What Has Blockchain Amounted To?

The blockchain. The tsunami set to flush the planet of ‘the old ways’ and usher in a new, sleek and egalitarian way of conducting our affairs. If that sounds like an overly grandiose preamble for the current state of blockchain, it’s because, unfortunately, it is.

After decades of unimaginable impact and ensuing wealth coming from the IT arena, it’s not hard to understand why commentators are willing to proclaim any new tech to be the rise of a new superpower. However, the much trumpeted and ‘mind-blowing revolution’ of blockchain hasn’t manifested yet, according to the ululating acolytes. This might not be a wholly bad thing, however.

The IT spin fraternity is given to hyperbole and wild expectations and, frankly, one can understand why.

The tech arena did – and often still does – defy old business’ notions of scaling and income. Railroad and oil barons might have had swagger in bygone days, but it took the fiddling nerds of the world to unleash global impacts (and incomes) into current reality.

Taking a quick glimpse at blockchain today, it seems to have suffered from the huge performance pressure applied to it, as commentators saw it coming down the road.

Ultimately, blockchain currently fails to live up to its promise.

Blockchain And Crypto Mirrored

Two vantage points can help understand blockchain’s real value, as well as its future prospects.

First, hiring in the niche is still rampant, and good blockchain developers are commanding a premium price.

Second, looking at different metrics – more appropriate ones somewhat divorced from the value blockchain currently finds amongst retail investors – can grant a more rounded appraisal of its value. Any analysis that factors in a more social, global, and longer-term vision of the technology shows ‘the promise’ is still very much there.

The excitement around blockchain is legitimate, and businesses large and small need to look at blockchain for its relevance to their company, as well as how competitors are applying it within the industry. While the technology hasn’t filtered down to the average consumer to help them order their daily affairs, there’s massive efficiency value in it for business. Indeed, the number of businesses turning to a reliable IT consultancy for advice on blockchain build and application is the real tsunami. It’s become a mainstream pursuit because everyone recognises it’s important to investigate, as potential benefits can be significant.

Also, a different timeline to that dictated by investors hungry for quick returns shows blockchain in a different light. Articles yelling a technology’s glory today are focused only on today. If that marching band fades away, it doesn’t mean the promise was a lie. Blockchain might simply be a slightly different species to what we anticipated, and will moult and mature at a different pace from the one originally anticipated by all the excitement around its application. After all, it’s new, and new things grow and take shape as they will, notwithstanding the often-immense human guidance (or desires) behind them.

Blockchain won’t fail in the long term, yet the similarities between the Bitcoin bubble and blockchain as a technology are hard to miss. Bitcoin has left millions of retail investors wondering why it won’t just keep climbing in value. They’re there because they still can’t distinguish between cryptocurrency’s innate construct, application and thus worth, just like they they’re not going to understand how blockchain as a technology will manifest organic growth with gradual application. In short, the hype around blockchain hasn’t and cannot define it.

Still, after all the fireworks and yelling from the mountaintops, some have surmised blockchain tech to be a big, fat zero. It’s true that many aspects of its mooted application are, in fact, better dealt with by existing apps and protocols right now. Some things don’t need to be reinvented or are still better than a blockchain build can do.

For the moment.

Blockchain Successes Tell The Real Story

Some sterling successes can give observers the real story behind blockchain. For example, looking at the shipping and international freight industry, it might seem the technology can only succeed in an industry unchanged for some 400 years, and ripe for blockchain success. However, that doesn’t obviate the fact that it has, indeed, made a massively beneficial difference to that industry, living up to and beyond its promise.

Rather than count the number of industries truly shaken to date by blockchain, it’s worth far more to look at the extent of that shake where it’s happened. Put another way, when and where blockchain has been applied as a solution with such dramatic success, is where we can gauge its real and eventual value. Make no mistake, it’s never going away – the growth has started, and grow it will – but it’s the radical transformation potential within an industry (such as international freight) that shows us the technology’s true potential.

Of course, one of the biggest hirers and most gleeful applicators is the banking fraternity. Banking’s current fervour for blockchain most often comes with the prospect of job losses (cutting costs) and a basketful of self-serving impetus, but one cannot deny the urgent activity in fintech circles around blockchain. This, too, is an arena where it finds hugely relevant and liberating application. When the people with the money are throwing it at blockchain, don’t be too quick to write it off as the eventual ruler of the world.

What’s In Store For Blockchain’s Future?

In a nutshell, blockchain isn’t a new gadget or a new income stream, and certainly isn’t a new investment vehicle that’ll drive up to sky-high profits. It has more to do with the way people think, act, and run their lives.

At least, that’s the arena it seeks to operate in to become a global way of life, and that arena takes time to shift. Blockchain isn’t tailing off by any means or floundering on its hype, either. It’s merely more valuable, but in a more gradual and diversely applied manner, than the initial (if overexcited) projections billed it to be.

The hype might have died, but the core is growing stronger. People simply must adopt it as an understanding, an improvement, as they see the ease of use and charmingly simple nature of a trust-less system at play. This kind of change takes time.

Blockchain’s brilliance hasn’t been overstated; it just won’t roll into broader society as fast as we thought. The same aspects of blockchain that thrill anarchists and hippies will make it slower to accept into the mainstream. It’s a slow train coming, but it hasn’t lost any of its cargo.