Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future. Its failure to achieve adoption to date is because systems built on trust, norms, and institutions inherently function better than the type of no-need-for-trusted-parties systems blockchain envisions. That’s permanent: no matter how much blockchain improves it is still headed in the wrong direction.
This December I wrote a widely-circulated article on the inapplicability of blockchain to any actual problem. People objected mostly not to the technology argument, but rather hoped that decentralization could produce integrity.
Let’s start with this: Venmo is a free service to transfer dollars, and bitcoin transfers are not free. Yet after I wrote an article last December saying bitcoin had no use, someone responded that Venmo and Paypal are raking in consumers’ money and people should switch to bitcoin. …
Everyone says the blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, is going to change EVERYTHING. And yet, after years of tireless effort and billions of dollars invested, nobody has actually come up with a use for the blockchain—besides currency speculation and illegal transactions.
Each purported use case — from payments to legal documents, from escrow to voting systems—amounts to a set of contortions to add a distributed, encrypted, anonymous ledger where none was needed. …
First, we didn’t build a startup for teenagers.
We built it for seniors. (We’re a financial services firm that offers debit and Visa cards and investments management for aging Americans.)
Secondly, we charged our customers actual, real money for what we had built.
This was not common practice at the time. Around 2012, we and a whole cohort of other startups — Simple, Plastc, Swyp, Coin, Final, Stratos, Clinkle, and others — were getting card-issuing companies off the ground.¹ We also launched a Visa card — but our goal was to protect older folks from fraud, a $36 billion problem that affects millions of Americans, including my grandmother. Our cards would automatically decline scammy transactions so seniors like my grandmother would be able to still carry a credit card, preserve their independence, and spend their own money — and in order to decline the transactions we had to become the issuer of the card.² …