The 2 Things Holding Blockchain Back From Large Scale Adoption
Bitcoin and Ethereum are all over the news these days.
The problem is that not very many people understand why.
The vernacular used to describe the space is highly technical, and is deeply rooted in the financial space. In the same way acronyms like CDOs confuse everyday consumers looking to manage their money, words like “mining” in the crypto and blockchain spaces are equally confusing.
This, in itself, is a huge obstacle for both cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technologies — the fact that its value cannot be easily explained. And the people who came up with a lot of the words we use to describe what’s happening in these industries are not necessarily marketers, but cryptographers who may not be the best spokespeople for introducing innovations to the masses.
Which means, if people can’t understand the value, they won’t buy in.
Education is the first obstacle.
I am very involved in the blockchain community, and I know I’m not the only one who can see the knowledge gap. I frequently attend events and watch presentations on use cases for blockchain technology, and it’s fairly obvious why most people haven’t been able to grasp many of these new concepts. How do you explain to someone what it means to “create a new block” on the blockchain? What is a “block” in the first place? What’s actually happening?
For those of us who believe wholeheartedly in the future of this technology, it’s up to us to figure out how we can best explain what’s actually happening and why it’s important. For example, I recently spoke at the 100x Blockchain Online Summit, and it was enthralling to dive into such deep use cases and talk through specific problems that blockchain can solve, one of which was counterfeiting in big pharma. But to an everyday consumer, or even someone with a strong tech background, the terminology alone creates some roadblocks.
The biggest reason education is the first obstacle is that you have to consider who really needs to buy into using blockchain technology in order for it to scale. It’s not just theorists and coders. It’s CEOs, heads of marketing and business development, even investors who are going to decide to foot the bill — or invest in the Ethereum platform, period.
It’s worth noting, too, that this doesn’t mean every single consumer needs to fully understand how to build a block on the blockchain, for example. Just like everyday tech users don’t really know how the Internet itself “works,” but they have enough working knowledge to be able to use it — and use the programs built on top of it.
That’s all that needs to happen. We just need a language understandable enough.
Scaling the technology is the second obstacle.
The second obstacle has less to do with everyday understanding, and more to do with how the underlying technology will scale as mass adoption begins to occur.
From what I’ve seen so far, the problem is being approached from a few different angles. Right now, there are mostly public ledgers with a handful of permission ledgers — but a permission ledger, at the end of the day, is starting to feel very similar to a database. This poses the question, “How special is it then if every company or every industry has their own permission ledger?”
That’s no different than the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, which operates on one big database controlled by the government.
Blockchain is supposed to be the opposite of that. The idea is to be decentralized, not a newer form of centralized technology.
The real roadblock, then, is to have the public ledgers store data so that it’s giving the promise of inner accessibility, while also being able to anonymously store and transfer data — which is where SNARKs and Zero-Knowledge Proofs can help tremendously. Being able to anonymously transfer serial numbers is really important in terms of leading to large-scale adoption of blockchain.
However, on the Ethereum public ledger, the ‘gas’ prices are so high that for one individual asset to be registered to the public chain, it is three or even five dollars, which isn’t scalable. The platform can’t handle the transaction volume of even, say, all the serial numbers transferred in the pharmaceutical industry per day, let alone every potential industry that begins implementing blockchain technology.
One way we are looking to solve for this second obstacle here at Chronicled, is in creating a common command language and global protocol through the Trusted IoT Alliance. The idea is to create open source methods to allow for compounding growth in the blockchain space.
Neither one of the above obstacles will be solved overnight. It takes time for new technology, especially something as foundational as blockchain, to weave itself into the fabric of modern society. When we look back at the early 90s, these were the same obstacles that confronted the Internet. People struggled to understand it, and others questioned how such complicated tech would scale to mass adoption.
Look where we are today.
I’m confident that blockchain will overcome these same obstacles.