I’ve never thought much for Bitcoin, and consequentially blockchain technologies. Anecdotally, I knew it as the currency of libertarians and drug dealers; I only knew people who used it because they needed something illegal or used our university’s power and servers to mine it. Consequentially, it was kind of interesting to read positive takes on their potential uses for charity work, though it was quite clear to me that the sources were biased towards the technology (three of the articles came from websites devoted to promoting the blockchain or a product of blockchain; the fourth was Forbes, but was not on a blockchain technology.)

I mean, one reading wasn’t too bad for the most part, but ended with the suggestion that the reader should “buy cryptocurrency.” Ridiculous. You don’t advise potential stock buyers to just buy up some stock to learn about trading.

In any case, I do concede that blockchain has its uses when accountability is paramount or when the local currency is unstable or otherwise unreliable, for instance, in states where inflation is out of control. I don’t really see how it can prevent corruption or crime that doesn’t involve double dealing– and even then, that supposes all the broker’s partners will be using the blockchain technology. If even one partner doesn’t, they can double deal with one blockchain partner and one that doesn’t use the technology. They’d also have to all be using the same technology. A lot of the appeal of blockchain is decentralization, but to insist on decentralization and standardization simultaneously doesn’t seem entirely feasible.

Another concern I have is how this is essentially predicated on other countries having the resources to freely mine the blockchain, which is fairly resource intensive. Isn’t it problematic to toot your own horn for paying for a South African school’s electricity when your payment required a similar sized farm in China to oversee it? Or perhaps one in Europe or America (though China is the most likely.)

In all honesty, I still see blockchain as largely an attempt by libertarians to sidestep the government. And buy drugs.

The article I felt most kindly towards was for M-Pasa, which grew out of Kenya and thusly was well suited to Kenyan needs. Maybe I’d like the blockchain more if it didn’t seem like another case of the Western world prescribing solutions to non-western countries.

Questions I have for this week’s panel:

  1. One of the strengths of blockchain is in decentralization, but how can we ensure standardization and adoption without an authority to guide it?
  2. On a related note, how can we ensure decentralization when so many of the miners are in farms in the same location?
  3. Bitcoin is largely what people think of when they think of blockchain currencies, but it has numerous problems (reserves are held by a few people, the aforementioned server farms in China, limits and refunds.) If not Bitcoin, what cryptocurrency could you mean? Do you envision a future with one cryptocurrency or with many?
  4. What advantages does blockchain offer local or national charities? In countries with stable currency?

My favourite cryptocurrency is still Dogecoin.