In 1990s it was supposed to be the Internet, little over a century ago the telegraph. Now, it’s the B-L-O-C-K-C-H-A-I-N that can fix almost any human problem, according to a leading digital hyperbolist, Don Tapscott and his son, Alex. I have to admit that I secretly admire such writers who can repeatedly take advantage of people’s belief in the omnipotence of new technology. Not only it sells boatloads of books but you may also get to fly on a private jet.
According to an excerpt from their new book Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World,we can get rid of old institutions and centralized industries, fix democracy, make better governments, save the poor and empower entrepreneurs with blockchain. Wasn’t this exactly what the Internet was supposed do? Did it happen?
The rhetoric repeats an old trick that seemingly lets the author get away with exciting but over-bloated and ambiguous claims: the paradise is behind the corner — we just need to fully embrace a new technology to get there. As soon as we find out that the technology will not deliver the vision, there is another technology behind the next corner. This sells books and helps legitimating vast investments in technology but, I am sorry to say, from a historical perspecive it’s bullshit.
Yes, new technology does marvellous things; it could even help us solve some major problems humankind faces. Whether it will be put to such uses or just to play Pokemon Go — or to share instructions how to build a bomb — is another, much more complex matter. Blockchain may well turn out to be revolutionary but unlikely in a way that is depicted in, for the sake of a better term, the Standard Technology Vision.
After all, I don’t think blockchain can fix the EU. Only humans can, if and when there is a political will.