Such a shame: will the blockchain drown in the ICO craze?
When Satoshi Nakamoto published the paper that would launch a thousand crypto currencies (well, hundreds) in 2008, what was actually seminal about the paper would not be known by its now going name: blockchain until a bit later. And that part, in turn was based on a 1991 paper “How to Time-Stamp a Digital Document.” It’s impact, however goes way beyond cryptocurrency, and it is that which we might loose over all the hubbub of gold-rush style ICOs. As regulators and attorney generals all over the world try to understand and bend the phenomenon to their agendas, and while the less than legal businesses see crypto currencies as a way of moving value around trying to avoid money laundering (and similar learned behaviors), we might loose in the resulting utter-sloshing of opinion, the massive promise of trust decentralization. And that, at it’s heart has the potential to make much of our 21st century ailments tractable. And moving from impossible to possible is a big deal!
We have evolved our current society by building institutions to serve as trusted third party entities. This has given us legal systems, trading systems and is underpinning every aspect of our economies and indeed, most of daily lives. Our joint faith in our legal system, in our banks, our schools and in our governments allow us to conduct transactions and participate in the economy.
For the software industry and building transactional platforms this has always meant we needed to tether into existing online/offline trust structures to ensure enough trust to close a transaction. But there are clearly limitations and areas where this can become impeding. Let’s for example, use identity verification. Let’s say you operate a business and many of your people have to work closely with a supplier’s business. Wouldn’t it be great to find a trusted third party that would insure that only the right people had access to these systems? And whom would you entrust with that information? Google, FaceBook, Microsoft, IBM, SAP? Yes, some of those are scary thoughts, but those are some of the current providers of just that sort of service.
But in a world where we could have some sort of trustable way to write all of these things into an un-hackable, distributed, secure ledger, think of the advantages and opportunities! And that is just what the blockchain promises!
So while we see people and institutions make and loose massive amounts of crypto cash or power illicit transactions, let’s not forget there is more to this technology. Let’s not through the baby out with the bathwater. Even though, it seems the early 21st century will go down in history as uninhibited pendulum swinging.