OPINION: Blockchain is About to Get Real


First New York City debuted Fashion Week before launching Fleet Week approximately 40 years later. Now, 36 years after Fleet Week, the New York City Economic Development Corp. has started Blockchain Week.

The event may have less haute culture and pressed uniforms, but it does sport 25 conferences, symposiums, and workshops across Manhattan from May 10 to 19.

The average Midtown resident will not be able to swing a dead cat without hitting someone wearing a blockchain lanyard and name tag.

Going from one conference every few months to 25 in slightly over a week demonstrates that the technology is approaching a tipping point.

Many people in the industry estimate that blockchain will reach a critical mass in the next 18 to 24 months as the first-generation of blockchain-based implementations start delivering a return on investment for their backers.

There are many areas where the nascent technology needs to mature further. Interoperability between blockchains is at the top of the list. As long as one blockchain cannot interact with the content of another blockchain that uses a different architecture, each blockchain will remain a walled garden of functionality.

However, developers may clear this particular technical hurdle sooner than one may think.

The real gating factor for blockchain achieving critical mass has nothing to do with its software code, but with the wetware that supports it. It is convincing businesses that the technology is real and its benefits are deliverable.

Blockchain evangelists have done a great job of bringing governments, central banks, and financial regulators up to speed on the technology. There probably is not a single central bank or monetary authority that has not discussed blockchain and created some sort of a development sandbox.

The real test will be persuading the legislatures to draft the necessary blockchain and smart contract legislation and having the courts develop the relevant case law for it.

Until the business world learns how to recover from a failed blockchain venture or poorly drafted smart contract from a legal perspective, the technology will continue to face a headwind from risk-adverse organizations.

Once the appropriate parties address these issues, stand back. The amount of change it will bring to financial services, as well as every other aspect of life, will be more significant than the differences when comparing the early 90s to today.

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