‘Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain’ – Book Review

Photo of the book Attack of the 50 Foot BlockchainPost by Ray Poynter, 12 March 2018

For anybody interested in the current hype around Bitcoin, blockchain and smart contracts, I would recommend reading David Gerard’s book ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain’ (many thanks to Richard Young for recommending the book to me). The book is a thorough deconstruction of the history, mythology, and outrageous over-claims of this popular new technology. The book provides a useful and timely counterpoint to all those making claims for the benefits of blockchain and its associated technologies.

The book is short and very readable. The tone is clearly negative about blockchain and I would advise any reader to crosscheck the information they gather from the book (I have done that and so far everything I have checked has been confirmed.) Key items covered in the book are:

  • How blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts work. This requires some technical understanding of the language of IT, but even without that you will get a sense of what is happening.
  • The problems that cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin and Litecoin) have had with criminality, fraud, lack of security, volatility, and more recently with capacity.
  • The reasons why smart contracts seem doomed for the foreseeable future, despite the rise of languages such as Solidity – in essence, humans can’t write ‘perfect contracts’, which means computers can’t implement them.
  • The link between the blockchain/Bitcoin movement and political views that most of us would reject (e.g. the ability of people with money to avoid Government regulation and to put their interests beyond the reach of ordinary voters).
  • The environmental impact of this technology – Bitcoin is already consuming more energy than the whole of New Zealand.

David Gerard also publishes a blog, which is a useful collection of updates about the topic. Find out about the blog and the book by clicking here.

Want to know how blockchain might impact market research (or, more correctly, why it won’t impact market research in the near future)? On March 19, I will be presenting my findings and recommendations in a NewMR webinar – click here to find out more.