Yesterday, we introduced you to Part 1 of “Still a Blockchain Romantic into 2019 and Beyond” and Elly Zhang’s suggestion that one of the biggest barriers to the growth and acceptance of both the cryptoeconomy and decentralized ledger technology is that the blockchain is forever stuck on a pedestal, more ideal form than actual practical, sustainable, or scalable financial and logistics panacea.
People will buy and sell anything–people do buy and sell anything. People have been selling mined gold, et al, since mining gold first became a thing in-world in MMORPGs from all the way back on September 24, 1997, by Origin Systems. It’s always happened. I remember buying digital gold mined by gold farmers using PayPal when I used to play Ultima Online. Same thing, in many ways. But in the early days, before savvy early adopters see the time and money it takes to mine gold and to earn magic items, there’s great prestige associated with having rare and powerful weapons. The same thing is happening in Fortnite as well in the forms of accounts and skins and dances.
But were it not for all the non-monetary incentives—community, prestige, a challenge, being part of history, or maybe even just the romance surrounding it—to even want to be a part of a coin project (or a token project in the ICO and post-ICO world).
Open Source Movement
Nobody ever talks about the Open Source movement of the 90s. There was Windows and there was Apple OS; then, there were the many version of Unix, including BSD and SunOS. They were all expensive and, in many cases, were black box and proprietary. How could proprietary, black box, closed kimono, software be the backbone of the free Internet? Unless you were a professor, an engineer, and programmer with a boss or a saving account, or you worked in application development for a company or organization, it might be too hard to get access to the same tools. Since Unix was the lingua franca of the Internet, Linus Torvalds—the Satoshi Nakamoto of the 90s—brought together a global open source software project that had the goal developing a free enterprise-level Unix-compatible, server-level reliable operating system that would interact, engage, and communicate with all the tools of the Internet in the same way that all the Unix variants did but that you could afford (free) and afford to run on your own junky, consumer-grade, desktop.
In much the same way that the Bitcoin Foundation leads the development and integrity of the Bitcoin codebase, Linus Torvalds also relied heavily upon a board and a core team and strong vision and leadership. Neither of these things prevented either project from being too centralized or antithetical to the original ethos of being open, transparent, accessible, and democratic. I mean, without leadership, vision, and oversight, all there is is chaos.
So, I daresay that without those Bitcoin Romantics, what would be of cryptocurrency at all? And I wonder were the Romantics to flee the ship—or are flung off—what would happen to the cryptocurrency revolution? Who would have wanted to go to CBGB if all the Wall Street douchebags moved in? Or how hipsters abandon any band, venue, or even neighborhood the moment the olds and the normals move in. What happens when the romantics flee the cryptoship?
Aside from all the other super-cool, ethos-supporting, aspects of the Blockchain (the transparency of the permanent blockchain ledger is not unlike the ethos that drove open source—an aversion to secrecy and black-boxing (if anyone knows your Bitcoin public address, they can see how many bitcoins you hold and what transactions you have made).
Linux was born in 1991. Today, 27 years later, Linux and its cousin, FreeBSD, run the Internet much more completely and globally than do Unix or other commercial variant. Now, what started as a project to create a few tools that would allow a lot of people to access the sort of tools that were only available at the enterprise level (open source has done that on so many levels, even on the desktop), has become the dominant species instead of the upstart. And it was a revolution that was, in many ways, vanguarded by romantics.
The Internet was the first revolution based on that ethos, public-key cryptography might be the 1.5th revolution based on this ethos, and Bitcoin and the cryptos—including the essential blockchain—surly must be the second.
There have been so many attempts to fully commercialise Linux. Red Hat was one of the first—and even it needed to offer free, open source, versions of its OS in order to keep the passion players interested in its Linux variant as there are at least 630 Linux distributions alive today (Linux distros and Cryptocoins have so much in common and I am amazed how little I read about the kissing cousin relationship between these two disruptive revolutions! Maybe the Linux revolution is lumped in and rolled up with what’s called the Internet Revolution).
Blockchain Is So Much More than Blockchain Is
So, there is so much more than just decentralization that makes Bitcoin and blockchain important. And the blockchain can be targeted at solving so much more than building valuation for wealth-building.
One thing I really appreciate about Elly Zhang’s article, Saying Goodbye to the Blockchain Romantics, is that she does, in fact, recognize the swashbuckling Romantic nature of these coders, developers, entrepreneurs, and even marketers. Look deeper and beyond the Bitcoin Bros. Bros used to just stay on Wall Street and now Silicon Valley and ICO offices around the world are infested with them. Maybe they’ve taken over the head of the crypto revolution but they have yet to win its heart.