I spent much of last week at blockchain conferences, and I’m about ready to never hear the word again. This despite the fact I’ve been supporting decentralized software, as a counterweight or at least alternative to the growing power of governments and megacorps, for years now. Do you think blockchains are no answer? Great, let’s discuss! I wholeheartedly support you skeptics with whom I cautiously disagree. What I can’t stand, it turns out, is an endless sea of true believers nominally on my side.
The believers are twofold, and the two groups grate differently. One group is there almost purely because there is money in the space: Wall Street types hoping to rule a new asset-tokenized world which may come to be; financial startups offering blockchain versions of existing financial tools; new marketplaces just like old marketplaces, except On The Blockchain, and therefore better.
It’s all too easy to envision a future in which the collective vampire squid that is the financial industry — which has gone from taking 14% of all US profits in 1985 to consistently raking in more like 25% over the last couple of decades — ironically turns blockchains into a tool for “financializing” the economy even more, routing every global transaction through even more middlepeople, each of them shaving off a basis point or two. I doubt this will ever happen — but it’s the clear goal of much of group one.