks — simply refuse to accept. Councillors and managers think that problems — however large and fundamental they are — evaporate instantaneously thanks to technology they’ve heard about in a fancy PowerPoint presentation. How will it work? Who cares! Don’t try to understand it, just reap the benefits!

This is the market for magic, and that market is big. Whether it’s about blockchain, big data, cloud computing, AI or other buzzwords…

Maybe this is blockchain’s greatest merit: it’s an awareness campaign, albeit an expensive one. “Back-office management” isn’t an item on the agenda in board meetings, but “blockchain” and “innovation” are… Yes, it took a few wild, unmet promises, but the result is that administrators are now interested in the boring subjects that help make the world run a bit more efficiently — nothing spectacular, just a bit better.