8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else

8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else Blockchain

 

 

“It’s time to break the silence and reveal what is real and what isn’t behind the mirror” – Jiri Kram

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DISCLOSURE: I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. Views shared here are my own and cannot under any circumstances be interpreted as an official account of any company I am associated with current or in past.

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Before we begin…

Let me tell you a story of my first encounter with in 2014. I was in a pub in London with a couple of people. One of them was a Man with a Wallet. I had no idea what Bitcoin is and why that cocky individual was cockier than usual that day. When I heard him claim that will be rendered irrelevant by Bitcoin, I didn’t just focus on the message but on the character of the man delivering it. I considered joining his secret society but when I saw the same discussion going on in the channel – where many cocky developers with egos the size of a herd of elephants preached a new revolution called Bitcoin – I realised that this “revolution” is similar to many previous ones: tulips, south sea, dot.com or subprime mortgage. It is driven by two things: greed, and the naive belief that this time, is no different.

When I saw this cocky developer claim the next day on his LinkedIn page “Hey Goldman Sachs we don’t need you anymore! You are done!”

I realised we are in a bubble.

learned (2014 -2017)

1. Blockchain is real. Bitcoin is fiction.

When you are speaking with someone in the Bitcoin community, there is only one thing mentioned, as was during the dot.com era, in every conversation. Bitcoin is here forever and will change everything. What all those crypto-pundits and bitcoin millionaires fail to remember or read about is that at the beginning of the dot.com boom there were also many that thought they would last forever. Let me remind you: Netscape, Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Excite, AltaVista… etc. I can make a much longer list. The outcome yielded different winners: Amazon, Google, Salesforce… etc. What makes you certain that Bitcoin will be a Google, not an AltaVista?

Dot.com

8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else Blockchain

Bitcoin

8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else Blockchain

2. Usual suspects

Once again, as with dot.com, there is something hidden from the public. While the media mulls over Bitcoin and gives credence to a slew of people proclaiming a “decentralised network that no one will own” to a naive public, convincing them to dump zillions into “ICOs” (which are as safe “as houses, same as subprime mortgages were back in 2007), there is something else happening. Let’s consider FAAMG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google). These five companies control cash reserves greater than the GDP of many medium sized countries. They have the ability to quickly control an industry should they choose to. Do you really think it’s a coincidence that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google clouds are also major deployments for many Blockchain networks?

8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else Blockchain

3. Awaken sleeping giants

It’s a charming idea to think that you can build a “Goldman Sachs independent” financial system and have Goldman Sachs and others just “watch” while a group of very smart developers (since bitcoin developers are the smartest people in the room) replace the world’s financial system. Of course, Goldman will just sit and watch their Bloomberg screens, unable to figure out how this “mysterious out of reach asset” moves. Do you really think that the largest banks in the world that control the flow of trillion dollars will sit idle? Can’t they read open source on GitHub? Really? I think you will be very surprised, soon.

4. Bitcoin didn’t kill Intel, IBM, Oracle and SAP. It made them stronger.

In 2014 the victims expected to suffer the most from Bitcoin were traditional IT vendors like Intel, IBM, Oracle and SAP. As with the case of large banks, developers expected IT vendors that control multibillion dollar markets to simply sit and watch in a panic – totally unable to figure out what is in the magic open source. Bitcoin pundits forgot that if something is open source, it’s available and readable. So it’s not too difficult to reengineer the code to see how it works. Then toss a few billions into R&D and “partner” or “acquire” a couple of smaller companies and there you go – Bitcoin converged into Blockchain. Blockchain is not dependent on Bitcoin, like TCP/IP wasn’t dependant on AOL. If you think it is a coincidence that no big IT corporation supports Bitcoin, think again. Bitcoin is a first generation . It will be replaced, like Altavista was replaced by Google.

8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else Blockchain

5. Ethereum pipe dreams

ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is the phenomena of the day. Reading descriptions on a list of ICOs is like travelling back in time. The majority of ICOs simply anticipate, as did their dot.com predecessors in the 90’s, that when developers build something customers will magically flock to it and they will become the new Google. Is it really that simple? Another great example observed with delight from large IT corporations is how ICOs and frantic attempts to create the new “magic coin” always jam the network – the “world’s computer.” It seems that a new magic network realized the technical reality that behind every bitcoin or ether is a computer. Every computer in the world works with only two principles: 0 and 1. The only thing that matters is how fast and correctly a network can deliver zero and one instructions to hardware. There is no magic wand for ICO, there is just a bubble and many people will lose money because they have no idea what they are investing in technically, let alone commercially.

8 lessons of Blockchain you won’t read anywhere else Blockchain

6. Three horse race

As with previous games the winners are already taking in massive rewards because they are already hooked into an existing IT and banking infrastructure. When you remove your Bitcoin rose coloured glasses you learn what is really happening – there is no one building a Bitcoin network. The only place where investments flow into is Blockchain infrastructure that must be enterprise grade. That’s why there are three major consortia in the Blockchain world: Hyperledger – which runs under a Linux foundation and includes members like IBM and Intel (already pronounced dead by Bitcoin pundits). Next there is Ethereum, which is after Bitcoin the most known currency and also sparked a mania of ICOs. However, Ethereum doesn’t only have a public layer running on millions of anonymous computers. Vitalik Buterin and his team quickly realised that to get into enterprises they need something more. So a new Ethereum alliance was created that attracted the likes of JP Morgan, Santander… and many others that were supposed to be killed by Bitcoin. The last one is the most mysterious of all – R3. This is the largest consortium of banks. They are focused on DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) and as with the previous two, do not include Bitcoin. Simply because Bitcoin as a technology is irrelevant.

7. Big 4

Another dinosaur that should be eliminated by Bitcoin, as I was told many times, are large accounting and audit firms. The reason I was confidently given is that Bitcoin is “self-controlling” so there is no reason to audit or control anything. Also that on Bitcoin “everyone has all history of transactions from the beginning of time.” What no one expected was, what a surprise, that if you want to replicate the history of all transactions all the time to every participant, it is required that: 1) data needs to be constantly updated, which means massive traffic and costs, 2) data must be physically stored somewhere on your computer, 3) to access the bitcoin network you will need somewhere to save the keys and this resource will be accessible only as long as this place exists e.g. MtGox. Meanwhile the Big 4 accounting/audit firms (Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC) looked into the nature of bitcoin, extracted Blockchain technology, and with the help of major IT companies like Microsoft and IBM are silently building a safer Blockchain platform that, unlike the anarchy driven Bitcoin, is fully auditable.

8. Blockchain reality

Same as the Internet didn’t make IT departments irrelevant, Blockchain will not replace IT departments. What will change is the speed of business and the types of skillsets needed in an IT department. There will also be no immediate shift of everything to Blockchain. There will be a long period where Blockchain systems co-exist and integrate with existing IT systems. Blockchain will also lead to a strong surge in cloud adoption because it is much cheaper to store Blockchain data in the cloud than on physical computers. Considering that a Bitcoin transaction costs 4 dollars – it would mean economical suicide for any company that would adopt it. An issue also not frequently talked about is speed. Bitcoin transactions take 10 minutes to validate. Why? Because Bitcoin is a technically flawed architecture. It expects each node (each computer) in the network to have the same replica of data as other computers, which causes a massive technical problem in terms of network synchronisation due to an architecture that requires the Blockchain network to permanently store all data from the beginning of time. This architecture is doomed to collapse, simply because Bitcoin and Ethereum are now invaded by many HFT (High Frequency Trading) machines that react in microseconds compared to the network’s minutes.

Conclusion

  1. Don’t believe the hype. Hype creates bubbles, and bubbles burst.
  2. Blockchain infrastructure matters, don’t experiment.
  3. If you believe you can call upon a recruiter to deliver a bunch of Blockchain developers that you can then have run the show, you will be very surprised by the outcome.

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DISCLOSURE: I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. Views shared here are my own and cannot under any circumstances be interpreted as an official account of any company I am associated with current or in past.

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Jiri Kram is Cloud Architect & CTO educated and certified by MIT and this article was originally published here.