Have you ever noticed how everyone tells us how blockchain is going to save the world, is the leader of a blockchain company? It's almost as if they had something to gain personally by announcing that technology will free us from corruption, revolutionize the global banking system and even protect the Amazon rain forest from oblivion.
Like much of the evangelism that drives the vanguard of technology – AI, self-driven cars, cryptocurrency – there is a distinct anarcho-utopian spirit that pulsates through speeches and presentations on blockchain-related solutions. Does the government steal your land? Blockchain can solve it. Do you want faster and safer public transport? Go to the blockchain.
Undoubtedly, blockchain can help solve these problems. Sweden is implementing a cadastral register operated by blockchain, as are Kenya and Ghana. Tiny Malta, a Petri dish for many European technology releases, has launched a project with the British Omnitude to improve its buses (the member of the EU, in his latest image campaigns, wants to become Blockchain Island: more on this to false track soon).
The biggest problem with blockchain, as with most technologies, is not the technology, but the people who use them. Firstly, who will convince politicians to become fully transparent with their meetings? Canada has experimented with Ethereum as a way to monitor the spending habits of a state committee. But the silence of the leaders in Nigeria, for example, Africa's biggest economy, is deafening when the questions turn into blockchains.
Blockchain might seem like an obvious opportunity for US President Donald Trump, who wants to rationalize the state and "drain the swamp" of "special interests" (which is a curiously partisan clique). But as in the music industry, intermediaries and those who sell black money do not want anything that reveals their role, uniting the wheels of American democracy. If the President's taxes are a black hole, do not expect blockchain soon.
There are other privacy questions in which the normal public is involved. Does a citizen really need to make all his transactions and movements in a given context available to view and track anyone, publicly?
Strangely, despite the growing crusade against privacy violations, the European Union has published what might be the most optimistic piece of information about the blockchain of a public body, "How Blockchain technology could change our lives", a 24-page evaluation of the platform.
"For every transaction that uses a distributed ledger instead of a traditional centralized system, intermediaries and brokers are moved, losing their usual source of energy and income," concluded the document, highlighting both the advantage of the blockchain and because so difficult to implement
Blockchain is a potentially wonderful invention, with the ability to alleviate many of society's greatest ills. But it will not neutralize them – and, like all new things, if it is a utopian change it depends a lot on who controls it. Expect the struggle for power to be the key component of the blockchain story that heads towards 2019.