Why blockchain is uninteresting

NOTE HXA7241 2016-12-11T11:10Z

Bitcoin is like a steam-powered horseshoe, or an electronic typewriter: it is a contrafunctory overlap of two different eras. It distracts from inventing new info-tech and solving manifest problems.


Bitcoin/blockchain/etc is new tech stuck in an old mindset facing old problems – digitising money and contract. In an informational world we should take the opportunity to rethink the forms of our interactions. But nothing in the elements of blockchain fosters new coherent/collective behaviour, because blockchain is at base individual-focused.

What are crypto-ledgers fundamentally? They are about unique/inimitable data-source identity (that is what is produced by their implementation: virtually-unique token + one-way function). This makes an instant, very simple consensus: if there is only one of something it is impossible, objectively, for it not to be agreed on. (What is agreement? Not merely sameness: it must have some objective anchor, or how do you know if you are agreeing?). Crypto-ledgers do not create new kinds of consensus, only a new form of record of any consensus – they affirm that something was agreed, but they do not shape the kinds of agreement. They instigate no new patterns.

The main info problem of cooperation is creating new kinds of rules/patterns – constraints on action (– and today, automations, or algorithmic constructions of them). Yet there seems nothing in crypto-ledgers that automates finding of, or induces following of, new common/shared structures. Because they perfom no abstraction: no gathering or filtering or merging of info; nor do they embody any new single fixed such abstraction. To support a shared structure, you need to coalesce info, and crypto-ledgers do not.

Reinventing money and contracts is socio-technological regress, it has all been done long ago. And the claims made of its ‘decentralisation’? – they are only a confusion of implementation with usage. The largest force of centralisation in practice is money and property, because property and money work by concentrating control in human decision. Bitcoin/blockchain etc is just a reinforcement, a digital re-invigoration, of all that – making it run on distributed computers is immaterial to the consequence at large.

So put aside crypto-ledger stuff ... How should we shape our local transactions with more kinds of global information? Make tech for that!