The mysterious blockchain “revolution”

On May 5th in Toronto, the Blockchain “revolution” began when Alex and Don Tapscott introduced their newest book: Blockchain Revolution – How the technology behind Bitcoin is changing money, business, and the world.

More than 500 people were physically present at the University of Toronto Rotman School to witness the event and see the Blockchain vision unfold. People lined up for a physical, hand-signed copy of the book (full disclosure, that included me!) even though that seems a bit ironic in the modern digital era.

I imagine the book could have been offered via the Blockchain, but we aren’t quite there yet. Books and music are similar in that authors almost always prefer to get paid for their work.

It’s been a surprise to me – and very little about I&IT surprises me these days – that Blockchain and Bitcoin have caught the public eye so quickly. Although Satoshi Nakamoto’s original paper, Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, was first published in 2008, it’s only in the last year or two that the full impact and potential of the technology has started to sink in.

The evolution of Blockchain

The Tapscott book is clearly catching Blockchain at or near its hype cycle peak (in fact, it may even be over the top). In Gartner’s 2015 Emerging Technologies hype cycle, cryptocurrencies were past the peak and Blockchain was not even identified by name.

As of May 21st, Blockchain Revolution was on the Globe and Mail’s hardcover bestseller list, which demonstrates the popularity of the technology (or perhaps it’s just that the Tapscott’s are popular writers).

A quick Google search brings up many hits about the Tapscott book tour, the many recent interviews, and even a few sites where you can supposedly download the book for free. Along the way, there is a wide range of whitepapers and reports on future possibilities for Blockchain, especially in FinTech. Many companies are hoping to make a mark in the emerging new approaches to financial services and banking. A recent MIT white paper talks about the “Fifth Horizon of Networked Innovation” and there are already some courses to take and conferences to attend, so there’s certainly no lack of background material!

Descriptions of Blockchain often give the impression that it’s somewhat of a modern-day miracle – brand new, out-of-the-blue, unique, and a true game changer. One question that comes to mind: could Blockchain have been invented twenty-five years ago, when the web was just getting started?

I believe that innovations often happen when the stars are aligned properly, i.e., when technical, business and cultural pre-conditions have been met. This seems to be happening now for Blockchain – widespread Internet connectivity, massive distributed computing and storage capacity via cloud computing, the current security and privacy scares, and the “growing up digital” generation are all contributing to the need for a “trust protocol.”  Trustworthy services and verifiable identities are key to success with the Internet of Things, especially when the “things” include valuable items such as money, creative ideas, private knowledge, etc.

Why you should read it?

I admit that I have not had time to read the Blockchain Revolution in detail (yet), so I cannot do a book review. However, a quick scan leads me to believe it will be an important contribution, on the scale of Don’s previous works, going back as far as his 1982 book on Office Automation, which now seems to be selling for far more than Blockchain Revolution. My first encounter with Don Tapscott was reading Paradigm Shift in 1992, which was about another revolution called open systems and their interconnection.

Could Blockchain exist without open systems, without today’s Internet, and without the more than forty years of research and development in security and protocols that has occurred? Probably not, but Blockchain is now poised to take advantage of these technologies to, as is suggested in the book, change money, business and the world.

I recommend starting the journey by reading the book!

As always, this is what I think, let me know if you see it differently.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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