Blockchain Beyond The Hype

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An article on the limitations of blockchain by MIT’s Professors Catherine Tucker and Christian Catalini recently appeared on the Harvard Business Review.

While some readers argue the article “is all over the place”, authors try for the first time to shed light on some issues concerning business models based on blockchain. For example, they mention:

1. The “Last Mile Problem”

Think about the problem of tracking babies within a hospital ward and beyond. The effects of a baby being mistaken for another baby can be horrendous. Therefore, storing records that contain a baby’s current location in a way that makes these data points immutable and verifiable seems like a great use of blockchain technology. But there is a big problem with using blockchain to solve such a problem. The digital records may be immutable and verifiable, but how does someone know which digital record is attached to which baby? To link an entry on the blockchain to an actual, real-life baby, we would need to give the baby a physical identifier through a physical tag, or in a more futuristic world, a small chip or digital genome record that links the baby to its digital record. And this is where blockchain falls down. It can’t help with this process, and can’t ensure that perhaps the most important step of verification is happening correctly.

2. “Humanness”

Blockchain technology can track which digital identifiers are associated with the viewing of an ad but it cannot help with verifying humanness or the honesty of a buyer’s intentions. Verifying who’s actually behind the digital identifier requires offline verification. Verifying the honesty of apparent buying intentions is perhaps beyond any technology we possess today.

However, in doing so, authors also claim that blockchain is just a 10-year-old technology and like every other technology in a similar stage can be improved by fixing such problems.

Read the full article on the Harvard Business Review here.