A few thoughts on ‘Blockchain Revolution’ by Don and Alex Tapscott

The last few days I’ve read the book ‘blockchain revolution’ by don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott. In short: the book is great and ‘absolutely mind blowing’ as it says on the front cover, quote by Steve Wozniak cofounder of Apple. And I couldn‘t agree more, it well worth the read.

Now I don’t want to give you a full on book review, but just simply share some of my thoughts with you that I’ve crossed my mind whilst reading it.

The most interesting thing about the book for me is that it does not only discuss the underlying technology that makes up the block chain, but it focuses more on the possibilities that this technology offers us. In essence it shows us that the blockchain as such is far more than just a technological advancement. It can actually become a true revolution if we allow it to be.

Blockchain technology offers an unprecedented amount of transparency, optimization potential and means of standardization that no other technology has been able to create in the last few years or decades.

In my humble opinion, Don and Alex Tapscott have done a fantastic job describing exactly what the possibilities are that block chain offers us. Not only in financial industry’s but also as a societal tool that can help us create more transparency.

As an entrepreneur I have learned to try and look forward as much as I can. The vision that Tapscott and Tapscott have depicted in this book is truly fascinating. They have managed to bring the concept of blockchain technology very close to our common day society and have managed to translate the technical implications to our modern-day world.

As I read this book I feel that the Writers have chosen to focus their full attention on the possibilities. What is missing in my opinion is a critical note and explanation as to the challenges that lay ahead in the implementation.

I can fully understand that when wanting to make a change one needs to focus on the positive aspects. However, the implications of the block chain are far reaching and will have an impact on each and everyone of us.

I believe that red tape, corruption, the negative implications of being self dependent, educational challenges, and much more should be discussed at further length. Although part III does touch upon these topics, I think that it is important to understand the implications.

As with any new technology or revolution we should ask ourselves the critical question: is it feasible that we can make this work?

Our financial institutions, voting systems and judicial systems are deeply rooted in our society. As much as the block chain could provide us with a fresh start, i’m currently still skeptical as to how we can make this happen on a global scale. The common redistribution of wealth and possibilities for all can in my opinion only be reached If we start to include companies and ordinary people of all classes in the discussion.

If we would like this technology to create a more equal playing field, we need to make sure that we include everyone in the process from day one. As it stands today block chain technology and crypto currency‘s are something that only a very limited amount of people are able to grasp and work with.

How can we make sure that we get everyone on board in an efficient und effective way?

One of the concepts that has fascinated me most in the last few weeks is the idea of having one Global block chain ledger. This ledger could hold information regarding financial transactions, who owns what piece of land, and personal information that would allow us to create a global citizen database.

I thoroughly believe that in the future we will have some sort of global ledger. An interconnected world opens up unlimited possibilities for trade and travel. If we look at the European Union alone, we see that in the last two decades we have made great strides in the right direction. Opening up the border is within the European Union and having one common currency has reduced friction between countries tremendously.

The idea of being able to create one singular global ledger that would open up a truly global marketplace for everyone, absolutely fascinates me.

Next to that it has opened up new market possibilities for many who live here. It has become significantly easier to trade goods throughout the European Union then it was only 30 years ago. This is something that we tend to take for granted already.

With every new revolutionary idea and technology there are challenges to be overcome. Block chain technology is not different in that respect.

Regardless of the underlying technology that has been chosen, such as bitcoin or Ethereum, I believe that there are a few societal challenges that will be hard to overcome entirely.

Two of the biggest challenges that I currently see with a global blockchain ledger are the following:

  1. Who controls who and which companies can go on ‘the blockchain’? Can we make sure that we do not create unnecessary barriers to entry for certain groups of people, imdustries, companies or countries?
  2. 2. How can the initial information that will be stored in block chains be challenged? How do we make sure that the data that we feed the system is clean?

We have started to play around with block chain technology for a few years now. And it is currently still quite easy to get on the bitcoin block chain for example. However, as technology will continue to develop I believe that we will see a number of new barriers to entry for those who are not on it just yet.

And this poses a big societal dilemma. Not everyone has the same technological knowledge and capabilities to get on a block chain at the moment. Next to that they will not know what to do with it. Nor will they really fully understand the implications of having each and every transaction or thing that they do documented by a decentralized (possibly global) ledger.

After reading this book I can’t help but wonder how we will be able to deal with barriers to entry and truly full transparency. I think that there will be many people as well as corporations that oppose the idea of having full transparency in basically everything they do.

Although the block chain checks itself and all the information on it is transparent, the information must still come from somewhere. And this is the part that I still do not fully understand yet. I know that I will need to do a lot more research on the topic to fully grasp the concept of transparency.

As I understood it so far your reputation on the block chain is valid as long as others confirm it to be. And this is a big problem at the moment because we are just getting started and we do not know who has started before us. For those of us who do not mean any harm it is hard to naïvely trust everything that we see.

What if those that have started before us have confirmed their own ‘negative’ reputations against one another and are able to exploit these opportunities to those who mean no harm. If the number of corrupted nodes this is large enough they will be able to confirm their own negative reputations against one another. This poses a huge threat to the system as a whole.

I must admit that I do not fully understand the technical implications of how everything works just yet, but it is a topic of discussion that is also not very well explained in the block chain revolution book by Tapscott and Tabscott. But I have to say that it has scored my positive curiosity to dive into this topic for deeper.

If anyone can give me some great tips on which books to read or videos to watch on the technical limitations and threats that the block chain can pose I would be more than grateful for your ideas.

As with every new technology there will be a few people there are a number of steps ahead of the rest. One of the things that Don and Alex Tapscott continue to explain is that they believe that blockchain technology is able to redistribute wealth more equally.

There are one or two countries on the face of this earth that have been experimenting with this at length. If we look at Norway for example they have a central database of all inhabitants and their earnings per year. You can simply go on a national website and have a look at how much your neighbor earns per year. Or you can check how much your coworker gets for the same amount of work that you do.

In essence this creates transparency and it’s something that I fully applaud. But I cannot help but wonder what their system like this would do in a country where people are not as well off as in the Nordics.

In our rich society we talk about a redistribution of wealth so that everyone can continue to have a good life. But in many parts of the world we need to create wealth for the people. By creating wealth for them we enable them to create their own value. Because the hardest part for them at the moment is getting started because they simply do not have anything or at least not much or enough.

They state on a number of occasions that the individual should be in charge of owning his own data and being able to choose Who they would like to give it to, and at what price. They believe that by cutting out the middleman we are able to Create an equal playing ground for everyone.

It might be an obvious thing to say, but in my opinion that is not very easy to do. As not everyone has the same capabilities to truly understand the implications of his own actions a good number of people will be left behind If the advancements are faster than they can handle. Even in our common day society there are a number of people that are extremely wealthy compared to the rest of the world.

Regardless of the currency that’s being used, this group of elite citizens will be able to buy exactly the crypto currency that is needed to create this same wealth-vacuum as before.

I certainly think so. This technology has the power to make a true difference. The challenges that need to be overcome are still vast and public acceptance / trust might the biggest obstacles just yet.

However, I believe that if we continue to explore its possibilities, we will be able to build networks that are self-serving, more transparent and stronger than those we have today.

This book is a well-worth read and I can whole-heartedly recommend you buying/reading it as well. I have one copy I can share – it has a few notes in it, but it is still in a pretty good shape. If you are interested in swopping a few bits for my copy, just send me a short message at the bottom of this post or reach out to me some other way.

Have a great day and thanks for reading,

Remco

Dutch Digital Entrepreneur. Love to share thoughts on innovation and digitalization (ceo @gandt ventures) - writer @thestartup