Blockchain: Digital Snake Oil?

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One of my favourite pieces this week was Elaine Ou’s article, “Maybe Blockchain Really Does Have Magical Powers”. Although, it might not be apparent from the title the piece calls into question all the hype surrounding blockchain tech — and it does it well.

Although some might view the piece as nothing but pure snark, Ou does point out some of the asinine comments going around at the moment regarding blockchain tech. For example, she singles out R3’s recent comments in their Corda whitepaper on why ‘now’ for blockchains:

“What makes this vision possible today is that the recent popular interest in distributed ledger and blockchain systems has created an environment in which such a vision can be openly discussed and that a collaborative alliance through which multiple financial institutions can act together has been formed.”

In other words, what’s driving the industry at the moment is the willingness of banks to work together. Although, it’s a great kumbaya moment for financial services it probably isn’t a glowing endorsement of blockchain tech.

In many ways, we’re very close to ‘peak blockchain’ (if not already there). When every consultant is pumping a technology’s ability to solve all the world’s problems this should give us all pause for thought. More than ever we should be trying to discern what the technology can do, how it can be applied and what is just straight up snake oil.

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