The blockchain as a tool

I’m interested in understanding how the blockchain potentially relates to social and political systems, and how it links to resilience. I’m only at the beginning of this; for people who have been into cryptocurrencies and the blockchain for some time the points below may be self-evident (they weren’t for me though).

The blockchain seems to open up new paradigms on how things can be organised.

Centralised or decentralised organisation? Now we have a potential alternative in the distributed network.

In theory this approach could be/ have:

  • Very low operating costs with no or very limited need for staff or dedicated infrastructure to run the system; users can run it on their own computers/ smartphones
  • Immutable and trustless; systems cannot be doctored (if set up right), changes cannot retroactively be made into the system, actors don’t need to trust each other for the system to work
  • Transparent and accountable, what happened in the past is fixed. All is registered and potentially accessible and traceable. As the criteria for operation are clear from the beginning and can in principle not be changed, the system can be set up so that corruption is much more difficult
  • Run independent of geography; can be run locally, but as long as the system stays connected, a microcredit scheme in Mali can run on nodes operating in Asia, Asia shutting down? Rev up connected nodes in South America and you’ll never notice that your underlying ‘organisation’ has completely changed.
  • Almost instantly scalable and replicable; multiplying the number of nodes to increase coverage is potentially almost instant, need to set up a similar system elsewhere, change the criteria, roll out enough connected nodes and you’re up-and-running
  • ‘Trusted’ third parties (e.g. banks, lawyers, administrators, government) for routine transactions between actors? Not necessary anymore
  • The system gets completely or partially knocked out? Set up some connected nodes, inject the last block that you can find on any old node, and you’re system is up-and-running again as if nothing had happened… As long as the network is connected and sufficient nodes operational, a significant part can be knocked out and it’s still working
  • Exchange of value/ data/ information; potentially very fast and reliable. Depending on how it is set up the info can be very private or completely open

These are just some of the key points. Still have a lot to read/ analyse more, but the potential, both for good and for bad, is huge. This is going to fundamentally change the way many things work in society. The potential for blockchain approaches to support local development, collaboration and making connections is tremendous.

There are obviously issues with this system (e.g. we like to be able to turn things back if something went wrong, total transparency may ‘not be ideal’), it also opens up the potential of extreme control of persons.

We just got a new a new toolbox, what are we going to do with it once we figure out what the tools can do?

What are your thoughts on this? Are there other characteristics of the blockchain with regard to social/ political systems that you think I missed?


The individual sovereignty that comes in the wake of the blockchain will touch every aspect of our social and political life. Trust and truth will find a place in all of us and once we move beyond the status quo thinking, well that will be something to behold.

Also trying to better understand potential dynamics around the blockchain, and how they could potentially be steered for the better.

The Blockchain has the potential to strengthen individual sovereignty. It holds the potential promise of freedom, transparency, control and independence (among others). The Blockchain doesn’t develop in a vacuum though. This ‘movement’ could potentially undermine the position (power/ control, income, ability to modify) of groups that hold a lot of power - e.g. government, banks, legal and administrative ‘key-holders’, large corporations - who will not ‘let go’ easily. As we all fall under legal and administrative systems we will only be granted the freedom, transparency, control and independence these power-holders will allow us to have. This will have to be fought for and won. It is not a given that the promise to this freedom, transparency, control and independence will come naturally and that it is an inevitable development.

The blockchain is a tool that is value-neutral. It can bring the positive things (for individuals) mentioned above, or it can be used by actors to exert complete control. If a government-issued cryptocurrency is imposed as the only legal way for payment, a very large part of your personal life is completely opened up, and if necessary you can be shut out of the system with the press of a button.

It is easy to manipulate this sphere. While the Blockchain itself has seemed rather resistant to being broken, the entry points into that system, and nodes that the system depends upon, are very vulnerable. Imagine the following scenario: a key stakeholder want to introduce a registration system of persons linked to the Blockchain (of course with its own cryptocurrency). A possible approach to use? Undermine the existing Blockchain/ cryptocurrency sphere: make alternative cryptocurrencies that do not fully comply illegal, make any transaction very difficult to complete, create extreme volatility with regular dramatic market crashes, throw a couple of rotten apples in the sphere (cryptocurrencies, exchanges) that blow up spectacularly, let the media run the horror stories. Come up as the saviour by introducing an officially-endorsed, easy to use and guaranteed Blockchain/ cryptocurrency that brings some advantages to users (e.g. rebates, quicker/ better service, other conveniences, lower taxes, …). And you’re all set, you’re in control.

Extreme? Maybe, but considering history, certainly not impossible. Certain elements of the book ‘1984’ come to mind.

The question now is how to ensure that this scenario doesn’t play out. How do we get to a system that gives us, users, what we want, yet ensure that other actors find themselves in the system too.

Thoughts, comments?

Some food for thought along these lines:

I was on the same boat and could not wrap my head around blockchain. But now , the possibilities and future implications of this technology is staggering. Can you imagine? A decentralized independent AI on blockchain? Are we screwed?

That doesn’t change from the normal; of course we will be :wink:. The potential for hijacking the ‘blockchain movement’ is absolutely there (probably more correct to say database actually, see In this Talk Andreas explains one form that will probably take, there will probably be other approaches too. Will you, as intermediary who gets resources (either indirect or direct) for being a ‘trusted’ go-between, let go of this position and the resourcing that goes with it, gives you a certain status, and that potentially gives you the possibility to doctor the outcomes, give it to an open system you don’t control and benefit from? Not very likely.

So the question now becomes, how can we ensure that the system becomes/ remains open, where are the pressure points, where is the leverage to make this happen?

What are your thoughts on this?

Some interesting thoughts presented here:

and a review of these tweets:

I’m getting page not found on both of these links @Afridev.

Hi Rob, strange, I copied the address to these pages this morning, and I also get a 404 on then when I click on these. I’ll try again with the review (in the article you’ll find the link to the 36 tweets):

If this doesn’t work, visit and look at his entry of Jul 15 of 2017. He has many great and insightful articles, so worth exploring his work

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This potentially seems to be an approach to make the blockchain more usable and useful:

Any thoughts on this approach?

Do you need a blockchain?

Interesting document article I found in a hackernoon article

It’ll probably be dated quite soon…