You are about to read a funny semi-fiction story based on Stuart Hylton’s review of The Making of Modern Britain and my interpretation of the impact of blockchain on today’s world. I found it fascinating how the description of the pioneering technology of the industrial age resembled the awe and fear of blockchain in modern times. Some quotes are so relevant that changing “railway company” to “blockchain protocol” would fetch the same shilling.
After several “bubbles” (eight so far) and some big announcements – remember Libra and TON? — I thought it would be a good time to coin (pun intended) the story of the emerging technology that could be the greatest innovation of the last 500 years.
An exciting comparison
Why bother? From a distance of two centuries it is difficult to comprehend, let alone believe, the impact that the development of the railways must have had in the early 19th century. Similarly, the ordinary observer is stuck between a Bitcoin (BTC) evangelist preaching the doom of the dollar and a major bank’s crypto skeptic. In fact, there is no clear trend as to what to expect from distributed ledger technology over the next few decades.
The physical effects of the railroads were dramatic: “Great mechanical horses, breathing fire and smoke, pulling impossibly heavy trains at unimaginable speeds through a landscape altered by the embankments and cuts, viaducts and tunnels, that their passage required.” Stuart Hylton describes the powerful role that emerging industry, often frightening and speculative, has played for Britain, a case selected for in-depth review.
The author engaged me with informative and entertaining storytelling that almost felt like a parallel flashback to the blockchain industry. Railroads “changed the way wars were fought and peace kept,” allowing blockchain to disrupt authoritarian regimes and propaganda machines. Early trains turned out to be one of the main drivers of the “dramatic industrial growth of the nineteenth century”, allowing blockchain to revolutionize finance, which is the main artery pumping blood into the current economy. The railroads “forced the state to reflect on the policy of laissez-faire, which was its default position,” while blockchain has yet to become the leading force in liberating people around the world and returning their assets.
Below is a summary of what Krypto has done for us using the railroad analogy (and the structure for my future articles on the subject).
The shock and the first crypto
Electronic currency and triple-entry accounting preceded Bitcoin. The blockchain property of a newer block hashed with the previous one dates back at least to 1995. Back then, academics Stuart Haber and Scott Stornetta envisioned a way to time-stamp digital documents to resolve intellectual property rights. They invented a chronological chain of hashed dates to verify their authenticity in 1991, which was used in issues of The New York Times four years later.
Related: Back to the original intended purpose of the blockchain: timestamping
While cryptographers had no intention of creating an ambitious project, a series of discoveries inspired Satoshi Nakamoto to introduce the Bitcoin protocol as an answer to unfair and opaque global banking. As Burniske and Tatar point out in their book cryptocurrenciesCrypto gradually captured the minds of various people, from cyberpunks to traders and traders, until one journalist asked an interesting question: What is this Proof-of-Work (PoW) anyway?
Ironically, Satoshi never mentioned “blockchain” in his 2008 white paper. It was the Bank of England that argued in 2014 that a “distributed ledger” is the “[t]The key innovation of digital currencies.” The following year, two popular financial magazines drew attention to the concept when Bloomberg Markets published an article entitled “Blythe Masters Tells Banks the Blockchain Changes Everything” and The Economist published “The Trust Machine”.
“What could be more palpably absurd than the notion that locomotives travel twice as fast as stagecoaches?” wrote The Conservative Journal, The Quarterly Review, 1825.
Likewise, people didn’t understand the point of blockchain at the beginning. Some hailed it as Bitcoin’s premise, emphasizing more of the cryptocurrency aspect of this technology. Others found reasons why it will not be successful. Interestingly, the banks themselves had neglected and later actively rejected the idea of sharing their books with other parties. It didn’t take long before they fully embraced the idea and started joining numerous consortiums like We.Trade and R3.
“We see in this magnificent creation the source of intellectual, moral and political advantage beyond measure and beyond price,” says The Quarterly Review, now taking the opposite view of the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830.
The first railways existed long before George Stephenson and were mainly used for freight purposes such as transporting coal from mines. When the steam engine unleashed the new power, the railway was already considered a bulky, incomplete or even dangerous “problem solution” because there was already a well-developed canal network. The steam locomotive had to establish its right to the future through the Rainhill Trials of 1829. It reminds me of the blockchain proponents’ struggle to convince VISA and SWIFT that their days are ending, or Andreas Antonopoulos winning common ground before the Canadian Senate.
“No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in an hour when they can ride their horse there in a day for free,” said King Wilhelm I of Prussia in 1864.
“High-speed railroad travel is not possible, because passengers who could not breathe would die of asphyxiation,” said Dionysius Lardner in The Steam Engine Intimately Explained and Illustrated, 1824.
Despite much skepticism, the railroads continued to improve as few risk-takers could foresee the enormous potential and risk their money and careers to build on the new technology. Suddenly, the railroads challenged time and space: people limited by the speed of horses on the territory could potentially be exposed to a much larger continent. Today, in the midst of the third industrial revolution, blockchain promises to counter the whole idea of value exchange and human nature by offering a brave new world. It’s inevitable. So what will happen next?
This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendation. Every investment and trading move involves risk and readers should do their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Katia Shabanova is the Founder of Forward PR Studio and brings over 20 years of experience implementing programs for IT companies ranging from Fortune 1000 companies and venture funds to pre-IPO startups. She holds a BA in English and German from Santa Clara University in California and a Masters in Philology from the University of Göttingen in Germany. She has been published in Benzinga, Investing, iTWire, Hackernoon, Macwelt, Embedded Computing Design, CRN, CIO, Security Magazine and others.
https://cointelegraph.com/news/crypto-like-railways-is-among-the-world-s-top-innovations-of-the-millennium Like railways, crypto is one of the world’s most important innovations of the millennium