My foreword to The Blockchain Revolution, by Don and Alex Tapscott
Spain’s Deusto publishers asked me to write the foreword for the Spanish edition of “The Blockchain Revolution”, by Don Tapscott and his son Alex about one of the most interesting technologies in recent years and that offers full traceability for transactions and that will soon be part of our daily reality, whether we are aware of it or not.
I have long admired Don Tapscott, and even wrote a review in Spanish of his “Wikinomics” some time ago in Manager Focus: the request to write a foreword to the Spanish edition was a real honor. Moreover, I am an enthusiastic supporter of blockchain, a technology that many people associate solely with the domain of cryptocurrencies and the media hype of bitcoin, but that in reality is the ideal solution for all transactions, and that we will see everywhere, until it becomes the largest supercomputer in the world, perhaps creating a whole new internet in the process. Industries such as energy, music, distribution and supply chains, cybersecurity and the internet of things, real estate, banking, payments, insurance and a thousand other anything else entrepreneurs can come up with, will be affected by the arrival of a distributed database management system that makes transactional systems perfectly traceable and protects them from almost all the problems they usually suffer.
Last year I found myself reviewing a large number of blockchain-based projects for the Netexplo meeting in Paris, where I ended up interviewing the founder of Colu, an Israeli startup then working on blockchain applications with an API philosophy for all kinds of environments and that lately seems to have narrowed down their focus to payment systems. Since then it has become clear that in the future, blockchain will simply be the basis for all transactional systems, across all industries, and applying the most inclusive definition you can think of to the word “transaction”. With this in mind, the Tapscott’s book is a highly accessible text, easy to understand, filled with examples and one of the best ways to delve into the subject.
Here is the full translated text of my foreword to the Spanish edition of the book:
Blockchain is all. Or at least, it will be. Not a hard conclusion to reach after looking over the news in recent months, filled as it is with references to the fundamental role of this technology in power generation companies, in redefining the music industry, in making the food distribution chain safer, in the future of the insurance industry and that of the real estate sector, in eliminating graft in politics, and of course, in banking, among many other sectors. Blockchain is a technology with infinite uses, an element to be incorporated into all processes and the foundation upon which our future will be built. No matter what you do, your level of responsibility, or the company you work for: in one way or another, you can be sure that your relationship with the world will be built on the basis of blockchain technology.
For a technology first conceptualized in 2008 and originally linked to an application as difficult to grasp as a digital crypto-currency, bitcoin, it has been hugely overlooked. In a sense, the most complex task blockchain has had to overcome is to rid itself of associations with bitcoin so as to be adopted for applications of all kinds.
A crypto-currency is not on hard to grasp initially, but also questions something as central in our lives as money and the factors that make a hundred euro note worth one hundred euros, rather than just being a piece of paper. Trying to explain bitcoin to most people, regardless of their education, is actually far more difficult than explaining the operation of a database connected, distributed and decentralized through thousands or millions of personal computers.
Blockchain is a change on a par with the appearance of the personal computer or to the development and popularization of the internet. It is possibly one of the most important and fundamental changes we are going to see in our lifetime, with the potential to change everything: one of those changes that provide innumerable advantages to those able to understand it and its implications. In a very short time, I have had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and evaluate ideas that apply blockchain to issues as varied as land registry in Ghana, a security protocol for devices connected to the internet of things, or a system that makes the patent system obsolete as we know it. With one additional detail: this technology combines its disruptive capacity with extremely low entry barriers that allow virtually any company, regardless of size or resources, to consider building on it. At this point, with more than 26 years working in innovation, I think I recognize disruption when I see it. And if blockchain is not a revolution, then we’ve never seen one.
In a very short time, blockchain has gone from being called disruptive to being considered the fundamental seed for a safer, new internet, to being the basis for the construction of the largest supercomputer ever built in history, or quite simply, to change the world as we know it. In the not too distant future, we will use decentralized and blockchain-based databases to decide when we get out of bed, pay for the hot water we shower with, ensure the safety of all devices connected in our home to the internet of things, negotiate with the robot that cuts the garden lawn, identify us in the autonomous vehicle that takes us to work, carry out economic transactions of all kinds with total security and traceability, send money to friends… Blockchain will be at the center of all transactions, to the point that we will not be able to consider how imperfect, insecure and uncomfortable our life was before this technology came to light. What’s more, I would not be surprised if, as this central role takes root, the development of blockchain as a technology were to win the Nobel Prize.
The stuff of the future? Forget that idea. With every day, the most fundamental and unsuspected changes are being incorporated into our lives with dizzying speed, and assimilated as if they had always been there, as if they were part of the landscape.
Digital exclusion is the worst form of marginalization. Although in the case of blockchain, there is no question of exclusion: this is a technology that will be part of our lives whether we like it or not. In the future, it will not matter if we are storing information on the internet, signing a contract, assuring our ownership of a technology, or voting in an election … we will be using blockchain.
So how can we assimilate a technology with a potential so far-reaching that it will affect managers in every industry, politicians, and all humanity without exception? What is it we need to understand, and how is it possible that in such a short time blockchain has acquired the potential to become the basis of the entire digital economy, taking into account at the same time the need for increased transparency and respect for privacy ? How to deal with ideas that question and redefine much of what we consider the basics of business, transactions or trust? How are we to understand that a single technology has been able to solve all the problems inherent in any transaction and has managed to create trust in such processes thanks to an authentication process guaranteed by the collaboration of many?
The first question is fundamental: we must understand what we are talking about. In that sense, this book is arguably the best work so far to explain blockchain in reasonably accessible terms. But at the same time as reading it, try to project your activity, your experience and your knowledge about what you are reading and assimilating. You will find a didactic text full of examples, which explores not only current realities and their consequences, but also existing problems, how they can be solved, and the implications of each case, each application. This is treatise in the true sense of the word, a map to orient ourselves with what without a doubt the most relevant emergent technology since the appearance of the internet.
Look around and you will soon realize you don’t need an academic who teaches innovation to tell you about the relevance of blockchain and its implications for the future: just read the news, talk to entrepreneurs or make a simple search on the internet. However, moving from the realization that something is important to understanding it, to seeing more than a nebula that envelops all known concepts requires something more: a conscious intellectual effort. To understand something is fundamental to wanting to understand it, starting from a solid desire and a disposition that allows you to face issues you have considered practically unchanged since your days in nursery school without fainting. At the same time, you’ll need a map, a well-written and accessible guide that, starting with what you already know about, allows you to delve into the unknown.
Consider this book a kind of initiatory journey whose fruits in terms of learning, will reap benefits in the future. Focus your reading with rigor, with determination, with the necessary decision of somebody who understand that the earth under your feet is going to move. The sooner you are aware of this, the less likely you are to be caught unawares, the better prepared you will be, and more confident in what lies ahead. The future, more than ever, is for those who invest in understanding it.
(En español, aquí)