What about Blockchain? (23 Apr)

Indeed, what about it?

If you are just a little interested in tech, you probably heard a lot about this hype before. They say it’s the technology Bitcoin. They say it’s a revolutionary distributed database that cryptographically secures data. They say it’s gonna solve world hunger and make better coffee. But really, why should you care?

To put it simply, it’s all about collaboration. I know, kind of a key theme for us Betacowork fans, right? Well, for centuries, the best way we could find to coordinate our efforts at scale towards building big things for the greater good of society was with centralization. As members of a group, citizens of a nation, employees of a company, we delegate our power to some institution and we trust the people running this institution to make the right decisions on our behalf. And if they don’t, we have some level of actionable power to change leadership and sanction bad behaviour by other members if they don’t respect the rules. Sure, there are cheaters, and concentrating that much power in the hands of the few is an invitation to corruption, but what other choice do we have? Plus, at least it’s not dictatorship, right?

And for centuries, it’s been that way. We’ve been stuck with the least worst solution to the problem of collaboration at scale.

Then, in 2008, everything changed. A real alternative emerged. And it implemented no less than a full-blown economic network. Some crazy guys had developed a technique that made it possible to create, distribute, exchange and operate a full currency system without any of the traditional centralized institutions such as banks, clearing houses, central banks, compensation agencies or regulators. Sure, Bitcoin had a couple of issues, but nothing a little research can fix, as we had solved the biggest problem of all: decentralized governance at scale.

Once the cat was out of the bag, there was nothing to put it back in there. More people jumped in, developers, lawyers, thinkers, and they started expanding the concept, generalizing it to other areas, creating other specialized blockchains to organize other consensus-based collaboration systems. And then one day in 2015, another breakthrough: the first fully generic blockchain platform. An infrastructure for a new generation of applications, any kind of applications but decentralized. A way to create very complex coordination systems without having to worry about security or synchronization, a fully-decentralized software application platform called Ethereum.

And all the fuss you might have heard about tokens, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) lately, that’s all running on Ethereum. In fact, it’s becoming more and more obvious now that crypto-currencies like Bitcoin are to blockchains what email was to the Internet: a very impressive first application, but nothing compared to the wave of systems to come.

And why does it matter? Because we’ve all witnessed first hand the results of excess in centralization: the subprimes crisis, the Brexit, American elections, the failure of European Union to manage the refugee crisis, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, and closer to us, corruption at every level of our Belgian society. All of those massive failures can be attributed in great part to centralization that doesn’t scale. And that’s why blockchain is so much more than just a technological revolution. It’s also a philosophical, societal, ideological and political revolution in the making. Because as a technology, it enables us all to create systems that give power back to their users, to citizens, to us.

Sure, you’ll hear a few banks, insurance companies and other incumbents tell you that they do “blockchain” but without the decentralization part, that the main interest to them is security and efficiency. But that’s where the hype is. That’s like teaching an old monkey new tricks. That’s not where the true power of the blockchain lies.

Open blockchains like Ethereum, Bitcoin and so many others are where innovation is, and needs a lot of minds to help. Sure, this ecosystem needs a whole lot of developers, but we also need a lot of mathematicians, lawyers, crypto-economists (yes, new job titles too), community managers, technical documentation writers, lobbyists. The blockchain needs all of us, and there’s no need to sign some paperwork, fill in forms or get official agreements of any kind. Anybody with a little bit of motivation and curiosity can join.

This is our generation’s opportunity to shape our future, to create another alternative to system vs anti-system, to status quo vs populism, another system, OUR system.

That’s why we created the ChainSkills initiative in the first place, to share our learning journey, and now to teach developers how to leverage blockchain technologies to build decentralized applications. And we have so many other projects in the pipeline: podcast, book, certification program, and of course a lot of talks and conferences everywhere with one mission in mind: bring more people in. So if you don’t want to miss out on any of these, feel free join the movement.

Oh, and by the way, we now have a French-speaking podcast to keep you updated about blockchain news while you are commuting to BetaCowork. It’s called ProofOfCast and you can subscribe on all the podcast platforms.

Learn more on April 23, 2018, 6.30pm. Sebastien Arbogast will introduce you to the blockchain.

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One Response to What about Blockchain? (23 Apr)

  1. Inna March 31, 2018 at 4:10 pm #

    hi there,
    can I join the envet “What about the blockchain?” if I am not a member?