Blockchain: A force of nature?

From The Correspondent:

His first job was to explain what blockchain is. When I asked him, he said it is “a kind of system that can’t be stopped”, that it’s “actually a force of nature”, or rather, “a decentralised consensus algorithm”. OK, it’s hard to explain, he conceded eventually. “I said to Zuidhorn: ‘I’ll just build you an app, then you’ll understand’.”

When someone talks about a technology as a force of nature, it’s time to grow cautious. The hype around blockchain has been huge, and the results not so promising:

The only thing is that there’s a huge gap between promise and reality. It seems that blockchain sounds best in a PowerPoint slide. Most blockchain projects don’t make it past a press release, an inventory by Bloomberg showed. The Honduran land registry was going to use blockchain. That plan has been shelved.  The Nasdaq was also going to do something with blockchain. Not happening.  The Dutch Central Bank then? Nope.  Out of over 86,000 blockchain projects that had been launched, 92% had been abandoned by the end of 2017, according to consultancy firm Deloitte. 

I’ve seen this in IT companies and research institutions. The hype led to some projects using blockchain technology where a centralised database would have done the job better. Apart from the hype, the problematic thing with such initiatives was that people didn’t really understand the technology well. To many, it was — and still is — like “magic”. And as the article says, the market for magic is big: “Whether it’s about blockchain, big data, cloud computing, AI or other buzzwords.”

Maybe this is blockchain’s greatest merit: it’s an awareness campaign, albeit an expensive one. “Back-office management” isn’t an item on the agenda in board meetings, but “blockchain” and “innovation” are.