When Blockchain Enthusiasts Don’t Get Blockchain

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

When you’re a blockchain cheerleader, everything looks like an opportunity for disruption by blockchain. But most things aren’t.

Most of the applications we use everyday are built on a databases, which are literally places to store and manipulate data. A database can store any type of data, including records of activity within the database itself.

A blockchain, on the other hand, is not a database. It’s a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). A record of things that exist elsewhere, perhaps even on a database. Blockchain’s whole reason for being is to run a highly secure, distributed, permanent record of activity that no one can own or edit, ever.

But unless that’s the problem you’re trying to solve, then blockchain is just a much more costly way of keeping a ledger than the conventional alternative. Records on a blockchain are not inherently more truthful than other data, just more permanent.

If you start with a real world problem, and blockchain emerges as a solution, fantastic. But if you start with the solution, and then go looking for a problem, you probably aren’t looking at the situation objectively.

So the next time someone tells you about a cool blockchain application, make sure they explain to you exactly what problem they’re trying to solve, and why the blockchain does it better than the alternative.

If they can’t explain it to you in plain english (or any other language) then they’re not an innovator. They’re just a cheerleader.