July 27, 2017

Blockchain is like internet in 1997

BY :     July 27, 2017

The promises of blockchain are huge. It will increase transparency, democratize transactions, making some institutions obsolete and in the end make our lives easier. “It will do for our economic behavior what internet has done for the way we handle information”.

But, what did internet actually do for the way we handle information?

Among many other things, it created bubbles.

Our world is increasingly based on algorithms. The news we read, the messages we see on our social media timelines, the music we listen to, the advertisements which are shown to us. These are all based on algorithms which use information about ourselves and our personal preferences.

The result is obvious. We find easy confirmation for our own opinions and preferences. The world outside our bubble becomes more and more hidden.

If I look at my timeline on LinkedIn and Twitter I may get the impression that everyone is actively busy with thinking about new technology and everyone is reading Sapiens and  Homo Deus, just like me. But when I am on a birthday party with family and friends, I find myself explaining the basics of IoT to people who are interested for only five minutes. Then they change the subject into the weather forecast, children and football matches. I am so happy I have friends and family outside ICT. They tear me out of my bubble.

Every now and then I start following random people on Twitter, just to get some connections outside my bubble. I advise you the same. There is a complete different world out there.

But the issue is serious. In the early years of internet we talked about the democratization of information. Every single person would be able to get access to the same information which would lead to informed people, better decisions, connections between people around the globe and with mutual understanding. Peace on earth; hallelujah.

We were pretty naïve!

Internet did bring us good things but now, twenty years later, we also see the side effects in the opposite direction. More boundaries, less understanding between people, fake news, dubious commercial use of data and more opinions and judgements based on bad information. We live in our own bubble even without realizing it.

We should take these experiences into account when we talk about blockchain. I do see the positive potential of it but I think we should be aware of unexpected consequences. Transparency for example. In principle that’s a good thing but can it turn against us? Is blockchain a step further towards a world where you are distrusted when you want to keep something private. And how will the mass react when they distrust something or someone? Social pressure can be a curse. What will that distrust mean for the possibilities for someone to be part of the economical traffic? Will organizations be able to suggest to be transparent while they are actually not. Ttransparency as a business model? Leading to false reputations? Fake transparency.

Many questions. I hope to give the answers in a next blog, in 2037.

André Helderman

About

André Helderman has studied both Business Information Technology and Organizational Sociology which makes clear that he is interested in the impact of technology on human behavior.

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    *Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group