Joi.ito.com | 02.22.16
D&S Advisor Joichi Ito writes about his concern surrounding the future sustainable development around blockchain technology, particularly as it relates to the community that has cultivated the talent and knowledge necessary to make it work:
Partially driven by the overinvestment in the space, and partially by the fact that Bitcoin is much more about money than the Internet ever was, it is experiencing a crisis that didn’t really have any parallels in the early days of the Internet. Nonetheless, the formation of the Internet offers some important lessons — most importantly, on the question of the talent and knowledge pool. In those early days, and at some layers maybe even still today, there were only a very small number of people who had the background, brain type and personality to understand some of the core elements that made the Internet work. I remember when there were only a handful of people in the world who really understood Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and we had to hunt them down and share them with our “competitors” when we were setting up PSINet in Japan.
It’s very similar today with Bitcoin and the Blockchain. There are a small number of people who understand cryptography, systems, networks and code and are capable of understanding the Bitcoin software code. Most of them are working on Bitcoin, while some are working on Ethereum and other “related” systems and a few more are scattered around the world in other places. It’s a community including some who have been around since the 90s, before the Web, going to crazy conferences like the Financial Cryptography conference. Like any free and open-source software community on the Internet, it’s a bunch of people who know each other and mostly, though not always, respect each other, but which fundamentally holds a near monopoly on talent.
Unfortunately, the wild growth of Bitcoin and now “the Blockchain” has caught this community off guard from a governance perspective, leaving the core developers of Bitcoin unable to interface effectively with the commercial interests whose businesses depend on scaling the technology. When asked “can you scale this?” They said, “we’ll do the best we can.” That wasn’t good enough for many, especially those who don’t understand the architecture or the nature of what is going on inside of Bitcoin.