Been there, done it all
This is the first of a series of commentaries on the world of crypto, blockchains and distributed ledgers. My intention is to take a primarily critical look at the history, theories, technology, and milieu. As someone who has been an active participant in the space who started out very enamored of the technical and practical use cases, I have now come to view much of what goes on very negatively.
A critical inside voice is needed.
Why do I believe there's a need for my voice? When the crypto and blockchain space became more widely embraced, it was not without its critics, skeptics, doubters and downright cynics. Most of these people were “outsiders” to the space and none I can identify were involved very deeply. This includes such outsider critics as Warren Buffett, Nouriel Roubini, Jamie Dimon and more recently people like Bill Harris, the founding CEO of PayPal. They were mostly making broadly critical statements about the future of crypto as a currency or asset that would be in wide use. Although some of their views still largely hold, many of their predictions about a drop to worthlessness of Bitcoin or evolution to uselessness of blockchain/DLT, I believe, will not happen any time soon. If ever.
There is an urgent need for the Crypto Critic voice is that the world does seem to divide between those who expect crypto to go away and those who believe it is the 2nd coming of everything, if not just money. There is almost no view from somewhere in the middle.
Yet another reason is that there needs to be a voice that understands the economics, technical and social features and brings all these together; and, most of all, no longer has a horse in the race and can speak freely. If there is already a prominent voice out there critically commenting on the sector and engaging credibly with the community, I think I would have found her/him easily. I haven’t. If I have overlooked that voice and someone wants to point to her/him, please post it in a comment. I probably can use allies.
The first piece or two that I’ll be putting out here will concentrate on the most controversial aspects of crypto-currencies. This includes addressing the economic arguments and the implied political and moral views underpinning crypto-currencies, immutable decentralized data stores and the like. If there is one view that seems to be wholly absent from the middle, it’s one that tries thoroughly flesh these out for (one hopes) discussion and greater self-awareness in the sector.
Following this, I will dive into the technical aspects of what’s taking place in the space and put them in context of the history and evolution of other real or supposed technical and economic innovations. The need to write about this mainly arises, as an attempt tamp down the seeming gospel of crypto/blockchain/DDLT paralleling major past technical, economic and social developments. All really great past innovations that sustained their greatness were rarely so immodest as the blockchain space. A little perspective is wanted.
Next, I’ll deconstruct the technical and use case pairings that are out there already or under development. With this I’ll try to provide detailed descriptions and reasoning for what I think will go somewhere (yikes, another prophet) and what is in whole or in part dead end.
Finally, and most of all, I would like to start to discussion. As you can observe from what I’ve written above, I don’t write off or wholesale condemn the sector. There are possibilities and most of all for self-awareness. Crypto/Blockchain/DLT technologies have significant potential and, most of all, the sector is still in early enough stages to keep it from becoming primarily an amoral or even immoral force with multiple expected and unexpected terrible downsides. Witness the history of the internet, ecommerce, and social media.
Feel free to comment, even at length. I’ll try to answer every response.