According to China News Weekly, Xiao Wei, Chief Blockchain Scientist at Baidu, China’s Internet search giant, announced this weekend at a conference that Baidu has developed a high-performance “super chain” blockchain and will soon be, “completing a blockchain transformation of its own business.”
The news follows reports last week that Chinese President Xi Jinping cited blockchain, (along with AI and IoT), as one of the foundational technologies of “the fourth industrial revolution.”
Baidu already claims to have created and launched a blockchain business service, a service for registering images on blockchain, a cloud mining service and a blockchain system for tracking changes to entries on Baidu Baike, China’s editable online encyclopedia. Reliable reports on how well all these services are working have yet to be confirmed.
Xiao claimed that the new Baidu super chain can interoperate with both Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains and can process 100,000 transactions “concurrently.”
Processing times, consensus economics, and interoperability are the holy grails of blockchain, and yet none of these problems have yet been convincingly solved in the West by the hemisphere’s blockchain technologists.
In fact, an increasing number of critical Western technologists have been stating publicly that blockchains are in fact ill-suited to any other application than decentralized value, like Bitcoin. “Don’t believe the hype,” they say: for enterprise purposes, blockchains -which are slow and expensive because they require all computers in the network to settle and agree on manifold copies of the ledger- are usually outdone by older, cheaper and more workaday systems of (encrypted) databases.
Perhaps Western blockchain development has fallen to “ICO-sickness,” whereby developers who have raised hundreds of millions with nary a prototype spend more time cruising in Lamborghinis than coding and thinking sensibly.
It is possible that Chinese and other companies claiming to have “blockchains” have in fact created distributed ledger systems with some features in common with Bitcoin, but if the systems built require central administration to function, as any government or corporate system would,there is no need to go to the (ongoing) expense of running a true blockchain.
A site called “Bilboard” reported June 4th that Chinese state TV on Sunday told Chinese citizens that the value of blockchain is “10 times more than…the Internet.”
The broadcast on China Central Television, by the way, reportedly featured Canadian “blockchain guru” Don Tapscott, whose son, co-author and business partner, Alex Tapscott, was caught last year lying about advisors to his blockchain IPO project.
After the revelations, several interested investors withdrew, and Alex Tapscott canceled the offering.
Russian spies have expressed an interest in dominating blockchain. The New York times reported that a Russian FSB agent told fellow delegates at a meeting of the International Standards Organization: “The Internet belongs to America- but blockchain will belong to us.” Other Russian officials have been more circumspect.
Nation-state blockchain, the New York Times suggested, may be about installing back doors that would render the immutability of data on that chain moot.
When Bitcoin came about and offered an alternative to legacy banking and remittance oligopolies, many sought to tame blockchain in service of the mainstream, thinking they had to do so to compete.
Many others, like Ethereum devs, attempted to multiply the innovation of Bitcoin and carry it to other sectors, hoping to use blockchain to empower individuals and break up stale power and systems.
But all of these experiments have been unable to meaningfully operate without leaders. And it really isn’t necessary that they do so.
They are not Bitcoin.
The Bitcoin blockchain was designed as a system with no master. Arguably, any system with a master is a database, not a blockchain.
Perhaps a blockchain-powered, decentralized “third phase” of the Internet is possible, whereby individuals and totally decentralized global networks and nodes moderate a complex virtual world accessed by thousands of different dedicated tokens where people ally themselves culturally with blockchains and cryptocurrencies rather than geographical jurisdictions.
But any truly decentralized system will be of no interest to power hungry governments.
For the record, as long as leaders are involved, these are corporate, not autonomous, systems.