I didn’t post anything in 2017 about the concept of blockchain and I’ve been diligent in not posting anything so far in 2018. Now I’m finally going to break my self-imposed silence. I’m choosing to now because it seems that the initial craze has worn off a bit and thing are finally starting to normalize. (At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten in recent days/weeks). Sure there’s still plenty of news and publicity surrounding the technology and there’s the occasional doomsday post but the rabid chatter that the everyday individual engaged in seems to have faded.
As a result of this decline I think it’s finally time to share some of my thoughts and opinions (not to stir things up again but because I believe my post now won’t be seen as my feeble attempt to jump on any bandwagon). The concept of blockchain technology is profoundly revolutionary to our world but you have to look far beyond the early beginnings of a cryptocurrency and the current proof of work mining efforts.
If you are not yet caught up on the topic, there are literally thousands of articles to help you. This one is a great read, but my personal favorite is this article: WTF is The Blockchain? – Hacker Noon. After you’ve read this (and hopefully others) then you should have a much better understanding about how the blockchain works and functions and maybe a hint about why it’s so important for the future. (And no, that’s not just hype talking).
Now, as is usually the case, anytime something new is announced you get the first rush of early adopters. In some situations those early adopters are quiet, excited enthusiasts doing fun things, exploring the limits of the newest frontier on their own and happily doing so. In other situations those early adopters see the potential in something and begin shouting their praise every way they can. When those situations happen the rest of the general population can’t help but notice and begin to pay attention. Again, nothing incredibly new or different here. But every once in a while in rare instances something else comes into play. Money.
That’s right, blockchain might have happily been created and begun to spread in the usual manner, but instead bitcoin was the primary vehicle by which the technology was propelled into the spotlight, and the money changed everything. Not instantly, but when it took off, it really took off.
But this post isn’t about the history of the blockchain or even the debate over bitcoin bubbles. Instead, as I began with, I am excited to talk about the future of blockchain and explore what the blockchain might be able to provide for different verticals besides cryptocurrencies. And no, I don’t consider CryptoKitties | Collect and breed digital cats! to be the full extent of the possibilities. Although I do admit to owning a few myself.
I truly believe in the fundamental concepts behind the blockchain. Maybe that’s partly because it seems to be the next generation of open source. We’ve seen the world gradually come to accept open source software as the new normal and the studies are in: open source software is eating the world. Almost every major company and organization participates and uses open source software in some manner in their business. And what I see in the blockchain suggests that this will be the future next generation of open source. Decentralization. No single source of controlled power. Democracy ruled and available for everyone to participate in. Sound familiar? It does to me.
Open source and blockchain share a lot of the same principles (along with some of the same, familiar opposition). And I am excited to encourage and push the boundaries of the blockchain much in the same way as open source. We can do this by examining what ways blockchain can be used “outside the box”. If we look at blockchain applications (and there are many already) we can begin to see how versatile the platform is and how it can be used. But just like the saying goes:
”…it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” - Abraham Maslow
This is referred to as the Law of the instrument and is a common cognitive bias and is especially important to consider when exploring new technologies (like blockchain). Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s right for everything. So while it is important to think outside the box, we must still at the same time also consider the most effective tool for a job. It’s more important to identify the job and then pick the right tool then to take a tool and try to find a job it will do.
This frames my thinking about blockchain and the future of software as I see it. I believe this is a powerful tool and will be the basis for many new innovations in the future. I also believe that with this tool we will be able to improve security, openness, transparency and trust in software systems. And finally, I believe that blockchain is a fantastic tool, but it should be treated as a tool and selected only when it is right for a particular “job”. We should push the boundaries. We should explore new technologies. We should do this thoughtfully and intentionally. Join me and let’s begin creating the software for tomorrow’s internet.
Interested in hearing more about what I’m thinking and working on? Let me know and I’ll write a follow up post with some greater detail; otherwise I’ll share it with you when it’s ready.