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Old Technology Grognard's Opinion Piece On Current Hype About Blockchain Buzzword Bingo

by Hawke Robinson last modified May 13, 2022 09:10 AM
I've been involved with computer/information technology since 1979, and online since the same time. This is just a quick response to an email conversation I had with someone, that I thought might be worth capturing here. Much of what I state is arguable, so take it as the opinion piece that it is, rather than the more instructional pieces I usually write. Cheers!
Thanks for sharing this video link with me:
https://youtu.be/C6aeL83z_9Y
Yep, I am well aware of the challenges. Alas, this is always the case with these kinds of new technology adoptions, and especially because all p2p-based technologies are a huge threat to authoritarianism, so there will always be the strongest pushback against these types of technology adoptions, but they work themselves out over time for the most part through technological Darwinism and legal precedence evolution.

That is one of the big gambles about the NFT approach, figuring out not only which technology implementation will survive from a  purely technical concern and over time and those that get actual adoption and survive legal compliance challenges, such as what happened with Internet itself, e-commerce, p2p tech, and digital media distribution and ownership. For many years the RIAA, MPAA, and book publishers fought tooth and nail against digital media adoption, now they make more money than ever before since they finally embraced it. But it was an extremely rocky road, and this is just another variant in that adoption resistance.
For Blockchain, Bitcoin is basically under financial regulation, while Bitcoin Exchanges and other blockchain "Exchanges" are already (recently) considered under legal regulation of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), basically just like trading stocks, bonds, futures, derivatives, commodities, etc.  I need to re-watch it (haven't seen it since the 1990s), but if I remember correctly, the movie "Trading Places" with Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy is potentially very relevant to how the goals of NFTs are parallel (I argue the current new generation of NFTs are flawed in their thinking, created by an ignorant new generation of developers who think there is no valid technology prior to 2005 or so, so they are repeating a lot of the same mistakes of the past from their lack of knowledge of technology and history.  I also conjecture it will take another 2-3 technology generations, and probably other technology names, of this concept, before it becomes widely adopted as general p2p has become. Then it will be a background engineering (aka boring to laypersons) thing, rather than the flashy new squirrel attention that that the blockchain buzzword bingo currently gets.
Did you watch the whole video of the link you sent? 
Let me know if there were any areas that I might be helpful clarifying, especially about any of the technological considerations. 
The video brings up the most typical arguments for decades about these kinds of (incremental, NOT revolutionary, despite the hype), technologies that have gone on for decades. 
All of these arguments were made about the Internet in general, and digital streaming and digital music/media/movie files licensing back in the 1990s and early 2000s. 
They took years of court battles to solidify, but generally all came down to workable clarity over time.
"Blockchain" tech is basically based on peer to peer (p2p) technologies. 
While "the youngin's" act like this is a new tech just since about 2010 or so, they are just ignorant of prior technology history, and even the term blockchain was a key part of the p2p tech from the 1990s.
This all really goes all the way back to the original first Request for Comment #1 (RFC 1) for the World Wide Web and evolution of the overall Internet, with all the risks, challenges, and legal issues as this has continued to evolve.
The real start for what "blockchain" is based on, was with Distributed.net, and later projects like SETI, Cancer p2p, and the Human Genome p2p projects.
What brought those to the fore in the public layperson's awareness, was p2p filesharing apps like Napster, and it's derivations such as Limewire, Grokster, Morpheus, and others, which were heavily impacted by the 2005 US Supreme Course MGM vs. Grokster ruling you've heard me grumble about the huge "chilling effect" caused to all technology innovators ever since, and (I argue) directly attributable to an exponential slow down in released public innovations ever since.
Also, The Matrix communication platform we use draws from these technologies (and has had some security, legal, and other challenges, and I expect some big ones still in the future for it) as a "federated communications" platform.
Also, if you've heard of The Onion Router (https://tor.eff.org ), which the media wrongly lumps together as automatically the Dark Web, etc., because of their usual total misunderstanding of such things. TOR is also a very specific evolution of p2p technology, that has been lifesavingly beneficial to many millions, while still highly controversial and especially challenging to authorianism.

However, since then, valid, legal, and well accepted use of p2p networking and filesharing is now reasonably mature, stable, and the general legal issues have been worked out and have sufficient legal precedent. Every major operating system, and most apps now use p2p technologies constantly. Most lawyers argued p2p tech would never be adopted beyond "tech nerds and criminals"The laws on it vary wildly from country to country, and are illegal in authoritarian countries.
There are still very big question marks with regulation of Bitcoin, which is actually less complicated than other blockchains (like Ethereum, NFTs, etc.), and was  total "Wild West" (as was the Internet) early on, and still much more stabilization on the way, but has significant inroads in regulation and acceptance. I'd argue that Bitcoin has migrated from newborn baby, to toddler (thus will still fall a lot, but is far enough along to be able to get back up again on its own), while the other blockchains are still crawling and might never be able to get up on their own, and could easily die left and right. 
The "contracts" are really the incremental layer on top of p2p that is the challenge, and the video does an adequate basic coverage of that, but at a very rudimentary level, and lacks understanding of the potential (not yet realized) at this early stage.
While still a long way to go (years, not decades), Blockchain in general, and NFTs (really, I think whatever the next generation evolution from the idea of NFTs will be, NFTs themselves I suspect are a stepping stone, not a final product, and as it gets beat up in the world from innovators and experimentation, the next technological (and legal) evolution on the goals of NFTs will be more clearly resolved, and further along in maturity). Those companies that go through learning and growing during this evolution will have significant advantage over those who are so risk averse they don't learn the pros, cons, and risks of these approaches.
One area that is further along and I think of much more value than the NFTs, is the identity verification while maintaining anonymity (which authoritarians hate). Still flawed, and I expect more hardcore flaws will be found, are critically important to the evolution of life on the Internet, and whatever replaces the "Web" experience in the next generation evolution of the Internet.
Definitely agree this is going to continue to be continuously volatile for years to come as the technical, legal, and social experiments evolve.
While true much of the initial use of NFTs is very much in the early infancy, and many current uses are simplistic and mundane, but his argument about why even bother, shows his lack of understanding about a real need for strong unique, provable, and anonymous valid identity proof, and digital ownership portability. 
Thanks for sharing! Please let me know if you would like to have a more in-depth understanding about how I think (over time) the concepts that blockchain tech enables I believe will be relevant to both RPG Research and RPG.LLC endeavors, both for ERPGs, and non-ERPG purposes.
Cheers!
-Hawke

 

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