Longread: blockchain, revolution & Stockholm syndrome


Mainstream fuss around the blockchain is quite understandable; after all, the technology may bring tons of joy to various financial institutions, and it would be silly of them to deny that. However, at least partial enthusiasm within the cryptocommunity in this regard is hardly justified. Certainly, some reservations that major companies usually use are evident to anyone. However, as it usually happens on our planet, things are a bit more complex than it may seem.

Cryptocurrency community’s enthusiasm about wider expansion of at least the underlying technology, if not cryptocurrency itself, is a peculiar manifestation of Stockholm syndrome. Indirectly it was described long ago by idealism-killer Niccolo Machiavelli, who wrote in his renowned “The Prince” that people tend to be attracted to those from whom they expected some evil.

Cryptocurrencies have successfully passed the massive ignoring phase, and currently are in the end of abuse phase. Blockchain enthusiasts are rejoicing without rhyme or reason. However, there is nothing to be rejoicing about.

Blockchain is flexible enough to outlive more than a half of all evil inherent in civilizations of the golden
bllion, had there been some political will to do so. Blockchain could replace cumbersome and rather silly system for certification of edication. It could once and for all exclude election falsifying. Blockchain could impressively improve medical services. Finally, it could seriously reduce corruption in the corridors of power, as gaining property rights and bidding would become absolutely transparent. Funny thing, it is all possible and practicable even today, in terms of technology. However, visiting any news site may convincingly prove that nothing like that happens at all.

That’s where the good old human factor comes into play. Authorities, be it government, regulators, or corporations, can hardly be accused of being silly. No one will ever voluntarily give away empowerment, opportunities, and, of course, money; however, that is exactly what blockchain could lead to. Therefore, from their point of view, the disruptive technology is way more useful when it is your servant, not adversary. After all, uranium has various applications. It may illuminate cities or wipe them off the map.

Meanwhile, cryptocommunity is excited that blockchain gains at least some attention. The reaction is unreasonable. Actually, it is hardly different from the feelings of a girl who thinks she’s not attractive when an undergraduate jock suddenly invites her to the dances. He might be really willing to dance with her, but also there might be a barrel of blood and a sack of feathers in the hall with her disgustingly giggling classmates gathered around in anticipation of an epic prank.

The blockchain situation corresponds with a pre-revolution stance as described by Lenin. Many people, including me, hate him, but it would be silly to think that all he was writing was a mere milleniarist heresy.

He described it as “the lows are unable, and the tops are unwilling”. This situation can result in no good, and Russia is a perfect example for that instance. The Stockholm syndrome mentioned above is hardly a method to prevent this giant revolutionary anthrax to burst. For a while, it could still deceive the crypto-masses, but eventually, hello again, Vladimir Illych, a spark might start a fire.

Revolutions are terrible. If we take a look at political revolutions, we will probably notice that the seeming liberation turns into tyranny much worse than the revolution had overthrown in just a few years. It is evidenced by France, England, and Russia. Technological revolutions, however, usually happened little by little, and never resulted in anything like that.

However, blockchain is unique, as it holds potential for technological and political/economic revolutions at the same time. If we use Russian history again, current hype around blockchain is nothing but a dock-tailed constitution of 1906. Just like the tsar’s decree, it can quench the community’s thirst for acceptance for some time. However, it is not the acceptance by any means, and therefore the tension will continue building up. I don’t think there is anyone capable of predicting how it might end.

Imagining Stalin with a blockchain might be funny. However, had this actually happened, no one would laugh, save maybe Stalin himself. Just like uranium, blockchain has a dark side. It can both liberate the society and throw it into Orwellian slavery with totalitarian control of behavior and movements.

Blockchain may create a bright milleniarist utopia, or a mixture of cyberpunk and 1984. But also it could do in the eye of everyone, and become a boring appendage serving general bureaucracy. And for now, everything tends to the latest option, accompanied by happy voices of the cryptocommunity, mind you.

By Jenny Aysgarth

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