RogerBW's Blog

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain, David Gerard 31 January 2018

2017 non-fiction. What is bitcoin, and why should any sensible person have absolutely nothing to do with it?

Disclaimer: I read this book in draft and made suggestions for changes; also David's a friend.

Like Neoreaction a Basilisk, which is its admitted inspiration, this book doesn't try to be even-handed. Just as Sandifer views neoreaction as a problematic thing that people should be prevented from falling for, Gerard feels the same way about blockchain/cryptocurrency hype and the vast and variegated ecosystem of scammers which has grown up round it.

It turns out that if you set up a parallel financial system without regulations, it'll attract crooks. Who could have guessed? More specifically, all those people who are already experts in running financial dodginess, making a profit and mostly staying out of prison, can immediately move into doing the same things with cryptocurrencies.

The book is resolutely non-technical, and deals first with how Bitcoin works, the ideology of the sort of people who think it's a good idea, why it doesn't work, some of its history, and where it is now. It then moves on to altcoins and smart contracts, then to the businesses claiming to offer "Blockchain" as part of their products, and in particular those doing this in the music industry.

For my taste the writing style is a bit informal, but my taste is not universal.

I suspect that most people reading this review will already have done the analysis and made up their minds about this subject, but it's definitely a book to give to confused relatives who have heard the recent hype (and the reason for that hype is laid out here: Bitfinex lost its ability to turn bitcoins into real money, and so all the people holding them had to find bigger suckers to buy them) and are thinking about throwing their money down a bottomless pit.

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