The Holy Blockchain
– “And for this part of the project, we’ll use blockchain.”
– “That doesn’t make sense at all.”
– “Yeah, we know. But that’s how we get it funded.”
Blockchain has recently ascended to the Mount Olympus of Tech, and has taken its place next to the "Big Data" and "AI" Godesses and the "Cloud" and "Mobile" Gods.
Many important people - politicians, lawyers, CEOs have heard by now about the new God in the Tech Pantheon and might have even learned a bit about how, starting as mere mortal, Blockchain has triumphed of its own labours thus deserving a place among the Tech Gods.
At about the same time, some IT people who knew the new God since it was only a bumbling teenager, have started thinking about "demystifing Blockchain". That could have very unfortunate consequences.
Although blockchain as a technology is indeed complex, it can be understood and explained. Trying to explain it so that people who do not have a solid background in cryptography and distributed computing understand it requires a significant effort. What is much harder to envision, let alone explain, is how this technology is going to impact our society in the future, what part of the things it enables will come true.
Blockchain's mystique springs from two distinct sources:
- The intrinsic complexity of the technology and the mental effort to make sense of it all. This is close to "awe" and can be overcome.
- The exciting opportunities for changing the world that people attribute to it. This is closer to "faith" and it holds immense power to transform the world.
Faiths, all faiths have shaped humanity's past, present and, because humans have remained humans, they will shape its future. In the past it was religious faith but we have seen that declining over the course of the last century.
Science and Technology are among the biggest sources of faith and mystique that have emerged to replace that inner feeling that moved crowds to attend Sunday Mass. Where formerly we had religious warriors we now have eco-warriors whose acts are guided by the teachings of Science.
And we have crypto-warriors who dream of reshaping societies thanks to the power of the Blockchain.
What I want to emphasize is that faith and mystique are integral to that power. Through a social phenomenon called reflexivity, what people collectively believe about the "godliness" of Blockchain feeds back into the way we use it and behave around it.
This is best understood by reflecting on the history of the Dark Ages. Those were gruesome times when the Black Death was riding triumphant across Europe.
Yet at about the same time, despite the misery, faith spurred the construction of architectural marvels such as the Gloucester Cathedral
or Saint's John Baptistery in Pisa
Thus faith and mystique are everything.
If it wasn't for mystique, how do you think people who were living and, especially, dying in droves like that could have been organized and bothered, at about the same period, to build marvels like this ?
Back then, you had to invoke the name of God to "get funded". In our ages, you need to invoke the Saint Big Data or the Saint AI or the Holy Blockchain. Humans have "functioned" in the same way for 2 millenia, who would expect them to change ?
What matters are the cathedrals that, thanks to the power of faith, got built, withstood the test of time and that we still gasp in awe at, centuries after they have been built.
They wouldn't have been erected if it wasn't for the faith and mystique that brought people together to work toward a common goal.
Other posts on blockchain technology that you might enjoy:
- Blockchain revolution: the CIOs' dilemma
- Le printemps de la blockchain - (fr)
- Blockchain and the End of the Western Civilization
- Sovereign identity on blockchain
- Blockchain revolution: Money and Credit
- La Blockchain et la Fission Nucléaire - with English abstract
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