Bits 12 March, 2017

A busy week in blockchain, as usual, with decisions from regulators, trials and launches and investments and partnerships. So much to talk about, so little time to type…

anna kendrick type

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Joi Ito, Neha Narula and Robleh Ali wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review that points out that much of the current work going on in the blockchain space is not going to fundamentally change the way business functions, in part because of the hype and in part because of market pressure.

“Unfortunately, the exuberance of fintech investors is way ahead of the development of the technology. We’re often seeing so-called blockchains that are not really innovative, but instead are merely databases, which have existed for decades, calling themselves blockchains to jump on the buzzword bandwagon.”

They draw parallels with innovative incumbents in the early days of the internet, how many prematurely dove in and launched products or services that didn’t get much traction.

“We may be seeing a similar trend for blockchain technology. Currently, the landscape is a combination of incumbent financial institutions making incremental improvements and new startups building on top of rapidly changing infrastructure, hoping that the quicksand will harden before they run out of runway.”

VC investment came later to the early internet sector, after it had grown and evolved into a more extended technology with a clearer potential.

“In the case of cryptocurrencies, we’re seeing far more aggressive investments of venture capital than we did for the internet during similar early stages of development. This excessive interest by investors and businesses makes cryptocurrencies fundamentally different from the internet because they haven’t had several decades of relative obscurity where noncommercial researchers could fiddle, experiment, iterate on, and rethink the architecture.”

So what’s the lesson? The authors don’t spell it out, but exhort us to not underestimate the potential. Blockchain technology is more than a new delivery mechanism. With enough experimentation and iteration, it is an opportunity to rethink the basic processes for large enterprises and even governments.

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I haven’t read Tyler Cowen’s book The Complacent Class yet (it’s on my list), but this video is illuminating:

He’s right, modern life seems to be about “comfort” choices. OkCupid will tell us who we should go out with, Netflix will tell us what to watch, Amazon will tell us what to read and we no longer need to brave the supermarket aisles, we can get our needs delivered. VR aims to make travel unnecessary, Google Hangouts means we don’t need to go to a bar to see our friends, and why go out to a restaurant when a steaming dinner can be delivered within minutes?

There is nothing avoidable about comfort choices – our brains are wired to conserve energy and stay safe.

But Tyler’s right, it will (is?) changing culture, and possibly even progress. Does that mean that it is inevitable that we unwittingly end up creating the base for our decline?

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I had no idea that there was something called the booby bird… Delightful.

booby bird

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I finished reading Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air”. Easily one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It’s about life, love and death, and yes, you will probably weep at the end, but not so much from sadness as from awe.

when breath becomes air 2

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Some great tweets from the past few days:

 

 

 

 

 

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