Saturday, January 15, 2022

Metaverse Blockchain Cryptocurrency Decentralization an outsiders opinion


The new year may be bringing some bit of sanity to the hype around blockchain, crypto, NFTs and decentralization. Over the past few weeks I have begun to see articles that actually pay attention to the limitations and concerns with the current state of the technologies.
What I am waiting to see are serious articles about key concepts claimed to be new but aren't, and have been dealt with realistically since the late 70's but seem to be ignored, or at least glossed over today.
There is a lot of maturity needed in the space as well as tamping down of the hype and definitions of terms such as Web 3.0 and what it "has" to be and "will include".

For the active and more knowledgeable who live these spaces a couple of statements from an outsider:

Metaverse - It doesn't exist, at least not as proclaimed in the media and articles. Virtual worlds have been around for decades, visit them, review them, look at the pros and cons, the technical hurdles. A single worldwide, standardized built on decentralized, anonymous free for all Metaverse won't exist in your lifetime. The technical, political, social, economical, logistical issues cannot be wished away. We will see corporate startups because they have the funds to invest, we will see the elite/rich pooling money creating little standalone Verses, then will come Verses that adhere to some agreed upon standards by committees created to manage these standards. Verses will connect and assets will be transferable, exchangeable, but a single worldwide agreed upon, efficient living Metaverse, maybe only in my youngest grandchilds lifetime.

Blockchain - Folks it isn't new, 1991 and it had nothing to do with virtual currency. It is a digital ledger that cannot be changed. Basically an unalterable list entry with a hash and a link to a digitized object with a matching hash. The use case was real, but technology limitations and costs would see most solutions going with databases and linked file systems.

Security - Any multi node solution, especially an anonymous decentralized environment has exponentially greater security issues which become impossible to foresee. With layering to help efficiency you introduce additional risks, additional trust points. This has been true since the beginning of computing and will continue to be true as complexity increases.

Cryptocurrencies - Money has always been heading toward virtualization. We have had it since I was a kid in bank to bank transactions. Any crytpo system will become obsolete rapidly. Any system that gains traction will gain large criminal elements if it is anonymous. As value grows and criminality grows so will governmental oversight. The idealist will say "we will avoid or ignore it", the pragmatic will say, "this is a fact of existence and we will have to work with governments", the rest will go rogue.

Decentralization - As defined today by the faithful it is the solution to all the problems that plague the world. This definition is a feel good misdirection that helps no one except the emotional elite in the space pretending to be the protector of the downtrodden. Stop with the zealotry and look at the real technical and logistical issues. Businesses have used centralized, distributed and decentralized solutions for 50 or more years. Folks your solution has to run on networks, hardware, software none of which are free. Anonymous users with PC's don't build nationwide or worldwide networks. Referring back to security. You can't rely on cryptography as your be all security. Decentralization is inefficient, costly in so many ways. There are use cases but don't force the use cases to fit an idealistic vision of what the future "has" to be.

NFT's - Folks you must admit publicly that an NFT is a row in a blockchain list that has some data and a hash. The actual object, physical, virtual, does not and cannot reside on the blockchain unless it is a tiny small (in bytes) item. Immediately this creates a large number of issues, security, trust, updating and long term management issues. Backup copies of the item must be maintained if it has any value. In the past 40+ years this has come to be known as Content Management systems. On paper it is easy, in real life it is difficult. In a fully decentralized environment the errors, issues, linkages, synchronization and protection becomes a nightmare. Take the time to study this 40 years of valuable history. You will run into the same concerns. A good place to start might be the digitization of healthcare data. Review studies, management, costs, how you locate objects and ensure secure tracking of the physical object. Do you want your healthcare data on thousands of encrypted anonymous servers all over the world???

We are in a time of rapid transition, many things are changing, people, technology, capabilities. If you love this space stop reading the hype articles, patting yourself on the back and saying "yeah". Push back on these articles, respond to the authors and demand real answers to real concerns. Grow beyond the speculators who have million/billions to invest and lose.

As I close this out I will repeat, I see some movement in the direction of sanity, but I believe it is because people are noticing the hacks, the thefts, the inefficiencies. Maybe these issues are required for growth. An infant doesn't become a toddler without some falling down pain.

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