Undocumented and Unidentified: Why Blockchains Won’t Save You
It’s like this: I’ve said it many times, but the “liberty movement” did not “choose” Bitcoin. Bitcoin chose us. Gavin Andresen came to the liberty-oriented radio show that I still work for (as an Advertising Executive) Free Talk Live, and he came as a fan and said, effectively: “Hey, I love your show, and I’m working on this thing called Bitcoin, you might like it, it’s right up your alley”. Now, that’s not a direct quote by any means, but it is more or less the way it was pitched. And when Free Talk Live started talking about Bitcoin on the air to millions of people a month, the liberty community and anarchists took notice, and accepted it due to its perceived potential. In fact, some well-known Bitcoin luminaries (ie: Roger Ver) learned about Bitcoin because they were fans of Free Talk Live…FIRST.
My point in sharing this is to highlight the fact that Bitcoin was pitched to me and many others as a “freeing force”. It was going to be part of “the plan” to help make the world a freer, more liberty-oriented place, and better for all. So whenever I talk about Bitcoin, I automatically enter the stage (literally and figuratively, not that many would dare let me talk at their events anymore) with that liberty-minded bias. If you read some of the works of Bitcoin’s creator–Satoshi Nakamoto (particularly some of her final correspondence with the aforementioned Andresen)–you’ll see she had a similar bias.
And now Bitcoin is massive by comparison to when I first was involved in “the space”, and “blockchains” seem to now be all the rage in Silicon Valley and around the world. Now, I’m not hear to complain about this point (though I could), so don’t stop reading now (as I’m sure you’ve heard that bit of shtick far too much these days). The point I want to bring up here is that now “blockchains” seem to be the way to solve everything. I remember the phrase “Big Data” used to get tossed around this way, too. It could solve it all. Wonder what’s changed?
At least two possibilities exist. One is that centralized Big Data is a failure that just hasn’t happened yet (ie: Google, centralized networks in general, etc.), which I would actually agree with. And there is a second possibility: that “blockchain technology” is just a new money-making scheme that actually doesn’t change anything.
But there is always a third option/way/possibility, and the third possibility here is the reality, in my opinion (and it is just opinion…for now). “Blockchain technology” is a genuine solution to the inability of centralized Big Data to scale well infinitely, but it is ALSO a money-making scheme in many (not all) implementations.
So let’s talk about the implementations that were discussed at the recent “island getaway” meeting held by globally known asshat, Sir Richard Branson, on his own private island that was ENTIRELY about blockchains: Block Chain Summit. What did they discuss?
Well, there were a variety of topics, but the one I want to really concentrate on is about the “problem” of people around the world being “undocumented” themselves, or for their property to be “undocumented”. Now, some people have discussed the notion that because in various parts of the “developing world” there is no ledger or title and license system for their property or themselves…hmm…here, let me put this theory in brief: Because a people within a geographic area do not have a recognized system of titles (you own this house, or you own this car, and this piece of paper or data says so), it keeps said people from being able to grow economically and technologically, because their property doesn’t have a uniform system of recognition and respect, so they stay in poverty.
At Block Chain Summit, it was proposed that blockchains could solve this problem. How? Well, it’s actually a really old idea (within the Bitcoin community) known as “smart property”. Smart property is the idea that you can use Bitcoin, or some other blockchain, to register the data that shows you own something (ie: a house, a car, a computer, etc.). This could be implemented within Bitcoin itself by using one aspect of “colored coins” (which, for what it is, I consider a great idea), or it could be done by creating a whole other blockchain that has attachment to Bitcoin or perhaps even little to do with Bitcoin. Now, again, as far as a title registry, identity registry, or as a ledger…hey, blockchains really do a good job. They can end the reliance on servers (READ: centralized Big Data), they are resilient, they are largely secure, and they can hold data in a much better fashion than we’ve seen from many other technologies.
But there’s a problem…we’re accepting the premise that property registries and ledgers are a good thing, or at least that not having them is an inherently bad thing. I disagree on both counts. But I’m not going to talk about that in this article (though I’ll say in brief that there is at least one huge problem with blockchain-based smart property…how do you enforce it? I’ve often discussed this and other problems–with solutions–on my show: Sovryn Tech).
What I really want to drive home for you here is this: none of these companies interested in working in developing geographic areas (or even in developed “countries”) are really interested in helping these people get more economic freedom or personal freedom…they are interested in them being able to be TAXED by their various governments. In my opinion, that’s what all of this is really about. If there’s no record that you own something (or better yet, no record of “you”–READ: identity), the tax collector’s job is that much harder. Let’s face it, property titles and other “documentation” today (and maybe throughout history) are about people hundreds or thousands of miles away being able to hold you accountable for owning something and–in our present state of things–being held accountable means paying taxes on it.
And taxation is theft. Bitcoin was partly created to prevent that theft from happening. Or at least, I thought that was the idea. I guess that’s not true any longer. So don’t go telling people that somehow this “blockchain technology” is going to save the world.
Hey, don’t misunderstand me, I largely like Bitcoin and P2P systems, and not every blockchain development or company is out to fist-fuck the people of this planet. But I think the reality is that far too many are, and some “good” people seem to be downright excited about it so that they can make a quick buck, and no one wants to admit that this is what’s going on. No one except, at least, me.
Reality check complete.