«Digital Refugees» as negative aftermath of blockchain

(Dissuade me!)

Communicating with many people who are far from crypto economy I often face a very peculiar problem which should be addressed to the whole blockchain community. Each time I was explaining numerous advantages the DLT and blockchain can bring to the entire scope of human interaction, even those who sympathize my blockchain enthusiasm always settle some “killer arguments” against the practical applicability of blockchain to the real world.

“Both blockchain and crypto economy are really interesting and promising”, as they say, “however, this is all about the Internet, this is still too geeky for common people deeply immersed in their own private hell on Earth. How can blockchain-based solutions fix the problems people suffer from offline? Show us any actual blockchain project that can really change our day-to-day life. Decentralization? Great, give us some examples of the currently running blockchain startups that can help us

- to escape the Big Brother’s eye,

- to cross the state borders anytime we wish without visas and customs regulations,

- to ignore any corrupted governments and authoritarian legislation,

- to earn money without having to obey unfair taxation,

- to leave warfare areas without hurdles created by national and international rules and regulations,

- to implement the true self-governance without being oppressed by the state authorities,

- to buy what we need where we wish without banks and national currencies’ domination,

- to feel secure establishing small private businesses contrary to the interests of huge corporations,

- etc, etc…”

I was trying to find the deserving counterarguments while searching through numerous whitepapers of various blockchain projects so abundantly available now in the midst of the recent ICO hype. And I keep searching some feasible examples up to now because almost everything I found relates either to the pure cyberspace or to a murky future.

It seems the over-optimistic expectations many adepts have with regard to the blockchain technology (and I am no exception) echo the ones many people had at the dawn of the mobile era. In those days many believed that the pocket-size smart gadgets always connected to the Internet could drastically change the world. In fact, a lot has changed since then. However, the way of life of the contemporary people is hardly radically different from the pre-mobile and even pre-digital ones, except maybe the emergence of digital giants like Facebook and Google having multi-billion capitalization without any tangible assets.

I would like to be wrong about this relying on a cumulative effect of the multiple technologies where blockchain can become the final straw creating a critical mass of the global social transformation. At least, such a position resonates with the following insightful tweet of a blockchain guru Naval Ravikant:

“Blockchain-based market networks will replace existing networks. Slowly, then suddenly. In one thing, then in many things”.

Summarizing the doubts of my respondents I realized that the business objectives of many blockchain projects circulate around either cryptocurrencies or the conventional web services capable of being modified with the blockchain technology somehow.

Thus, the common drawback of the majority of blockchain projects lies in a weak if any contact with the offline reality. Instead of going far beyond the pure digital environment, the blockchain-based services mimic the currently existing social media, payment services, online games, stock exchanges and other well-known internet applications. And of course, the ICO-powered crowdfunding dominates over everything.

Some may argue that the very success of the token sale via ICOs illustrates the relevance of the offered blockchain projects. I wish I could believe it is so. However, as we know, money makes money: a project pumped with several million USD must be profitable in any case, at least for a short period sufficient for successful speculations with recently issued tokens. Besides, ICO is really a perfect new technology for seemingly legal laundering of black money (I promise to describe the technique in my next post). Hence, the enormous movement of capital through ICOs can hardly be the “iron-concrete argument” in favor of all present blockchain-based projects.

Numerous intro-like articles about blockchain available on the Internet describe some hypothetical projects looking truly valuable for both online and offline audiences. Many times I came across the example of a blockchain-based Uber 2.0, or Uber without Uber, where taxi drivers interacted directly with clients in a peer-to-peer mode without any central entity. As for me, this is one of the most obvious, feasible, and socially responsible projects ever. I could not find any understandable reason of why it has not been realized yet. Another widely discussed idea concerns a blockchain-based tamper-proof online election service invulnerable to any manipulation and populism. I have not heard about any practical implementation of such an idea, unfortunately.

Being upset by the huge gap (even a chasm) between the currently present blockchain startups and the real-life problems, I myself have created a conceptual project of a socially useful blockchain service (here is the whitepaper). I was trying to invent a hybrid solution which is rooted in quite mundane real-life activities but empowered with some blockchain features. And I’m still waiting for the reaction of “netizens” regarding the project…

The most dismal assumption I have about the future of the blockchain technology comes to “the purely virtual nature” of several really exciting decentralization projects such as Aragon, District0x, and Bitnation. I’m afraid they can be targeted for the “gamified fate” similar to World of Tanks or Game of Thrones where people are seeking refuge from their offline problems. What if all those DAOs and DBVNs (Distributed Borderless Voluntary Nations on Bitnation) are destined to remain the unreal quasi-worlds where netizens are able to play self-governance games only without even a chance to improve their actual real-world situation? The risk is that the very capabilities of blockchain (transparency, traceability, irreversibility, distributed structure, etc) can make even the most ephemeral environment indistinguishable from reality. Not VR or AR, but exactly blockchain-based decentralization platforms can transform the Internet into the virtual safe haven where “digital refugees” will be able to forget about their real-life challenges while endlessly creating various self-governed nations and organizations.

I hope I’m terribly wrong in my assumption. I’m going to explore how to be a Bitnation’s citizen in order to prove to myself that blockchain is actually the core technology of social transformation. And of course, I will greatly appreciate any feedback dispelling my grim concerns about blockchain.