Blockchain is overhyped crap that will change the world

I read on a regular basis, often from the same publiction or within the same piece, that blockchain is “poised to transform X industry” but also that it’s “overhyped, useless, over-reaching, or idealistic”.

Both statements are correct.

Blockchain, as a technology, is still being understood by businesses, and most crucially the “business networks” that it claims to be disrupting. Therefore, by its very nature it has to be over-reaching and idealistic, as without initially over-reaching it would be unable to realise its full potential. Being over-reaching, not all of the hype around blockchain will ever materialise into something real, but there will be enough, and it will create enough “new wonder” that it will change a lot of how we do business, even if we don’t realise it

Bill Gates, the under-estimator of mobile
We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.
Bill Gates

The conceptual idea of a shared ledger is a powerful one, and now that people are thinking about shared ledgers, digital contracts, and business networks, business relationships are being viewed differently. Even if the technology never sees wide adoption, the change in thinking alone is a significant one. However,

In many ways this is similar to the idea that “Software is eating the world”, as demonstrated by the proliferation of software-defined networking, banking, computing, and soon blockchain could add contracts, transactions, and public records to that list. This isn’t a paradigm shift; it’s a logical extension of a very current idea.

What’s Next?

My colleague and friend (I hope I can call you a friend) Simon Wardley (swardley) frequently talks about the idea of “new wonder” — the next wave of innovation that is built utilising a particular technology once it reaches maturity and becomes a commodity/utility. We have seen this happening in the last 5 years in web/tech startups thanks to cloud providers, primarily AWS, that have driven compute to zero.

The interesting question to me, and where someone could make a lot of money, is mapping the future according to blockchain, and then hypothesising, prototyping, and testing what new wonder could lie ahead.

I’ll look at mapping how blockchain can drive commoditisation in a few industries, and where that could take us, in a future post.