The trouble with mindset changes is that those take centuries, and might — as we have seen — not happen at all.

See communism: when it first came up, it was lauded as that brilliant idea that will change society for ever — enough for everybody, no-one has to go hungry, no-one has to do work that he doesn’t have to. Everyone was hopeful. Now, the only remaining examples of countries calling themselves communism is: a small horrifying totalitarian dystopia; an enormous, rabidly capitalist and totalitarian country with “communism” in the title; and Cuba. Turns out, the mindset change didn’t take place. Some form of it — or rather probably some form of communal democracy — could still happen if we ever reach — technologically — a post-scarcity period, because capitalism simply doesn’t work without scarcity. Or if a major mindset change takes place — but a pathway towards that is anything but clear. One of the common themes I’ve heard from people who are looking at it without prejudice is, “Communism is a brilliant idea. It just doesn’t seem to work with real people.”

The same might be true with financial decentralization. Instead of “democratization”, as in, “we all are issuing our own money”, it might stop at federation, which might not look very different from now. Consider this: in China, most things are already paid for with WeChat, a chat application. In theory the currency is Yuan, but in truth, it doesn’t matter, it could as well be Linden dollars, or points, or Bitcoin — they are just numbers, anyway. In Japan and Thailand, LINE plays the same role, in the respective currencies. There is Paypal (which is expensive in comparison with most of the other systems). There are various credit cards. There are various forms of e-Banking in Europe, and iBanking in Asia. In Thailand, you can also go to a grocery store, and pay your — theoretically electronic —electric bill there in cash, even if you don’t have a bank account. Or if you do, you can use a mobile phone app and transfer the money to the phone number of your friend. The best part is —in many of those systems, the transactions are instant and free. There is simply no reason for any of those countries to adopt yet another mobile wallet where every transaction will incur a fee — except for cross-border transfers, which are made deliberately difficult by the governments, which means, any external solution to this problem, ala bitcoin, will also be “extra-legal”, ie if they catch you, you will go to jail (in Thailand it would be for tax evasion, and in China they don’t really need a reason ;-). So unless we also de-centralize governments, the cross-border solutions are also out of question.

In this sense, in large parts of the world Blockchain as a financial solution does not solve any problems, but rather creates new ones. Interestingly, the main problems with existing “centralized” solutions in Europe and US are not technological — they are part of the mindset. There is literally no reason why an electronic bank transfer should not be instant and free — and in the “developing country” Thailand, it is.

There are some ideas floating around to use blockchain systems in remote regions with little infrastructure — but any and all blockchain clients need network access to actually perform a transaction. A p2p system necessarily needs more bandwidth than a server-based system — bandwidth that you don’t have. If you can run a miner, you can just put up a database server, and be done with it. If you can’t run a server in Africa, just run it at Alibaba in China, and who cares about a 400ms ping if your clients are on a 64k GSM line anyway. And so on, and so on.

Written by

Science Fiction, Tech, sarcasm, and philosophical ramblings about the Universe.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store