Digital Transformation

Why blockchain tech is both real and hype

Forget cryptocurrency, says Chris Mohney, and instead focus on how blockchain can solve real problems in healthcare, media, and the enterprise.

TechRepublic's Dan Patterson wants to know if the blockchain hype is real, so he asks an expert, Chris Mohney. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Dan Patterson: The other word we hear repeatedly, especially in media, is blockchain. There are technology uses for blockchain, there are medical uses, cloud uses, all kinds of IoT uses. For the media industry, the blockchain could solve some interesting problems, particularly with verification of content. How do you feel about emerging technologies like blockchain? Is this hype and hyperbole, or there is a reality somewhere between the PR pitches and the tech?

Chris Mohney: It's both. I was interested in blockchains, for example, as it started to kind of gain some attention. I was less interested, and now I'm almost completely disinterested in the cryptocurrency part of it, though there are ways to make that mechanism interesting, as part of the broader kind of blockchain idea of decentralized networks.

But there definitely is a ridiculous amount of hype about those things. Anything to do with money is, of course, going to attract all kinds of charlatans and snake oil. Just in the case of like the work I've been doing recently, there have been some very interesting companies working on things that involve the blockchain, to try to address problems that exist, as opposed to creating a problem and then inventing a solution to solve the problem you just invented.

For example, civil media, which you may have heard, is using both the cryptocurrency angle... or really the token, as I prefer to call it, to avoid it looking like an investment. To sort of use the blockchain to create these independent, decentralized newsrooms, which are governed by a constitution — which is a blockchain contract — that is sort of a governance mechanism. Which, is it strictly necessary to use something like the blockchain for that sort of arrangement? Probably not, but it helps it to operate a lot smoother, in principle anyway. We'll see as they mature.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the blockchain (Tech Pro Research)

But there are other companies doing similar smaller things with it. And the technology has a lot of promise beyond the hype and ridiculousness of it. I would not, just like with anything... I'd be a little bit cynical about something that is attracting this much attention, especially when so much of it is ill informed. I'm not a developer, so I definitely would not be able to explain it to someone who was more technically inclined, but the prospects of what I've seen with that, and with artificial intelligence, even other things, there's real applications there. You just have to sort of set aside those things clearly meant to be vehicles for someone's ambition. It could be anything. If it wasn't this, 10 years ago, it'd be apps, it'd be something else.

Some of those may be valid too, but they're valid for different reasons. And they're only valid because somebody's able to sort of force their will upon the market.

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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