Thinking in blockchains

Photo by Su San Lee

Tales from the past

Do you still remember those days when millions of people, day after day, paid international invoices by receiving pdfs to their email accounts, copying or typing the info from that pdf into their online banking interface, having to look up the zip code of the bank branch the money was sent to and the middle name of the bank branch manager and what he had for breakfast, then keeping their fingers crossed for a good currency exchange rate and waiting patiently for several days to get a confirmation? To then open up their accounting system and enter the invoice and transaction details there again?

Ha! That whole process seems so medieval, now that everyone just receives payment requests to their official company wallet.
Where these requests can be directly authorized and have final settlement after a couple of block confirmations, no matter where on this planet the money is send to.
With all the invoice meta data encrypted and automatically linked to the transactions, stored securely on the blockchain.
And accessible for anyone who needs it and is authorized, like the creditor and debtor and the tax authorities.

I. can’t. wait.

Tales from the future

When we replace most interactions between humans — who make mistakes and who cheat — with interactions between machines in trustless systems, we have a lot to lose. Sure, we also have a lot to gain: efficiency. Great. But that is just a means.

What we have to lose is our humanity, which lives not in a binary “yes” or “no”, not in an automatically executed smart contract, but in the “maybe”. In the in-betweens, in the contingency that forces us to ask questions, to relate, to understand, to think, to feel, to evaluate, and to take responsibility.

Trust is not just a problem to solve, not just friction from misaligned incentives or asymmetric information. Trust is also a foundational building block for relationships and if we eliminate trust, we do not only eliminate the possibility to be let down, we also eliminate the possibility to be lifted up. I cannot only be surprised negatively, but also positively — when my counterpart reciprocates not because they have to, but because they choose to and because they want to. When our interaction is clearly defined and fully determined, there is no “maybe”. No empathy. No curiosity. Nothing to learn.

We cannot make ourselves more like machines. We can only make ourselves less human.

Interested in all ways to understand this world. Looking for questions, not answers. Curious about the human and the digital. —