WSJ – Why Blockchain Will Survive, Even If Bitcoin Doesn’t

  • noise has obscured the bona fide efforts involving the underlying technology, blockchain. Of all the manifestations of crypto, it’s the most seemingly mundane applications of blockchain that could lead to the biggest and most concrete changes 
  • new ways of transferring real estate titles, managing cargo on shipping vessels, mapping the origins of conflict materials, guaranteeing the safety of the food we eat, etc.
  • a secure database, or ledger, spread across multiple computers
    • Everybody has the same record of all transactions, so tampering with one instance of it is pointless
  • well-suited to transactions that require trust and a permanent record
  • typically requires the cooperation of many different parties
  • avoids the collective-action problem—the disincentives that prevent individuals from adopting something that would benefit them collectively – occurs when a single company tries to push, and benefit from, a new standard
  • blockchain resembles another buzzword, “the cloud.” While detractors argued that the cloud was just “someone else’s computer,” it gave many industries new business processes, new ways to charge for services, disruptive startups and new divisions within existing companies and an ecosystem of supporting technologies – blockchain has the same potential
  • 1.1 million items sold or on sale at Walmart are on a blockchain
  • Maersk uses the same technology from IBM to track shipping containers, making it faster and easier to transfer them and get them through customs
  • Other companies using blockchain technology to track goods include Kroger, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Unilever
  • CartaSense is an eight-year-old Tel Aviv company that puts internet-connected sensors on freight pallets and uses analytics to determine when goods may be delayed or damaged – rather than physically handing off scanned and signed paper documents, use a blockchain database on which freight companies can record every stage of the journey of a package, pallet or shipping container (Kuehne + Nagel is one of CartaSense’s customers)
  • “smart contracts” on a blockchain are code, they can contain rules about how they can be modified or transferred – transfer the obligation of enforcement from bureaucrats to computers (less potential for fraud)
  • most justifiable skepticism is that blockchain is incremental rather than revolutionary – isn’t much more than a marketing term imposed on systems that hardly differ from existing databases

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