17 Jul 2017

Predictions on Ethereum

MIT Licence Open Source Love

First a disclaimer - I am no expert in Blockchain technology. But then, this article is not about tech. Its about how and why things stick.

In case you want to learn about Ethereum there are hundreds of great articles on the internet.This Blockgeek covers everything simple and plain. .

The horse and the cart

Not very long ago, in 2008, Project Better Place was started. The promise was to rid the planet off fossil fuels automobiles by creating a network of battery replacement stations. The logic was good. Math was even better. If you standardize the batteries across the cars, the remaining chassis are inexpensive. Customers will buy the shell of a car while the batteries belong to network. You will buy miles from the network as you buy minutes from the cellular providers. It all looked great and I was personally (though not directly involved) was very inspired by the idea. The promise was so worthy that we all missed one minor detail. THERE WAS NO COMPELLING CAR.

People crave for phones and they hate the network providers.

A network is a Cart. Model S or iPhone are the horses. Once you have a horse you can build a network around it. For example AppStore for iPhone. Charging stations for the model S. I don’t know for sure if they sold the light bulb to masses or they first built a grid ? I guess it was the bulb.

We can argue that Bitcoin is the horse for Ethereum. The question is this horse strong enough to carry a really big cart? I don’t think so. I think Bitcoin has a long way to go before it has a mass appeal. That is assuming Bitcoin and Ethereum are complimentary. The fact is they are quite different initiatives.

Open Source (dis)Advantage

We can argue that Better Place was a totally commercial project on a ticking time line dictated by hungry vultures. Ethereum is open source project supported by a cult of developers. Something like Linux Project. Very true. Open source method has intrigued most management gurus. It has defied the core principals of capitalism. All true.. We, however, needs to keep in mind another aspect of open source projects - Frugality. Open source (or free) software projects are characterized by not only the freely available source code, but also a culture of extreme frugality. Frugality comes in handy. The reason is simple. They need to crawl for long. There is no concept of “Time to Value”. There are no promises made. There are no expectations set. There is no support guaranteed. The benevolent dictator can leave any day or go off-grid. Vulture capitalists are the last thing an open source project should associate itself to. At least not until it has gained enough air under its wings. Question is if Ethereum there yet as an open source project? Where it could use ‘much’ from corporations or VCs? I don’t think so. I think expectations are crazy high. For the starters - open source should never claims to change the world. Heck no .. If I was to burn both sides of the candle, wouldn’t I do that for fat pay check at a corporation?

Developer v/s user

There are some who see the beauty in network of roads. Who marvel at the inner workings of Internet. But such people are far and few. They will help but unfortunately, their help isn’t enough to change the world. And that’s the fundamental difference between a user and a developers. Users treat it as a blackbox. They don’t care if its running on a Blockchain or if it is open source. They look for value. They are the true test of success. Their buy criterion is simple. Is it helping me save time or money. Is it adding to my bragging rights (brands) ? Is it really solving a problem? I know this is cruel. But why do you think there is no solution to climate change ? Its not that people don’t care. They do but they don’t do enough to part with their dollars or time. So the question is if Ethereum for the users or developers? We can argue that Ethereum is for the developers who can build applications on Ethereum. Good point but why would they do it on Ethereum ? Why wouldn’t they just fork it into thousands of other projects. Just like Linux distributions. Developers are a strong force in your favor. But this force needs to be channelized. The difference is clear between Apple Developers v/s Linux developers. I know you would argue that Android is built atop Linux. No its not. Android does have Linux code but it is the Google who is keeping the flock together. Same way Canonical is exerting force on Ubuntu. Does it mean that the future is a Ethereum fork run by Google, SAP or Microsoft ? Isn’t that exactly what Ethereum is fighting against ?

The power of Block Chain

Despite all the concerns above, the underlying technology of Ethereum makes me hopeful. BlockChain technology is as revolutionary as the internet itself. May be more. Its a better replication of nature than the client server model. Not just cuz its distributed and open, it gives every participant a full set of knowledge base. And opportunity to update the history whenever they come in contact again. If we think of different BlockChain applications as separate species, the machines under each each application are a full representation of the species. Just like the brain of a lion represents all lions. So does that of a human. Evolution stores history of our evolution in all of us (without prejudice). There are mutations in BlockChain as they happen in us but the most agreed upon mutation survives and goes down as an unforgeable entry in the ledger. Does this means BlockChain is the underlying code of evolution itself. Could be. This also means that there are going to be millions of new apps on Blockchain technology. Ethereum is a probably a much more evolved species. Little early for its time. i