I agree with the observation that “blockchainzing” is too often doing just “digitalization” of existing business processes and that’s where most of the benefits come from. There is sometimes a layer of “trust” that’s needed, but it can be achieved in other ways as well.

The comparison to the internet and ISPs is interesting, but slightly flawed. The internet is mostly stateless. Blockchain is all state. A general “utility chain” is practically “a world database”. Might be a federated database, a sharded database, but it is a database and if it’s only purpose is to prove events — well, you have pretty good technology to do that now. Yes, it’s centralized (PKI), but that’s good enough for most things. Trusted timestamping and digital signatures are not only technical standards for years, they are also legally recognized, at least in Europe.

I view the blockchain hype as a positive thing towards more use of proper cryptography. Many people didn’t know they have to have tamper-evident events or hmac’ed data or (trusted-)timestamped documents. Now they realize that, thanks to the blockchain. And maybe a public utility chain is not necessary to achieve what they need — a private setup, utilizing the underlying blockchain cryptographic tools is good enough — both technically, and legally.

Whether a shared world database is needed, is an interesting thought. Obviously, it won’t scale with the current blockchain technology, and if it does, it will be too centralized, as too few nodes will be able to have the whole database stored (it will be huge if everyone is using it). Of course, you can shard it or federate it somehow, but what’s the point? What use case requires proving to the whole world that something is true? In most cases you have certain stakeholders that need to know it’s true, but it’s not the whole world.

Property ownership? That’s the state property register, and the task of the state is not only to know whose property this is, but also to enforce property rights. Simply knowing that a house belongs to you means nothing without the legal guarantees (or the social norms in some cases).

Company shares? Again, the state is the entity that protects your shares. You may have 100% proof that you own 60% of a company, but if the CEO is not listening to you and there’s no court to make them step down, this proof is useless.

Proof of delivery? Proof of origin? You can’t control the “physical-digital interface”. That fact that the blockchain has data that “this diamond is 100% not using forced labour”, or “this apple is 100% organic” depends entirely on the person who enters the physical event into the digital world. The proof the something is delivered is based on someone saying it is delivered. And controlling the truth of these events is not something the blockchain solves — you solve it through rigid processes, multiple verification steps, observers, possibly IoT meassurements. But if you have that process in place, a hash in a shared database isn’t of much value.

I see blockchain related technologies as great utilities to solve internal organizational problems with data tampering, as well as shedding light on important cryptography, but I don’t think a “public utility chain” solves any real world problem.

Software engineering. Linguistics, algorithmic music composition. Founder at LogSentinel.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store