by Marcie D Terman
16 February 2016
Cross border payment processor Earthport is the latest established company to throw its weight behind the adoption of blockchain technology for banks and other orthodox financial service providers. The company is driving this with the message, “you do not have to endure the risk of working with a start-up to benefit from blockchain tech.” Earthport, a mature company, is adding a range of blockchain based services to the existing menu of what they offer their banking and corporate customers.
Over the last six months the campaign to highlight the advantages of blockchain and private networks backed by banks and governments over bitcoin is having a greater degree of success. Internal dissension among the core developer group coupled with continuous light pressure from bodies like the European Parliament and successful PR campaigns like the R3 banking consortium all work towards slowing the adoption of public blockchains and its leading example bitcoin. The latest effort to move the public’s attention away from bitcoin is evidenced by the recent renaming of blockchain tech as DLT, Distributed Ledger Technology.
The accountability and economies that internally managed blockchains will impose on financial institutions is certainly a positive step. For example, if mortgages had been maintained on private blockchains prior to 2000, the issues at the core of the Credit Default swap Crises of 2008 would probably not have been possible. This is because it would have been impossible to hide the credit worthiness and payment history of high risk mortgages which caused the mis-pricing of Mortgage Backed Securities sold to financial institutions worldwide.
But does the value to be derived from private blockchains make it acceptable to ignore the value of public blockchains like bitcoins? That is certainly what banks and governments hope will be accepted by the public at large. To drive home the message that bitcoins are dangerous we are continually reminded that woven into their history are tales of the Silk Road, Mt. GoX and the loss of significant wealth through misplaced private keys and hard drives. All new technology at its beginnings are difficult to use, unfamiliar and therefore unpopular with the mainstream. If pressed, it’s not hard to remember that 20 years ago there was no Amazon or Google and many thought the internet was the primary communications tool of pornographers and felons. And anyone old enough will remember the arcana you needed to master to set-up Internet software and modems?
There will be mistakes. But true innovation comes from young companies. Though it is to be noted that on many occasions young companies are piloted by seasoned professionals discontent with the status quo. It can reasonably argued that there is considerably more risk limiting the custodianship of blockchain tech to established companies, with behaviour that in many cases is not the most trustworthy or laudable. However much energy is applied towards slowing the adoption of bitcoins and other public blockchains, and it cannot be stated with certainty that we know what form digital currency will take, Pandora’s box is well and truly open, the paradigm shift is in progress and the ultimate result will be accountability in all of blockchan’s uses.
What do you think?