Category Archives: Blockchain Technology

“Blockchains for Science”

Or is it “CryptoTulips for Science”?

I’m a long time veteran of scientific computing, including the extremely tough problems of electronic publishing and knowledge dissemination, which requires good ways to deal with provenance and trust.

So I’m a bit surprised to learn that there is a magical solution to these insanely wicked problems:  blockchain!

Specifically, the First International Conference on Blockchain for Science, Research and Knowledge Creation happened this month in Berlin.

This appears to be a conference of hammer-makers, so everything looks like nails to them. : – )  The “hammer” is the blockchain, and digital science looks like a box of nails.

According to the conference prospectus, the blockchain is more of a Swiss Army Knife, which can “to reestablish trust into scientific data”.  Maybe it can “fix the reproducibility crisis”.

“As the ‘trust machine’ Blockchain in Science bears the potential to reestablish trust into scientific data. Some claim that it might even be good to fix the reproducibility crisis. New ways to rethink research subject privacy and whole data marketplaces are on the horizon. Blockchain might even play a large role in scientific publishing, where it questions the current role and business models of scientific publishers. New ways to incentivise peer-review or reproduction of results may arise. “

More plausibly, it might be useful for “data marketplaces” (assuming that scientists can afford to participate).

And it might also be a useful begging cup to help finance publishing and peer-review.

Much of the conference program is about blockchain technology (“get your cryptotuliips here!”), not so much about the alleged problems to be solved, let alone working solutions.

I’ll note that I don’t see any of the big names in Provenance or escience  (e.g., Sensei Carole Goble really should have been a key note speaker, IMO)  How can you talk about trust and reproducibility if you ignore the work that has already been done?

The thing is, blockchain qua blockchain offers little that can’t be done with conventional data systems plus public key cryptography.  (I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably have to say it again.)

In fact, blockchain technology is a terrible fit for a lot of the problems, just as it is for other applications.

Science is a tiny, underfunded enterprise that does not need a global public blockchain.  Science deals in weird, unique, often bulky data that ain’t never going to be on the actual blockchain.  Reproducibility requires incredibly complicated records of information flows and processes, which could be recorded on a blockchain, but probably shouldn’t.

I’ll note that one of the most crucial operations of science is revision and retraction of errors.  Blockchains cannot support that operation at all.  Flooding the world with fake data that cannot be removed is not going to be a real advance.

IBM’s contribution to this field reflects this very  fact:  Zach Seward reports that IBM has registered a patent for using blockchain for “open science” [1]. IBM’s idea of “open” science may not be the same as mine, but they certainly understand the problem.  Their system is basically a change log for data, reports, and whatever. This approach tracks and makes a public record of who did what, including corrections and retractions.

The thing is, of course, that we already have change logs (see, perhaps Github, which is the fourth or more generation of this technology), and we have been using them for several decades now. We were working on these “digital notebooks for science” fifteen years and more ago [2].  I assume that the new thing is implementing this on a blockchain which is technically clever but who knows if anyone actually needs it.

And, by the way, “science” is not a single enterprise, it is a bunch of small, inbred communities. I might have use for some kinds of data, but almost certainly have no way to even understand 99% of the data out there. So the blockchain will carry rafts and rafts of data that only a handful of people actually are able to use any part of.

It is interesting to consider that “scientific consensus” bears no resemblance to Nakamotoan “consensus”, because—it’s too complicated to go into here.  The point is, scientific results are not valid of important because the author thinks so, or because of the number of downloads.  The blockchain may assure accessibility and tamper resistance, but the evaluation of results will still work the old fashioned way.

For example, take a look at Wikipedia.  It is a giant change log.  There is a public record of who did what.  This has worked amazingly well for a long time–without blockchain.  Reimplementing it on blockchain would do nothing much, because the hard parts of Wikipedia are what the humans do.

I wonder if some of these notions about “incentvizing” publication, reviewing, and replication are a good idea or not.  I understand why there is a temptation to scramble for funding, but it is a slippery slope to put science on a market driven model.  This must inevitably distort what is done and published, rewarding trendy and politically favored topics, and starving less popular work. It may also be used to further cut public funding, on the excuse that “those scientists are raking in all that cryptocurrency”.


To me, this conference looks like a bunch of Tulip merchants trying to convince people to buy their magic CryptoTulips.

I may have to create a special CryptoTulip of the Year citation, for “type 3 CryptoTulips”. A “type 3” error is “asking the wrong question”, so a “type 3 CryptoTulip” is a confident solution based on misunderstanding of the actual problem.


  1. Zack Seward (2018) IBM Says Blockchain Can Power ‘Open Scientific Research’ in New Patent Filing. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/ibm-says-blockchain-can-power-open-scientific-research-in-new-patent-filing/
  2. James Myers, Luigi Marini, Rob Kooper, Terry McLaren, Robert E. McGrath, Joe Futrelle, Peter Bajcsy, Andrew Collier, Yong Liu, and Shawn Hampton, A Digital Synthesis Framework for Virtual Observatories, in UK e-Science All Hands Meeting. 2008: Edinburgh.


Cryptocurrency Thursday

Litcoin – Local P2P Power Market

One of the perennial use cases for blockchain is P2P electricity markets—direct purchase of power from the producer.  This is often intended to support local community generation, usually from roof top or other small PV arrays. Blockchain transactions fit nicely into a market that manages automated meters and routing.

Community solar generation and purchase itself is a very tempting idea for many reasons. It is a way to build up local clean energy resources and jobs and offer consumers a cost-effective option to purchase green energy.  It also helps people who can’t generate their own power (e.g., because they rent an apartment) invest in local sources. And some people may be able to and want to generate far more power than they consume, which they can sell this to neighbors.

This scheme can work at the scale of root tops up to fairly large fields of generators.  In fact, there aren’t really any technical barriers.  The key problems to solve are financial and legal.

Delivering power from one house to another requires infrastructure, and building new infrastructure would be expensive and insane.  There already is infrastructure, but it highly regulated and not open to just anyone.  The default business model is to sell and buy power via the utility, who charges a lot for access.

The use case for blockchain here is to bypass the utility financially, allowing anyone to purchase electricity from anyone (i.e., “peer-to-peer”).  As is always the case, it is perfectly possible to build a P2P system with conventional technology.  But this kind of simple asset purchase is just the kind of thing that blockchains can do pretty well, at least conceptually.

So this is a compelling case for blockchain and surely a real world need.  Why is it taking so long for blockchain (or any) P2P power markets to come true?

Alyssa Hertig reports on the experience of an emerging system in Germany, called Litcoin [1]. Litcoin is built on Ethereum and uses “Smart Contracts” to implement an exchange for direct consumer purchases of power.  They have 700 users across Germany.

“Once a user finds the energy they want to buy, they make a payment in euros to Lition. Behind the scenes, an ethereum smart contract detects this payment and automatically sends the customer their energy.”

Does this concept need a blockchain?  Not really.  We have similar markets where I live.  But it probably is pretty cheap to implement this with Ethereum, and the cryptographic signatures and protocols make the system pretty secure (assuming that the customer and producer facing code is secure, which it probably isn’t).

Litcoin makes some interesting claims. It makes a carefully qualified claim to be the first “P2P energy trading solution that is fully licensed and commercially live in a mass market (Germany)”.  This has to be qualified because there are many other similar projects in other places in various stages of development (this, this, this…).  Litcoin does seem to be in the biggest market I’ve seen, although 700 users in Germany is scarcely a success story.

They make other intriguing claims, including, “Private data is stored on private sidechains. Quantum-computer safe.”  I’m not totally sure what that means exactly. I assume that their side chain uses what they hope is quantum-safe cryptography. (The main Ethereum blockchain of course, is definitely not quantum safe.)

While a P2P power exchange is very Nakamotoan in spirit, LItcoin has a number of non-Nakamotoan features.  The aforementioned “side-chains” are a bag on the side of the main blockchain, effectively a pretty conventional distributed data store with a blockchain layer.  For that matter, the exchange is operated by a “centralized” organization.  Note that they also take and make payment in Euros, one of the fiat-iest of fiat currencies.

The reason for the centralized organization illustrates the heart of the problem.  Litcoin has got as far as it has by working within the legal structures of the German power grid.  When they say they are “licensed”, that means that they are an officially recognized legal entity, entitled to buy and sell power across the grid.  This policy structure is the key to Litcoins very existence, and has nothing to do with blockchain, and everything to do with politics in Germany.

Hertig reports that the Ethererum blockchain is actually unsatisfactory for this use.  I suspect that it was easy to boot up a working system, but they have found that it is slow. They also do not need a public blockchain, which is 99+% not their business, i.e., the blocks have everyone in the world’s transactions, so it is mostly spam from the point of view of the electricity market.  And being oriented to clean energy, the LItcoin people are reported to be uncomfortable with the ghastly wastefulness of Nakamotoan “mining”—and rightly so.

Consequently, the company is allied with SAP (the epitome of a “centralized” organization, if there ever was one!) to create a “private” blockchain.  In this, they join many serious businesses seeking the benefits of low overhead transactions without the waste and latency of a public blockchain.

It is highly probably that the resulting system will not use Ethereum or any generic blockchain.  For one thing, a public blockchain is way, way overkill for the needs of the system.  The Ethereum version would let me purchase power from German producers or sell to them, even though there is no way for me to actually transfer the electricity to and from the German power grid (and it would probably not be legal to do so).  So why pay the overhead of a global system, when it can only be used locally?

It seems very likely that this won’t be implemented with Ethereum, though the ultimate system might have many features similar to Ethereum.  For example, they might implement a private blockchain with executable contracts similar to (but more efficient than) Ethereum.  (But then again, conventional databases have had executable scripts forever.)

Will Litcoin succeed?  They might, though its not clear that blockchain will ultimately be critical to success. Success will depend on the availability of producers and the acceptance of consumers. Those will depend on many factors such as the costs of electricity from other sources, public policies, and how the design of the user experience.  (Most people are not interested in spending more than a minute of two on their electricity bills—so using Litcoin has to be really, really simple.)


Not A CryptoTulip!

I’ll note that Litcoin is not really a strong candidate for the CryptoTulip of the Year.  This is a real use case, and they are serious about solving it. Above all, they are interested in solving the problem, and willing to abandon blockchain technology where it isn’t helping the solution.

They aren’t irrationally exuberant, they are rationally critical.  So Litcoin gets praise, but can not win the CryptoTulip Award.


  1. Alyssa Hertig, Ethereum Energy Project Now Powers 700 Households in 10 Cities, in Coindesk. 2018. https://www.coindesk.com/ethereum-energy-project-now-powers-700-households-in-10-cities/

 

Blockchain Thursday

Yet Another Innovation: “Reversible” ICOs

One of this year’s leading contenders for the CryptoTulip of the Year is “ICO” technology.  This post-Nakamotoan technology continues to develop, even in the face of disaster after disaster, not to mention global failure of unprecedented magnitude.

Of course, and “Initial Coin Offering” was originally modelled after an “Initial Public Offering” of stock—except without the pesky regulations.  At base, it amounts to “send me money, and I’ll send you a token”.  Ideally, the token will be worth something in the future, though it is not always clear just what the token could be used for.  And roughly 50% of the time, the tokens are never worth anything.

Surprisingly enough, this opaque and immutable blockchain technology has led to serious problems for the punters. In the very possible event that the ICO takes the money and runs, there is no way to complain, let alone get your money back. (The code is the law.)  And even honest ICOs have had disastrous bugs that cause massive losses of funds, with no way to  fix things.

One of the biggest problems with ICOs has been their fundamental design. A key pillar of Nakamotoan trustless trust is that the blockchain is immutable.  Noone can change history and steal your stuff. “Smart contracts” extend this principle to immutable executable code, which is both unchangeable (and therefore, unfixable) and makes immutable actions (and therefore, accidents cannot be repaired).

In several splashy cases, these codes had bugs in them that resulted in disastrous losses.  (Indeed, Ethereum was awarded CryptoTulip of the Year for 2017, largely on the basis of these impressive failures.) These bugs and the illegitimate results could not be fixed, at least not without rewriting history in a radially anti-Nakamotoan way.  (Again, see the 2017 CyptoTulip Award.)

Responding to these entirely forseeable challenges, the “godfather” of ICOs is now proposing a new variant:  Reversible ICOs [1]. (He apparently does not see the irony in the acronym RICO, more familiar in the wider world as the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, used to bring down mobsters.)

Fabian Vogelsteller, early developer and said “godfather” of ICOs, has proposed a new executable contract that lets investors return their tokens for a refund at any time.  This is not exactly a breathtaking innovation in the real world, but it is revolutionary for cryptocurrencies.

Actually, it is not so much revolutionary as reactionary.  One of the key goals of Bitcoin was to eliminate the cost and inconvenience (to vendors) of cancelled payments. For that matter, these refunds are essentially rewriting history, which kind of defeats the purpose of using a blockchain in the first place.

As far as I can tell, these “reversibles” make the IPO more of a credit instrument.  The “purchaser” is making an unsecured, no interest loan that might be convertible to something else in the future.  No points awarded for inventing “debt“.

Furthermore, in order to make this work, the ICO issuer will have to maintain reserves of fiat cash or other assets, to be able to redeem cash outs.  This is a good thing, if not at all Nakamotoan.

ICOs will also be subject to “bank runs”, if everybody decides to exit at once.  Say, in the event that  a catastrophic bug in the software destroys confidence in the enterprise.  In the real world, enterprises generally maintain adequate reserves only when forced to by regulation.  So it isn’t clear how prudent unregulated RICOs will actually be.

So these RICOs are essentially recreating many of the features of  conventional, “centralized”, finance, atop the inefficient, unregulated, and bug ridden “decentralized” blockchain infrastructure.

Clearly, with the RICO proposal, ICO technology has reached a new level of irrationality.  It is certainly a leading candidate for the CryptoTulip of the Year in 2018.


  1. Rachel Rose O’Leary (2018) The Godfather of Ethereum ICOs Wants to Let Investors Take Their Money Back. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/ethereums-token-standard-creator-wants-to-make-icos-reversible/

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

Do you need a blockchain?

A year ago, Morgan Peck wrote an extremely useful piece for IEEE Spectrum, “Do you need a blockchain? [2].

The heart of the article is his chart, with caption, “I want a blockchain!”.

The flow chart has seven questions, starting with “Can a traditional database technology meet your needs?”  Following the flow, the decision tree winnows down the cases to  a relative handful that truly should consider blockchain technology.

It’s not quite “just say, no”, but almost always, “no” is the answer at the end.

One of the key principles is whether the system can and should have a trusted operator/admin.  If there is a trusted party, or the users can create a trusted party, then there is no point at all to using blockchain.  Use a database.

Other questions involve who will update data.  If only one party updates (essentially a multicast), then a blockchain gains very little over any other system with equivalent digital signatures.

And finally, if the data and/or transactions have to be private, then a permissioned blockchain might be justified (but see Champion de Crespigny on the shortcomings of private blockhains [1]), but a public blockchain would not work so well.  In this case, there has to be trust somewhere in the system, a trustless blockchain only pushes those issues to other mechanisms.

This is a really good, infographic that clears up so much of the bogosity in the blockchain world.  I’ve seen other explanations of these basic design questions, but this is remarkably clear and simple.

 

 


  1. Angus Champion de Crespigny (2018) How I Lost My Faith in Private Blockchains. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/how-i-lost-my-faith-in-private-blockchains/
  2. M. E. Peck, Blockchain world – Do you need a blockchain? This chart will tell you if the technology can solve your problem. IEEE Spectrum, 54 (10):38-60, 2017.
  3. Morgen E. Peck, Do You Need a Blockchain? This interactive will tell you if a blockchain can solve your problem, in IEEE Spectrum – Blockchain World. 2017. https://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/networks/do-you-need-a-blockchain

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

CryptoTulip of the Year Watch: ICO = Initial Crap (sh)Oot ?

In this year’s CryptoTulip competition, Ethereum continues to run well, having still not solved its scaling and governance challenges—compounded by the technological suicide pact built in to the software (the “difficulty bomb”)  and a new “war” on ASICs.

Several new technologies may become dark horse contenders for the CryptoTulip award, including EOS.io and maybe even FOAM, which just went live.

But the main competition for defending champion Ethereum must surely be ‘the ICO’.  Once enthusiastically vaunted as the coming thing (was it only a year ago?), ICOs have sunk into a disappointing wave of bipolarity.

Some ICOs work well (if not necessarily fairly) and some raise piles of cash.  But analysis shows that many are flat out scams.

And a new report finds that almost half of all ICOs raise no money at all [1].  (What’s worse than a scam?  A scam that doesn’t make money!)

In both reports, some ICOs did indeed raise money.  The Research LeadMeri Paterson report says that 40% of ICOs made $1 million for the investors.  Notably, they found that even the successful ICOs, the gains are really short term: the money comes in the first few weeks.

So, the data indicates that investing in an ICO (if you are able to get in) is nearly a coin toss.  You might win, you might lose. I guess the good news is that you’ll know pretty quickly, because it will be over in weeks.

There seems to be a never ending supply, so you can play this lottery over and over if you want to.

ICOs are a very Nakamotoan “innovation”. They “disrupt” the foundations of raising capital by offering opaque, unregulated, and instant trades—with a huge, huge dose of caveat emptor.

And if there is anything that beats mania for virtual tulip, it’s mania for fake virtual tulips!

Surely ICO technology is a strong candidate for CryptoTulip of the Year in 2018.


  1. William Benattar, Meri Paterson, Eitan Galam, and Emmanuel Alamu,  Charting the growth of cryptocurrencies. GreySpark Partners 2018. https://www.scribd.com/embeds/388270475/content#from_embed
  2. Aditi Hudli (2018) Report: Nearly Half of ICOs Failed to Raise Funds Since Start of 2017. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/report-nearly-half-of-all-icos-fail-to-raise-funds/

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

EOS.io: CryptoTulip Candidate

This fall we see a new candidate for CryptoTulip of the Year:  EOS.IO from the annoyingly named block.one.

This is an interesting system, though rather hard to evaluate.  Sounds Tulip-y to me.

It’s big idea is to do dapps better than Ethereum.  That means higher performance and lower cost.  We’ll see.


The key “innovation” is “delegated” consensus that makes the ‘decentralized’ system is much more efficient by centralizing the consensus step [1].

blocks are produced in rounds of 126 (6 blocks each, times 21 producers). At the start of each round 21 unique block producers are chosen by preference of votes cast by token holders. The selected producers are scheduled in an order agreed upon by 15 or more producers.

This should be faster than Ethereum, assuming that it actually works as intended. I’m not sure how secure and fair this system is (voting is scarcely guaranteed to be either).

Another innovation is a charging scheme for the virtual machine that runs the dapps.  The dapp has to buy three resources, storage/bandwidth, cpu, and ram.  This mechanism manages the use of the computational resources of the nodes of the network, and maybe incentivizes participants to run node.  I think.  The whitepaper describes this as a “sender pays” model, contrasting to Ethereum which the user (receiver?) pays.

EOS features an explicit “constitution” that is supposed to apply to all nodes.  This is a human readable document that ‘splains the intent of the code and also “obligations among the users which cannot be entirely enforced by code”.  In an interesting bit of techno-theater, “Every transaction broadcast on the network must incorporate the hash of the constitution as part of the signature and thereby explicitly binds the signer to the contract.”  Right.

“All users are required to indicate acceptance of the new constitution as a condition of future transactions being processed.”


This is all pretty creative, and has attracted interest from developers who are dissatisfied with the performance of Ethereum and the cost of “gas”.  However, David Floyd  reports that all is not perfect in EOS land [2].

“That’s because, whereas ethereum dapps can be costly for the ones using them, EOS dapps can be costly for the teams deploying them.”

Worse, these resources are susceptible to price fluctuations and, it seems, price manipulation.  It may cost a lot to deploy a dapp, compared to Ethereum which accrues costs when run.  So the supposed cost savings are not automatic or simple.


So lets reckon the overall Tulipiness of this EOS.io.

The performance hit of “naïve Nakamotoan” consensus—security by massive redundancy—is replaced with a rotating sample of 21 of the nodes.  This may boil down to security by reputation, with the biggest players having the most influence on the sampling.  Or you might call it “continuously changing centralization”.  The single point of failure changes unpredictably with each decision round.

Execution of the dapps is “pay as you go”, but pay in advance.  Where Ethereum has a single resource (“gas”), EOS has three.   These differences certainly move around choke points on the execution of dapps, though the long term merits of the approach aren’t apparent.  You could also say that Ethereum’s single pain point (gas) is replaced with three different potential pain points.

EOS tackles some of the governance issues that have plagued Ethereum and others with an explicit “constitution”, plus rules that attempt to enforce it.  This would seem to be a “centralized” rule book with subjective interpretations of the code, and therefore a potential single point of failure.  (I.e., if the constitution is suborned, the whole system is compromised.)


I’ll note that none of this has been published in any kind of peer review study that I know of.  In particular, I see no evidence that the protocol has been analyzed by independent parties.  I’ll also note that the resource management scheme does not seem to have been simulated or studied.  (As a veteran of many resource control concepts inside operating systems, I assure you that intuition is not a good guide to how well they will actually work.)

For that matter, the boasts of performance and cost are noticeably undocumented.  How hard would it be to publish even some rough benchmarks of, say, throughput and latency?  If you are supposed to be better than Ethereum, shouldn’t there be at least case studies to prove it?


So, what we have here is a really complicated Tulip, which sets much stock in being “better” than Ethereum.

EOS.io is certainly different than Ethereum, but who knows if it is “better”, and in what cases?

Certainly, EOS.io should be in the runnig for CryptoTulip of the Year for 2018.


 

  1. block.one, EOS.IO Technical White Paper v2. 2018. https://github.com/EOSIO/Documentation/blob/master/TechnicalWhitePaper.md
  2. David Floyd (2018) RAM It All: Rising Costs Are Turning EOS Into a Crypto Coder’s Nightmare. Coindesk, https://www.coindesk.com/ram-it-all-rising-costs-are-turning-eos-into-a-crypto-coders-nightmare/

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

Sharable on blockchains to keep an eye on…

Regular readers know that I’m definitely on the side of Sharable and friends, and I am deeply skeptical of ‘blockchain-for-X’ projects.  So when Sharable is enthusiastic about something blockchain-y, I have to look very closely.

This summer, Aaron Fernando writes about “10 blockchain projects to keep an eye on [1].

OK, I’ll bite.  What’s new on the blockchain-for-real-sharing front?


His list is:

  1. Helbiz – Zip car for anyone, for any vehicle.
  2. Open Bazaar – an early and infamous unregulated market
  3. Sarafu-Credit – (Kenya) cryptocurrency versions of community currencies already in use locally
  4. Chamapesa – (Kenya) digitized version of existing local lending circles
  5. Holochain – framework for creating your own blockchain-like system, with your own protocols
  6. Right Mesh – mesh network with a cryptocoin to incentivize participation
  7. Beenest – AirBnB without the company
  8. Possible – a blockchain implementation of Time Bank
  9. ShareRing – blockchain implementation of a tool share
  10. Digital Town – local information share, with cryptocurrency for “points”

The first thing that stands out is that most of these are implementations of old ideas, such as time banks, tool shares, and lending circles. This is a good thing: using tried and true models is solid design.

The blockchain technology is used to make these models work more smoothly without building dedicated infrastructure and the inevitable costs or corporate rake-off. In some cases, cryptocurrency is deployed to try to make the low-cost infrastructure and shared activities more economically sustainable.

The combination of an already trusted local service with inexpensive and open blockchain technology is probably the absolute best use case for blockchain.  The tried and trusted sharing is facilitated by the blockchain, and in turn makes up for the weaknesses of the untrusted and non-local technology.

That said, I have to say that not all these projects seem equally plausible or benign.

For starters, OpenBazaar is one of the ever growing number of unregulated grey markets. These may be beneficial for poor and downtrodden people, but mainly they promote criminal activity and tax evasion.  The other markets (Beenest) and frameworks (Holochain, Right Mesh) are likely to be used for similar purposes.  Overall, the poor will not win from unregulated networks and markets.

Some of these projects look technically dubious to me. In particular the aforementioned  Holochain and Right Mesh tout the benefits of blockchain technology, but seem to aim to build really small local networks.  The problem with this is that cryptocurrencies only work correctly with very large networks, so creating a small, local network won’t be secure or robust or private or anything.  You really can’t have a tiny, personal cryptocurrency because it will be easy to overwhelm by anyone with access to a cloud.  (Maybe they have technical workarounds that I don’t know about.)

I’ll note, too that things like Beenest, Helbiz, SharRing, and Digital Town are going head to head with powerful corporate services.  Good luck competing with AirBnB or municipal bike rentals!  And every one of these services could be implement nearly for free using, say, Facebook.  The FB version would have ads and track users, but it would be robust, cheap, and easy to run.

But, and here is the good news, some of these are truly good ideas that should work well.  Not coincidentally, the ones that have already been implemented off-line in Kenya will probably work well with blockchains assuming they are not snuffed out by the government.  Using a blockchain for a time bank or tool bank is also a good idea.  (Especially if the software promulgates best practices and lifts all boats to higher standards.)

So the bottom line is, blockchain may be really helpful for time tested models of sharing that need good record keeping like a time bank or lending circle.

My own view is that cryptocurrency as a model for incentivizing sharing is a false hope. E.g., Holochain isn’t likely to work any better than any other mesh network.  Even if the economics is valid (which I sincerely doubt), the value flows are so tiny that there isn’t enough oomph to make things go.

Overall, it’s a mixed bag, but there are definitely some bright spots here.  We’ll see how things develop.


  1. Aaron Fernando (2018) 10 blockchain projects to keep an eye on. Sharable, https://www.shareable.net/blog/10-blockchain-projects-to-keep-an-eye-on

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday