Michael Genna

@mikegenna

Blockchain: A One-Stop-Shop to an Autonomous Utopia?

June 5th 2018

Have you ever watched iRobot and wondered when we’ll have a fully autonomous society? You may have thought about it. But, you probably couldn’t imagine when this could materialize because, until recently, it’s all been science fiction.

Until now, there has never been technology capable of hosting an economy of things. The internet of things (IoT) — the connection via the internet of everyday objects — is, perhaps, one of the most fascinating concepts developed over the last decade.

Picture this: the world realizes that it needs a data economy of thing’ to support an exponentially growing population’s lifestyles. Eventually, you’ll get used to eating breakfast and reading a digital newspaper as your car drives you to work. Your car may stop itself for a charge and pick up another passenger as the car turns itself into a contract worker a la Uber or Lyft. You go to work while your car works for you. All the while, your robo advisor or online brokerage sends you hourly updates on your day trades. After work, you walk to pick up some missing ingredients for dinner. You exit the store without approaching a cash register and your car picks you up like clockwork.

As you can imagine, this infrastructure is utterly complicated; so if the world strives towards automation via machine-to-machine communication, it must desire a protocol for these IoT devices.

But, what technology or company will get the offer? No one knows, but we can sure make a guess. As it stands, quite a few Bitcoin and blockchain proponents envision the technology to propel us into the autonomous and IoT future. But, I have some reservations. Due to its speed, Bitcoin’s blockchain technology may not be a one-stop shop to an autonomous utopia, after all.

Bitcoin’s blockchain is slow. It can only process a measly seven transactions per second (TPS) and takes about ten minutes to create a block. For context, Ethereum’s blockchain is about fifteen TPS, Litecoin about 1,000 TPS, and Ripple about 1,500 TPS. This remains a major flaw in Bitcoin’s design. Large scale mining gives a single user too much influence in policy and transaction speeds. If that weren’t enough, experts suggest automated technology that incorporates blockchain protocol may not be able to support a surge in millions of users when the time comes. .

So, if Bitcoin and blockchain technology can’t do it, who can? I believe there is still a place for cryptocurrency in this new, autonomous world of the future.

Tangle, the protocol underpinning the cryptocurrency IOTA provides notable advancements in the scalability and speed departments. The diagram illustrates the way a decentralized ledger creates a consensus. IOTA’s Tangle creates a consensus by a regional group of users verify two transactions before one is placed, contrary to most bitcoin blockchains creating a consensus by requiring a ‘miner’ to verify every single block using specific hardware capable of solving complicated algorithms. IOTA’s developers prove that mining is a needless and burdensome operation that comes at the expense of an applications’ scalability and speed.

Although the implications of IOTA are viewed as the ideal, the Tangle is still very novice in terms of its development and needs to be tested on a large scale, collaborating with the estimated 30 billion devices to be connected to the Internet by 2020. All in all, Bitcoin and other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies may not be well suited to support an internet of things if its community proves to be slow and continues lacks the simple concept of egalitarianism.

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