Blockchain is NOT a Technology

Posted By db on May 30, 2018 | 0 comments


 

5 minute read

[Is Blockchain a Technology? For C-Level Execs and DevOps or Software/Systems Architects]

[Ed: This view is not popular, but informs on deep tech without a lot of fuss]

Blockchain is a Concept whose Implementation (application) will Fuel many Technologies and make them “go.” But Fuel itself is not a Technology; it is a resource. Engines are Technologies. Let’s not confuse how something gets used for what it is.

Understandably, it is convenient to discuss Blockchain as a technology.  Convenient use words can be helpful- and it should be acceptable to use approximations. People who would not otherwise be able to utter the “B” word meaningfully need to talk about it at mixers with Evil Tech Lords who actually care about such distinctions.

I am all in favor of mixing… but as CEO’s rise and fall eventually it becomes clear that a 1% error in present understanding will grow to catastrophic failure in the forseeable future since Blockchain is going to feature prominently worldwide in the next 20 months.

Unless your office happens to be tempered in the fires of tech front lines, perhaps this brief will prevent a fall.

…perhaps the hidden gem here is that Blockchain really does need to be understood outside its starring role in Crypto-currency.

To be accurate without splitting hairs, Blockchain is a Concept whose Implementation at best describes a Technology.

Example:

I have an Automotive (Car) Technology called an Engine. Maybe I don’t understand all the in’s and out’s of how the Engine works- how internal combustion translates to revs, torque, supercharging, air compression, exhaust transduction etc. But I understand I need it to make the car go. Mixer accomplished!

The problem here seems to be that any distinction sounds like a technical deep dive- but no!

Let’s say there’s a specialized “Fuel Technology” that permits new types of Engines to run. Without Rocket Fuel nobody gets to the Moon, not even Rocket Scientists.

Understandably, there’s going to be a lot of people upset when you tell them Rocket Fuel isn’t really a Technology. I mean, just storing the stuff requires a technology. In reality nobody needs to have that argument based on Rocket Engines, and nobody really needs to have that argument related to Crypto-currency.

Of course this is about Blockchain, and perhaps the hidden gem here is that Blockchain really does need to be understood outside its starring role in Crypto-currency.

Here is an everyperson’s working definition of Crypto-currency, with the Blockchain specific portion partially highlighted from a draft in 2010:

”Each monetary unit to exist as a record of its exchanges, registered in both a national registry and an international decentralized exchange library. Each monetary unit is no longer valued as hard currency, as in 5’s 20’s 100’s etc. Monetary units to have a fluctuating value influenced by their original value and survivability in the economy. Prime rates to be added cumulatively per annum. Taxes to be taken from the monetary unit itself. Any unit dropping below zero-value to be considered “dead” and returned for re-issue on authority of the system. Any new currency (including that re-issued) to be considered ‘pure coin.’ “

Business insiders will gasp at some of the details above. Software Architects will gasp for different reasons.

The Blockchain concept is so simple it’s scary, but Blockchain is so tightly coupled with the technology it fuels that it is virtually indistinguishable from the Technology itself, the same way an Engine seems to break without the Fuel required to run it. After all, we say the car runs on Gas, not on Hemi, right?

“Each [monetary] unit exists as a record of its exchanges, a ledger of transaction history stored in a decentralized and therefore distributed manner.”

The only reference to the “technology” of Blockchain in the draft above is that it is a type of page file, or ledger…and the part where it is de-centralized, specifically meaning a distributed legend of transactions. The entire balance of details are about a specific type of currency, as well as one version of nationalized plans for it. 

The difference between the actual technologies of hard/soft currency and crypto-currency is not based on Blockchain. It’s based on what Blockchain means when it is implemented in a unit of monetary exchange, particularly in relation to the nationalized/internationalized exchanges and the disruptive influence of decentralized coin.

We agree that an Engine is a Technology. It does not change what it means or what it does just because it gets installed in a car. Or a plane. Or a Boat.

Yet Blockchain does. It’s one thing when such a change is an core feature- the way that a Chameleon’s color change is prominent. The fact that the Blockchain concept is broadly diverse in its potential application makes it exciting, and it will probably continue to be touted as the next best technology since butter sliced with a hot knife.

But Blockchain does not really do anything like make the currency go. Once again, Blockchain is a Concept whose Implementation at best describes a Technology.

Tomorrow you will have something more important to do than discuss all this. For now, here’s a searing quote from a technically qualified respondent, by Vitalik Buterin, inventor of Ethereum:

The blockchain network lives in a state of consensus… a kind of self-auditing ecosystem of a digital value…”

The inventor of Ethereum calls it a “Network” fueled by Blockchain. This type of Network describes a Technology- a crypto-currency network that in sum total of it’s architecture is a Technology.

Just because detailed implementations such as Ethereum and Bitcoin have Blockchain in common, and the fact that AWS offers a Blockchain project template to developers and calls it a Technology does not make it so.

Just because there is a standardized set of functions that are well documented and packaged up neatly so that the convenient understanding of Blockchain can proceed- it still doesn’t make it a Technology.

Blockchain is still just a Concept- a very significant concept that when implemented properly permits new creations (the actual Technologies) to function in a way that makes them noteworthy. This is thrilling, revolutionary, stirring, priceless and potentially many other things. 

Is Blockchain a Technology?

It depends on why this rumor has been spread. Occam’s Razor would say “Because it’s a lot safer to invest in a Technology than a Concept.”

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