blockchain

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flow chart of Do I Need a Blockchain? No. blockchain is a technology in search of a problem to solve, pushed by ideology into areas where the unsolved problems aren’t technological. (via @SimonSapin quoting Decentralized Long-Term Preservation)

Descriptions

A more idealistic description, paraphrased from Decentralized Web Summit:
… [blockchain is] the first open membership consensus algorithm [i.e. that anyone can participate in] ever invented.
  • Criticism: "anyone can" certainly seems conceptually (theoretically) true, and even practically true upon first deployment of such (eco)systems, however any such system with sufficient uptake seems to make "anyone can" aspect much less true in practice. e.g.

Set of criteria for a "blockchain" vs. a "ledger":

Introduction to blockchain and bitcoin:

Projects

  • Steem - a "blockchain-based social media platform" - misfocused because plumbing is less important than UX, and ironic because deduplication (user level, not bit level), one of the biggest problems in distributed social media, is worse with blockchains or any static (like content addressed) storage

Criticism

Excessive power consumption

  • https://twitter.com/olafurw/status/993149128665391104
    • "I have an idea for a data structure, hear me out.

      A linked list where every node contains a hash of all the data in the nodes behind it, and every time you want to add a new node, you need about 200.000 other computers to say ok and consume the power equivalent of a small nation" @olafurw May 6, 2018

See more power consumption criticisms:

Criminal in practice

  • 2018-03-29 Futurism: Mailchimp is Shutting Down ICO and Blockchain-related Emails, and People Are Freaking Out
    The promotion and exchange of cryptocurrencies is too frequently associated with scams, fraud, phishing, and potentially misleading business practices at this time. It’s important to note that this update to our policy does not prevent the discussion of related topics in messages sent through our platform. For example, journalists and publications may send cryptocurrency-related information as long as they’re not involved in the production, sale, exchange, storage, or marketing of cryptocurrencies.

Killed or being killed by GDPR

AKA Typical blockchain use (any personal data connected to a human, like a account or other identifier) violates GDPR

  • 2018-05-18 The Next Web: GDPR laws force promising blockchain service to shut down
    The Parity ICO Passport Service (PICOPS) has announced it will close doors later this month on May 24 as a result of the restrictive nature of GDPR.
    • 2018-05-21 Parity Forced to Shut Down ICO Passport Service (PICOPS) Due to GDPR
      Parity, the wallet and blockchain provider, is shutting down its PICOPS platform effective May 24, 2018, due to complications stemming from the new EU GDPR guidelines. The company announced the decision in a blog post on its website on May 18.
    • 2018-05-21 Bitcoin in Brief Monday: New EU Rules Kill Another Crypto Venture
      “GDPR creates new and untested challenges when storing personal information on the blockchain. These challenges make running a service like PICOPS more difficult. We are looking at ways of resolving the uncertainty and making PICOPS compliant with GDPR while keeping it useful. However, as things stand, the solutions we have identified restrict the service to a very limited set of features. Because of this, the significant resources required to make PICOPS GDPR-compliant, and the fact that PICOPS is not part of our core technology stack, we have decided to discontinue the service, despite overwhelming market needs and demand.”
  • 2018-04-30 Infoworld: GDPR may well kill enterprise blockchain databases
    If you’re even remotely familiar with blockchain, you know that the GDPR requirements run contrary to its core architecture. A blockchain is an unchangeable historical record that’s distributed across many computers. This means that once a record is written to a blockchain, it can’t easily or feasibly be deleted or altered.
  • 2018-05-09 Can blockchain’s immutability survive GDPR’s right to be forgotten?
    The blockchain, however, is an entirely different form of database. You can’t physically remove the records without regenerating the blockchain again from that point — and the principle of a blockchain expressly prevents you from doing that. You could have transactions further down the chain that annotates or marks suspect data, but the base data will still remain. An individual can still suffer damage because the data exists in some form. Essentially, you cannot “delete” from the blockchain in the same way that you can from virtually any other sort of database.
  • 2018-05-21 #IRMS18 Can Blockchain be Compliant with GDPR?
    Looking at the key principles, she rated Blockchain against the principles of Article Five of the GDPR
    [detailed explanation follows].
  • 2018-05-07 Will blockchain run afoul of GDPR? (Yes and no)
    Blockchain, which has taken the business world by storm, is an online electronic distributed ledger technology that can create an immutable record for recording a history of transactions; therefore, if blockchain were to be used as a type of database to transact with PII, it would by default run afoul of GDPR rules. Blockchain ledgers can be added to, but information on the network cannot be modified or deleted.

    Gerry Stegmaier, a partner in the IP, Tech & Data Group of Washington-based law firm Reed Smith, said blockchain's greatest attribute – its characteristic as an unchangeable record that creates trust and a perfect auditing trail – could also be its biggest downfall from a rules perspective.

    "Regulators are unlikely to accept the argument that somehow blockchain is exempt from GDPR strictures because a defining feature of distributed ledgers is the impossibility of deleting data, such that it cannot be deployed in a way that enables data deletion," … "Those kinds of arguments haven't resonated well with regulators."
    …personal data should never be stored on the blockchain, and a lot of people don't understand that and continue to do it for all sorts of use cases.
  • 2018-05-01 Will privacy be a stumbling block for blockchain?

    Aside from HIPAA in healthcare and a bevy of existing industry-specific and over-arching privacy rules and regulations that could call into question the use of blockchain, the biggest issue is expected to emerge as the European Union's highly impactful General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect this month [May 2018].

    Since GDPR will affect any company with customers in the EU and impose heavy fines on those organizations that violate this compliance, many experts are considering how blockchain might complicate data privacy either by allowing information to be too easy shared or limiting the ability for companies or consumers themselves to remove or erase their data from a purportedly unalterable ledger.

    “A blockchain is essentially a shared record of past activity that is unchangeable,” says John McLeod, chief information security officer for AlienVault. “The potential privacy issues occur with how a company would process the data of that shared record and with Data Subject Rights under GDPR, as the shared record cannot be changed, Data Subject Rights are limited.”

    Hence, McLeod, a panelist on a recent International Association of Privacy Professionals session on this topic, believes that in the immediate future any company affected by GDPR might have privacy concerns or issues with blockchain.

Overhyped

(worth expanding whole tweetstorm inline as paragraphs here)

  • https://twitter.com/klintron/status/970722033377034240
    • "In my eight years covering the tech industry, I've covered some incredibly hyped tech: cloud, mobile, social, big data, Internet of Things. But I've never seen anything with a worse substance to hype ratio than the blockchain. Not even close." @klintron March 5, 2018
  • 2018-05-17 Forbes: Massive Consensus Conference Succumbs To Blockchain 'Echo Chamber'
    The problem: most of the noise around both blockchain and crypto is little more than the community talking to itself – a massive ‘echo chamber’ that in its final analysis promises no lasting business value for its participants.

    Most of the blockchain/crypto community of vendors simply offer products and services to other members of the same community – money-making in the short term, but of questionable long-term value.

    On display: plenty of crypto wallets, crypto trading platforms, blockchain consulting firms, tools for crypto investors, crypto law and accounting firms and the like.

    What these companies are not taking into account is the fact that the only reason there’s any money available to such businesses at all is because of speculative interest in cryptocurrency as well as in initial coin offerings (ICOs), the novel way for such companies to obtain funding from speculators while attempting to sidestep security laws.

    In other words, the entire blockchain/crypto community – not just Bitcoin – is in the midst of a massive, complicated speculative bubble.

Monoculture

Lack of usefulness humor

See Also