I only have enough time to finish one of these articles. An article is for 5 to 8 minutes read.
Make your choice:
Tokenisation is the solution
A lot of uses of blockchains were discovered in the crypto boom of 2017. Supply-chain management, trade finance, provenance, identity…
A lot of ICOs has raised money in the same period. New tokens are on my newsfeed and inbox daily.
It’s not hard to observe that the two parallel universe — blockchain solutions and tokenisation — do not touch. Hyperledger, the leader in blockchain solutions, does not issue tokens. DAO, the token that 14% Ether was once used to purchase, doesn’t seem to provide a solution for any problems. We ended up with two separate camps: those who believe in blockchain solutions, and those who believe in tokens.
I call the first camp solutionists, the latter tokenists.
At first glance, the solutionists represented the prudent, pragmatic doers, while the tokenists represented the revolutionary, visionary dreamers. They don’t see each other eye to eye. However, they are the two parts of a single mutualism. As people lose hope of growing rich by holding tokens, solutionists also found that they have less audience, and even fewer businesses.
At the vantage point of 2019, it started to make sense: Token is the solution. What divided the solutionists and the tokenists was an unfortunate imaginary wall.
Elizabeth Warren wants to break down Amazon — then what?
Elizabeth Warren’s charged call for breaking down Amazon, Facebook and Google is based on the observation that they stifled competition. But would their destruction bring the competition back?
Let’s take a closer look at Amazon. What a free eBook market should look like?
- Any device vendor would be able to sell eReaders which can be used to freely access all eBooks. Readers are not bound by Kindle.
- Any publisher is able to contract any retailer to sell eBooks.
- Any retailer who has access to customers can sell them eBooks, without forwarding them to amazon.com.
- Any server hosting company can stream books (and videos) to readers for a reasonable fee.
Competition happens in all levels: device vendors, publishers, retailers, servers.
Will the destruction of Amazon make that dream come true?
No, it won’t. Sony has (in my opinion) the best eReader, Digital Paper. They will soon set up a Sony BookStore, modelled after Amazon, to retail books and stream books to Sony eReaders. Naturally, Alibaba will follow up the same way. Barnes & Noble, a big book retailer, will run a BookStore too, either white-label an eReader or partner with one of them. A user still needs to choose from which camp he gets their book, based on his preference combination of devices and publishers. The network effect will lead to one camp to rule them all, and here we go, another Amazon is recreated.
The fundamental issue here is Amazon is not a competitor in the market, it is also the steward of the market. It makes sure the chain of operations from the production to the retail, to the consumption of ebooks.
Finding the gap
When the world was struggling with the damage from the global financial crisis, I was in China, a country twice dodged such fiascos (the first was The Great Depression which had a negligible impact on China) and leisurely playing Runaway — A twist of fate. I was stuck in a crypt and there is no apparent opening end. The game was too young to have an online walkthrough.
Runaway — a 9∕10 adventure game, was an escape for me, to run away from the dense smog-infested Beijing. In the next a few days I can’t help thinking about a solution as I pondered in the 巴溝山水園 park next to my apartment, where folklore hero in 《探清水河》 committed suicide, where the park management diligently replenished the duck stock in the lake as the previous ones went dead or missing. It wasn’t until an online walkthrough went public, that I learned the solution. There is a crack on the crypt’s wall that leads to the rescue. To see it, you just need to view it from another angle.
The 2017–2018 crypto frenzy seems to have ended in a crypt, too.
Or is it? Is there another angle you can look, and see the light shining through the crack?
Since 2018, tokenisation became an infamous word. I would start a conversation with tokenisation and someone would say it’s tried and failed. The world doesn’t need that many tokens.
A smartphone is not smart
A smartphone is not smart.
If it is really smart, you should be able to ask “show me how much money do I have”, it should summarise your balance over the three banks you have an account with, minus the credit card debts, tell you the final result in a number.
If really smart, when you go to a layby counter to pick up an online order, your smartphone should give you the order ID without you rummage through your emails. It should be able to prove your identity in one go, as well, and not needing you to find your NSW Digital Driver Licence app to get your identity displayed.
Why can’t a smartphones do that? Why can’t it integrate all the services its apps can provide?
The problem isn’t specific to smartphone. In fact, the web works that way, too. Browser tabs equal to apps. The only place where the web is more or less integrated is your inbox, but even that is barely integrated. For example, for an email “a package is available for pick up”, you wouldn’t know if you already picked it up since an email can’t be updated.
To explain why the web is poorly integrated, we need to go back to the time when it was designed in 1989. At that time, the prevailing thinking is the “Computer-Human interaction” model, where a computer tries to have a conversation with a human. The web, which allows millions of computers to be networked, extended that model in a model I call “cocktail party conversation”: you can have a conversation with any computer in the party, and if they mention something that only another computer knows, you can walk to that computer and start a new conversation.
This is how the web was built. You can access a website. Everything on that website is from, er, that website, until you decide to follow a link to a different website. Like moving to another cocktail party guest, you walk to the new website and talk.
Today, Smartphones simply inherited the model. Mobile Apps equal to browser Tabs. But the web didn’t market itself being smart — it is marketed as being “connected”. With the same design, today’s “Smart Phone” is just as smart as the web. It should really be called “Well-Connected Phone” instead.
Is there a cure?
Yes, through tokenisation.
How to solve the integration problem
A. Let Google Assitant know everything about me
B. Using blockchain personal identity.
C. Integrate online services with blockchain token.
If you choose A, you are choosing a world where much of your life is either controlled by Google, or whoever controls Google. When there is a stronger hand, even Google must be evil enough to survive.
If you choose B, I might ask, why do we need blockchain? We just need cryptography. Estonian e-residency is a successful programme binding services with identity attestation - users don't need username or password to login to see their tax form or bank balance, everything is "integrated" through an identity card. It seems to be doing well without blockchain.
In the 2000s, the answer is much limited to A and B. Blockchain provides the answer C, through tokenisation.