Years since they first emerged and people began getting excited about them, blockchains are still largely unproven for any purpose other than cryptocurrencies.
There are plenty of uses being tested around the world, from land registries, to logs of online content, to ‘smart contracts,’ but none of them have really yet proven for sure that a distributed model works better than what was there before.
So, my eyebrows flew off the top of my face when I read that the US state of Nevada is to play host to blockchain’s biggest test yet.
A man has bought a big chunk of land where he will build a new town with thousands of homes and a distributed governance model operated on a blockchain.
“Mr. Berns said his ambition was not to be a real estate magnate or even to get rich — or richer. He is promising to give away all decision-making power for the project and 90 percent of any dividends it generates to a corporate structure that will be held by residents, employees and future investors. That structure, which he calls a “distributed collaborative entity,” is supposed to operate on a blockchain where everyone’s ownership rights and voting powers will be recorded in a digital wallet.”
There’s something very 'American frontier’ about the whole thing – a millionaire buying up unused land to build a new town based on a technology he believes in, even if it is nowhere near proven to be able to deliver results in this context.
And I’m left wondering what it would take to stage a coup in the town. Could clever hackers assume de facto mayorship? Can you steal someone’s house by obtaining their private key? If the whole thing proves a technical impossibility once it’s up and running, will it just turn into a normal town? Is the whole blockchain plan just a marketing front for an ambitious but otherwise normal real estate project?
I hope the project goes ahead, because whether it’s a huge success or it falls on its face, blockchains will at least get a chance to prove whether they’re the future of everything, or just overhyped databases.