Carsten Agger on Fri, 23 Feb 2018 13:40:24 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Josh Hall: Blockchain could reshape our world – and the far right is one step ahead (Guardian)

On 23-02-2018 13:11, Patrice Riemens wrote:

Original to:

Blockchain could reshape our world – and the far right is one step ahead
Crypto technology is coming to a crossroads. Those who want to use it to radically redistribute wealth must take urgent action

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain reads the title of a 2017 book. From currency speculation through to verifying the provenance of food, blockchain technology is eking out space in a vast range of fields.

It's ironic, amusing more likely, that the conclusion of the book "Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain" is that the "Blockchain revolution" will likely not amount to much of anything. The main reason is this: Who needs a global, public and distributed ledger? What's it good for?

As a matter of fact, all proposed use cases I've seen founder on the problem of reliability: Yes, if your crate of organic bananas has a bar code, and that bar code was entered on the block chain along with a statement that the crate was shipped from a fair trade/fair pay organic cooperative in Costa Rica, nobody can know if that means that the physical crate was actually there only that someone says that it was. You might improve on that situation with tamperproof, sealed cryptographic tokens, but you still don't know if the bananas were in the crate at the time. An ordinary inspections regime would probably work better. I.e., all use cases for blockchains which require real-world interaction requires some sort of verification that the data entered is correct, which the blockchain itself can't certify - anything beyond the simple fact that the information was entered. And that sort of tracking could ordinarily best be achieved by that high-end bleeding edge innovation called a "database"; along with an external verification process, the advantages of using a blockchain over a database are exactly zip.

Now, if the data had to do with the blockchain itself and were entirely digital ... then it's another matter. That's why blockchains make sense for cryptocurrencies. But cryptocurrencies are not really useful, and in their current incarnation are riddled by scams to an extent where the best advice anyone could give is to stay the f... away.

Distributed ledger systems do exist, though - one is called "Git". And it's very useful for tracking source code changes. And as opposed to blockchain, transactions can be reversed and history can be rewritten, which is actually a necessary feature (e.g., with the GDPR coming up here in the EU).

So, fortunately or unfortunately, it's not likely that Blockchain is going to reshape anything, except for possibly the wallets of some quick movers and scam artists.

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