Leif Thoughts

Follow up: Blockchain for Real World Ownership

·3 mins

Wow, this blew up (as much as an article about blockchain can blow up). My last article made it to the front-page of Hacker News. I got over 10k views and a ton of feedback.

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Most of the feedback was positive, agreeing with me or confirming my argument from a different angle.

However there were a couple of arguments made against what I’m saying. I try my best to address them.

“You just need more tech” #

I admit the argument with ownership of the Mona Lisa was not the greatest one in the real world and I would even concede that if there was ever a global art ownership blockchain, high value art would probably be the least susceptible of being stolen on the blockchain.

However, using things like multi-signature or smart contracts or complicating the ownership transfer on the technical level usually makes it worse for everyone who wants to transfer ownership. And in addition to that it doesn’t really solve anything. Even if you have all of these elaborate mechanism to secure ownership it only mitigates the problem it doesn’t solve it. Unwanted transfer of ownership WILL happen.

If you define ownership purely through blockchain you will need a way to reverse illegitimate transaction on a central level. Your decentralization is gone the second you’ll allow that.

“It’s Only Supposed to Record Ownership” #

The argument was usually made in combination with the last argument: blockchain for real estate ownership. The main point here: the laws still decides who owns a house but the current process is inefficient and intransparent. Blockchain would improve that through just recording the ownership. Because somehow that’s more efficient.

This argument is just an example of convenient problem space of blockchain (something I addressed in my first article).

I though long and hard on how to counter that (“property ownership in the US is already public”, “who is allowed to write info to the blockchain?” and so on) but I decided to take an easy way out here and ask for proof.

If a blockchain based system truly has an advantage over an existing database system, where is the proof? How much money are they saving? How much quicker are court proceedings?

Or let me ask this another way: what exactly is the reason that the current system is so inefficient? Why exactly hasn’t that been solved and what specifically about blockchain would address that?

Conclusion #

I am insanely grateful for the large amount of positive feedback I received. I have not seen any convincing arguments that addresses the article, but then again I also posted it to a crowd that largely shares my belief (Hacker News is for the main part a blockchain sceptic community).

I hope I could address the few points that have raised against my article. For now I’m continue on other parts of blockchain universe but I’m happy to do another follow-up.

Attribution: Chart Line Diagram by OpenClipart-Vectors