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An interesting read on what might be possible with the blockchain. There’s some interesting ideas in here - and a few that I tought were left unexplored. In particular the idea of a blockchain based identity management system - a decentralised passport for your online identity (I made a comment on the post if you want to join in). The kind of thing that Mozilla’s Persona never became.

The area of potential for big change via the blockchain is in the financial sector. The article notes:

A blockchain-powered economy is most likely to take root far away from the U.S., many observers believe — either in the developing world, where there’s less of a reliable financial system in place, or in places where property rules and contract law have shaky foundations (think Russia or China). Wherever it starts to take off, it will face the twin hurdles of complexity overload and government pushback.

Given the uptake of mobile transactions in Africa I’d say that this is perhaps a more likely location. Companies like M-Pesa rapidly grew because they took advantage of the abundance of simple mobile phones, coverage and a banking system that didn’t service the public. At the same time the lack of trust in the financial systems in the West might make it a likely breeding ground for this kind of system to be taken up. If someone comes up with a more localised system - one that worked within a community for simple trade and bypassed the cut that “middleman” models of Mastercard and Visa take you might be onto a winner.

But perhaps it’s Maciej Ceglowski’s thoughts that are the most interesting…

“There is a tendency in computer-land to seek technical solutions to political problems,” Ceglowski says. “In my opinion, the focus on the blockchain (and related ideas) falls into that misguided category. The idea that we should look to algorithms and technology to reclaim our freedoms is fundamentally undemocratic. It presupposes a technical elite who would ‘fix the Internet’ for everyone else. While I can see how this appeals to romantic ideas of hacking the system, I see it as a dangerous trend at worst, and a distraction at best.

“We are terrible at predicting the social outcomes of technological innovation. There’s no reason Bitcoin-like distributed systems would be immune from that rule. I say let’s wise up and actually fight this battle on the level where it belongs.”

My feelings: I think Maciej is right - technology itself won’t fix anything on it’s own. But technology can be a player, an enabler, an infrastructure on which to build change. Building technology that doesn’t rely on centralised control enables very different systems and applications to emerge. Decentralised systems undermine centralised control and erode their power structures. It’s the beginning of something bigger.

Source: There’s a blockchain for that!

Image: Blockchain Consensus

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Tim Klapdor


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