Blockchain-based systems are not what they say they are

» — originally shared here on

One extremely common phenomenon when discussing issues surrounding blockchain-based technologies is that proponents will often switch between discussing the theoretical implementations of these ecosystems and discussing the ecosystems we have today as it suits their argument.

For example, if you bring up the question of whether the major centralized exchanges could each decide based on instructions from an oppressive government to freeze exchange of tokens belonging to a dissident, you’ll be told that that’s no problem in their theoretical world where a Bitcoin is a Bitcoin and if an exchange won’t accept yours, you can easily find an exchange that will.

But then if you bring up the question of how these ecosystems will handle someone who decides they want to make an NFT out of child sexual abuse material, they will usually point to solutions predicated on the enormously centralized nature of NFT marketplaces that we’ve ended up with in practice: delist the NFT from OpenSea or a handful of other exchanges so that the vast majority of people trading NFTs never see it, and maybe send a takedown request if there is a centralized service like AWS that is hosting the actual file.

I wanted to link to this article because I find it applicable on two levels.

First, if you take it at face value, there are a ton of great points (like the one I quoted above) which illustrate the often hypocritical problems associated with a blockchain-powered world.

But what’s more interesting to me is how many of these arguments can apply to any of our broader systems at large. Politics, capitalism, globalism, religion… the list could go on and on, and all entries on that list could be tried against the spirit of all the arguments in this post.

What I like about blockchain? It’s the next evolution of building a just and equitable system for all. It’s just funny to me how we can analyze that system in real time to point out the ancient flaws that were unintentionally baked into it.

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