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In case you havent heard, blockchain is all the rage lately on Wall Street, whereas bitcoin,

the digital currency that blockchain came along with in 2009, is suddenly very uncool.

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Blockchain, by the way, is the decentralized, peer-to-peer, open-source, distributed ledger


technology that underlies bitcoin. (Check out our video explainer on blockchain.) The bitcoin
blockchain is just one use case of the technology; lately the idea of utilizing the same
technology, apart from cryptocurrency, has become popular. As Bloombergs Matt Levine
wrote earlier this month, If you are any sort of self-respecting financial or finance-adjacent
professional these days, you had better be inserting the word blockchain into random
sentences to prove that you're up to speed.
Indeed, banks and financial services have certainly hopped aboard the blockchain train. But
behind public press releases about initiatives and blockchain experimentation, executives at
these companies differ greatly in their thinking on the technology and their faith in it.
Father-and-son team Don and Alex Tapscott, both business strategy consultants, have a
new book out today called Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is
Changing Money, Business and the World. A more apt title might hedge that the technology
could change the world, but the book makes a convincing case for why blockchains might
revolutionize the financial sector. (And and many other sectors, but for now, the excitement
is starting with finance.) For their research, the Tapscotts spoke to numerous people in
banking.

Alex Tapscott says people in banking fall into four categories right now in their attitudes
about blockchain. Its worth including here his full explanation, as told to Yahoo Finance:

There are still a few who are generally afraid of this or dont fully buy into it, but are trying to
learn more. Thats increasingly a minority. More people these days fall into a second
category, which is they see this as an opportunity to reduce cost in their existing business.
Thats interesting. But for us, the bigger opportunity, and I think increasingly more financial
services firms fit into this, is to say, How can we use this new technology platform to
fundamentally reinvent our business? If billions of people in the world dont have access to
financial services, maybe we can be the ones to harness this new technology to offer them
the same services we offer our existing clients. Now, theres a fourth category of course: if
youre a bank that thinks this is all nonsense, I would highly recommend you at least
upgrade to fearful. Because this change is happening.
Well, blockchain believers may say the change is happening. And there are signs that is the
case. To cite just two examples: More than 45 banks have signed on to blockchain
consortium R3 CEV, including Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan (JPM), and Bank of
America (BAC), to test out blockchain tech for their transaction-settling processes;
and blockchain startup Chain recently announced it had completed a blockchain-for-banking
product and revealed Citi (C), Visa (V), and other heavy-hitters as launch partners.
But bitcoin believers (and yes, there are still many) say that the concept of closed,
permissioned blockchains, without digital currency, doesnt make much sense. At most,
bitcoin executives say, it can improve back-office I.T. functions of banks, which is a rather
unsexy proposition for a technology that can do much more. Some are hopeful that
blockchains can eventually deliver a decentralized form of all kinds of technology platforms,
including, say, Uber. Its the disruptors themselves that stand to be disrupted, Alex Tapscott
says, describing the possibility of a "super Uber" that cuts out the middleman operator.

As Don Tapscott explains, banks should be thinking bigger than they are. They ought to be
aiming to revamp their systems entirely, rather than simply to improve efficiencies and
reduce costs. The blockchain is the biggest innovation in computer science in a generation,
we think," he says. "And what it represents is the Internet of value. Weve had the Internet of
information for several decades. But when it comes to exchanging valuenot just money,
but music or loyalty points or stocks or bondsyou cant do that in a peer-to-peer way
without a powerful intermediary. This has resulted in a situation where powerful
intermediaries are capturing all the value of the digital age."

That phrase, the "Internet of value," or something very close to it, has been used before to
describe bitcoin and the blockchain. In fact, its the subject of an ongoing dispute between a
prominent cloud money startup and an equally prominent figurehead within the bitcoin
community. The latter, Andreas Antonopoulos, argues that Internet of Money is the best
phrase to describe the promise of bitcoin, and that no one company ought to be using it as a
corporate slogan.

Balaji Srinivasan, a partner at mega-influential VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and the CEO
of bitcoin software company 21.co, has a similar idea for bitcoin, and is skeptical of the
blockchain minus bitcoin fad. His vision: To create a machine economy in which
computers can pay each other seamlessly in bitcoin.
As the Tapscotts do make clear in their book, we are still in the early days of this space. It is
so early, in fact, that much of the mainstream media only covers this industry when there are
salacious new reports of who might be the real Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin.
They are missing what is really going on here, but they still have ample time. In the
simultaneous races to innovate in both bitcoin and blockchain, there is not yet any clear
victor.
The Blockchain Revolution is available now. Watch the above video for a more in-depth
discussion about the book with its authors.
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