Longtime blockchain developer and enthusiast has warned blockchains could bring about a dystopia in new essay.
Stefan Thomas, Chief Technology Officer at Ripple Labs, a leading private and public ledger company, wrote an essay titled “The Subtle Tyranny of Blockchain.”
The blockchain industry, he writes, foresees a blockchain revolution across a swathe of industries like finance, international trade and health care. He also evokes the Bitcoin block size debate in the essay, in which he suggests social consensus represents an obstacle to the deployment of blockchain technology.
“Blockchains are a pain to work with,” penned Thomas. “Harmony and consensus are valuable. But harmony taken to the extreme becomes a detriment. In the Lego Movie utopia, ‘everything is awesome’ only on the surface. Behind the scenes, there is tremendous diversity and a rapidly changing world, which doesn’t match the established consensus.” A picture of the authoritarian President Business from “The Lego Movie” graces the essay.
Thomas is somewhat of a proponent, still; he runs the website weusecoins.com – “a single resource” where the currency is “explained for the average non-technical user.”
Blockchain has received nearly a quarter of a billion dollars so far this year. The largest technology companies (think IBM, Microsoft), and the largest financial institutions in the world (your bank) are investing in research and development for Bitcoin technology.
The foundation for their experimentation is Ethereum, but their technology will likely pair together new distributed ledger technologies for a secure and more efficient end-result. Distributed ledger and blockchain technology is designed to do one thing: track payments, improve back office processes, securities and derivatives, health records – everything.
But, as Thomas’ essay poses, what if there is a darker side to blockchain technology? Thomas is perhaps best known among hardcore bitcoiners for his YouTube video, “What is Bitcoin?” – it has more than 6.8 million views.
“The fact that one corner of the system can be updated and good ideas can eventually spread to the system as a whole has been essential for the Web’s ability to keep pace with technological innovation,” he writes.
“In a blockchain like ethereum, everyone has to think the same,” he warns. He plugs Ripple’s Interledger Protocol at the end, describing it as a more flexible and individualized way to send or receive payments. Because of this added choice, “crucially,” he said, “our thoughts can be — once again — our own.”
Stefan’s work at Ripple Labs, one of the largest blockchains according to Coinmarketcap.com, revolves around the San Francisco startups work on its protocol and exchange. MIT Technology Review has recognized Ripple Labs work on its blockchain protocol as one of the 50 smartest companies in 2014.
Featured image from Shutterstock.