There’s no doubt of the disruptive capabilities of the blockchain. It’s changed our lives in more ways than one. With its advocates like blockchain educator Andreas Antonopoulos and the geeky Russian-Canadian Vitalik Buterin backing up the system’s efficacy on a daily basis from interviews and keynote speeches, the technological legacy left from Satoshi Nakamoto’s groundbreaking whitepaper, which birthed Bitcoin, seems to those against it a barrage against the status quo, a self-made battering ram prepared to break the ancient wall’s of the establishment, centralized economy and world order.
And it’s good.
The new should replace the old; the stronger the weaker. It is the natural order of things. The legacy left to us by Darwin.
If we don’t go forward, we can only stagnate or become back.
Blockchain has given us options. Options that are both exciting and scary at the same time.
Hubris is a bullet in the head for those who don’t heed the warning.
― George Armstrong Custer
It’s happened countless times in the past.
Who can forget Kodak?
Okay, so they are or were businesses, not technologies.
Want some examples of those, then?
The CD and the cassette.
Hubris got the better of them like it will get the better of the blockchain.
Innovate before you get left behind.
Antonopoulos and Buterin think blockchain’s lock-and-loaded, so pumped up on technological Rambo juice that it’s the only sheriff in town.
But there’s another, ‘the strong, silent type’ in the Gary Cooper mould, its cartridge loaded with qubits, qudits and Rydberg atoms, a well-defined laser of photons that is coming after the blockchain
So it better watch out!
All that was in jest, though, but it hides the reality of what is happening:
Blockchain advocates are so cocksure of the architecture’s infallibility that they forget how quantum computing (QC), still in its early stages of development, can undo all that has been built so far.
This has only been compounded by Google’s recent claim to achieving ‘Quantum Supremacy’.
In a recent article, published in The International Business Times, Dr. Xinxin Fan, an expert on security and privacy for the IoT, Cloud computing, blockchain and cryptography at IoTeX, discussed how the blockchain community needs to be educated on the developments made in QC.
With many in the blockchain community scoffing at the potential threats QC could hold for their industry doing the rounds, it is no surprise that experts are speaking out both for and against this attitude.
Fan mentioned three areas that blockchain advocates, business leaders and other professionals involved in the blockchain industry should watch out for, and they are:
The way the blockchain is governed, cryptographic agility and the standardization of quantum-resistant cryptography and all that implies.
In a recent interview, Buterin had this to say to Angie Lau of Forkast News:
‘It’s not true that quantum computers break all cryptography. They break some cryptographic algorithms. But for every cryptographic algorithm that quantum computers can break, we know that we have a replacement […] that quantum computers cannot break. We have an upgrade path and we know what the upgrade path is.’
Well shucks, a ‘replacement’ — it doesn’t sound too convincing, Vitalik.
Doesn’t replacement mean speculation? What is that replacement?
Antonopoulos was more clearcut in his estimation of the threat quantum computers could have for his dream boy, the delicious cookie jar he calls the blockchain:
‘Quantum supremacy, what Google described, is demonstrating the practical applicability of quantum computers to certain classes of problems. Those classes of problems are not the same classes of problems we’re talking about when we talk about breaking cryptography.’
With investment in the blockchain and cryptocurrencies set to climb, the stakes are high in this game. And when money is concerned, criticism is inevitable.
Whatever side experts, academics and those with a vested interest in both technologies have to say on the matter, one thing has been established:
A line has been drawn. A war set to begin. A tech brouhaha ignited. And in times of conflict, hubris is a defining factor in who wins and who loses.
Let George Armstrong Custer be a testament to that!
“There is no doubt that quantum computing is coming, and it will have major effects across the technology space. But those who believe that its simple existence is a death knell for blockchain fail to consider that the latter will grow and evolve alongside quantum computing. There is much that can be done to make blockchains more dynamic and robust — and if we do those things, we will not have to worry about quantum supremacy any time soon.”
— Dr. Xinxin Fan