Can Blockchain change everything?
“Everyone says the blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, is going to change EVERYTHING. And yet, after years of tireless effort and billions of dollars invested, nobody has actually come up with a use for the blockchain—besides currency speculation and illegal transactions.” That’s Kai Stinchcombe, who asked the honest question in his blog from December 22, 2017: what good has blockchain really brought into the world?
At worst, blockchain hasn’t made any significant change on the world yet. But it certainly isn’t a useless advancement. Some things just need more time. Other things are just nearly impossible. Blockchain isn’t one of the latter, like for example some forms of medical research.
For over thirty-five years, an ethical debate has raged about the use of “totipotent” embryonic stem cells versus “pluripotent” adult stem cells. Many researchers hoped that by using embryonic stem cells, they could recreate any organ cell in the human body. Adult stem cells have been used only for some organs. Embryonic stem cells could maybe have revolutionary healthcare benefits. But until now, embryonic stem cell research hasn’t provided evidence of success to justify the billions of dollars pumped into it, whereas adult stem cell research has provided dozens of beneficial therapeutic forms.
Blockchain technology is of a different strain, obviously, but the argumentation used against it by Stinchcombe is similar to that of those against embryonic stem cell research: “It hasn’t worked yet after so many tries. Let’s ditch it.” In the case of embryonic stem cells, it is a question of capability (and needless to say, morality). In the blockchain business, it is a question of resilience.
Blockchain CAN revolutionize the world of record-keeping, finance and insurance. Embryonic stem cells MIGHT revolutionize healthcare, but there’s still no proof of it.
For blockchain, no significant financial or insurance player has adopted it in a large fashion as a technology to store records or create contracts. But that doesn’t mean blockchain can’t do those things. In 2017, AXA adopted blockchain for flight insurance policies, and Deloitte partnered with European insurance companies to insure data protection using blockchain. But these examples are more like startups and they are few and far between.
Blockchain’s first and most prominent application has been in bitcoin, which is accepted as a payment method in many Asian nations like Japan, India and the Philippines. Bitcoin’s first official valuation is generally accepted to have taken place in 2010 when 10,000 of them were swapped for two pizzas. But there is still a long road for bitcoin to be universally accepted.
Blockchain still has the capacity to provide verification of things like food sources, luxury brand clothing, and jewelry. It still has the potential to exclude fraudulent activity from public record keeping, to regulate the true value of CDOs and CLOs, and to mediate peer to peer insurance obligations. The ability is all there, in seed form. The timing just hasn’t been ripe. So it’s not a question of WHETHER, but a question of WHEN. Blockchain can still change everything.