Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain
Kai Stinchcombe
52K589

Statements like “Nobody actually wants to pay with bitcoin”, “In places like Cuba or Venezuela, many prefer to transact in dollars…”, and “…in practice, people prefer subscription services to micropayments” are simply argumentum ad populum, and they only appeal to a natural reluctance of humans to accept change, they don’t discount the benefits of the new paradigm the Blockchain has defined.

The claim “For one thing, there’s already a costless, instant way to exchange value without a middleman: cash” ignores the limitations of cash-based systems. For one, transactions that don’t carry the risks for which a middleman is required would be very expensive, if not impossible to carry out in cash if the transacting parties are geographically separated or live under different governments, say America-Africa-Australia apart. In such distance-related cases, employing a middleman makes sense [transfer, exchange, logistics, etc], but where the transacting parties don’t want a middleman due to charges, cash does not replace the Blockchain. I hope you see why from the “geography” argument.

You claim “bitcoin is what banking looked like in the middle ages”, yet the banking system has evolved to the point where you could write so much about how secure it is today. Why should anyone think Bitcoin won’t undergo such an evolution [assuming for the sake of argument that your claims against the Blockchain are actually valid], especially since we now have the advantage of hindsight and experiences of the banking industry itself?

Your work for the Seniors is highly appreciated, but to attack technology because of difficulties faced by the Seniors when it comes to learning sophisticated technologies, isn’t really sincere, to say the least. I mean, the current modus operandi of the banking system and associated technologies that the Seniors are accustomed to weren’t the ones seniors 100 years ago were accustomed to. Did the “inabilities” of those 100-years-ago seniors stop the world from adopting new and more efficient technologies? I believe we all know the answer is NO.

You claim without any citation that the “mainstream preference is to have transactions private but not undiscoverable under warrant”. You seem to have ignored the fact that our choices are guided by our conceptualization of reality. The methods of the banking system definitely warrant the preference you mentioned. But if you understand that the Blockchain is a paradigm shift from the current banking system, then you’ll realize that preferences in this new paradigm would favour the concept of privacy as defined by the Blockchain. This is not to say that there are no problems with the concept of privacy as enshrined in the Blockchain, but we can think of ways to improve it.

You claim that our takeaway from the DAO incident is that “even the most die-hard blockchain enthusiasts actually want a bunch of humans arguing about the underlying intention behind a contract, rather than letting the software self-execute”. Not true sir!
You made this claim without citing any poll. Just because some blockchain enthusiasts did the “impossible” by deciding to hard-fork doesn’t mean they “want a bunch of humans arguing about the underlying intention behind a contract”. The fact is that some other enthusiasts continued using the original chain, they rejected the decision of the other enthusiasts to hard-fork. I see this fact is conspicuously left out of your article. Seems suspicious, doesn’t it?
First, the smart contracts running the DAO allowed the hack that happened to the DAO. The hack wasn’t as a result of any problem with the Blockchain, but with the logic implemented by the developers. In fact, every other similar hack has proven to be caused by the same thing — the logic. You also didn’t mention the several standardizations that have happened since then to reduce or stop such mistakes. But why?
The only takeaway from the DAO incident is that A SMART CONTRACT IS AS GOOD AND SMART AS THE DEVELOPERS WHO WROTE IT. Developer limitation isn’t blockchain limitation.

Another general statement made without any poll citation is this: “In the end, everyone from blockchain enthusiasts to health insurers actually wants to argue out in human language what the business relationship is and interpret it on an ongoing basis, and then to write software that handles the fulfillment and payment. That already exists — it’s the status quo.”

Attacking the Blockchain’s claim to providing distributed storage, computing, and messaging, suggests you’re ignoring the term “trustless” as it relates to the Blockchain. Using the alternatives you gave [Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft, Apple, etc], transfers immense power to the firms managing your data. They can do anything they wish with your information without even having to steal anything from you. In fact, when they abuse your privacy, you wouldn’t even know of it.

On “Authenticity Verification”, I still don’t see why you had to claim paper does a better job than the Blockchain on elections. Perhaps, you haven’t visited my country Nigeria during one of our “paper” elections. I’ll leave it at that.

Arguing that “…you still need a trusted party to verify that the goods are delivered and as-promised” for blockchain escrow services, does not justify the need for “a third party to verify and hold the funds”.
In my opinion, it’s a step towards progress that the Blockchain escrow service has reduced the duties of a third-party to just goods delivery. Who says more progress can’t be made in this area?

On irrefutably proving anything, I find the question “But then again, how large is the irrefutably-prove-you-knew-X-at-time-Y-without-disclosing-X industry?” completely irrelevant.
While I don’t know of any leading company offering just this service, the problem of proving that you knew X at time Y without disclosing X, has been restated in different forms and is part of the many operations of many leading companies, whether internally or otherwise. For example, LinkedIn’s notification of who [X] viewed your profile and from where or when [Y] without disclosing the person [X], is simply a rephrasing of the irrefutably-prove-you-knew-X-at-time-Y-without-disclosing-X problem you cited.

The claim “Adopting block chain technology makes theft or impersonation more likely rather than less” reminds one of the claims made by critics of the internet in the early, less-secure days of that technology. I think you know how that turned out.

Declaring “Nobody went out and did a survey about whether most credit card users would be willing to give up their frequent flyer miles in return for also losing the ability to dispute a transaction” proves no point as nobody actually claimed “credit card users would be willing to give up their frequent flyer miles in return for also losing the ability to dispute a transaction”. You were simply attacking a straw man.

In conclusion, your arguments relied heavily on our natural reluctance as humans to accept change, to claim that change is not necessary. The Blockchain isn’t another banking technology, it’s a change in banking and technological paradigms. It covers beyond banking and money.
Like other technologies that have succeeded, the Blockchain is simply having its own fair share of criticisms. But time shall tell.
Whether the Blockchain would survive or die, no one knows for sure, but one thing is certain, big shots and their modus operandi are actually going to become obsolete if the Blockchain survives. Only those big shots who had keyed into the technology would have a chance at survival. This is scary, and it explains the attack on the Blockchain by some of these guys.