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It’s not exactly breaking news to hear that big name companies are interested in using blockchain technology. Or that these same companies are fast to lock down patents for their own implementations of this new technology.
Bank of America is leading the pack with the number of patents they’ve filed for and accumulated, but they’re certainly not alone: Xerox, American Express, MasterCard, IBM, Nokia, Walmart and Alibaba are in the race to patent the crap out of their version of a blockchain.
As one Marvel super hero’s uncle once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
In this case, I’ll be referring to the permanence that a blockchain can provide and solidify in regards to transparency of transactions. We’ve already seen this power wielded for the good by way of Bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies.
But this power can also be abused.
In the instance of communications giant, AT&T, a blockchain can be used to lock in very personal data so that they might be able to study the long term trends of individuals across multiple social media platforms. Right, so my initial, knee-jerk reaction to this is “Wow, that is invasive and scary.” Second thought, “Wow, they found a way to make even more money from peoples personal interactions online.”
I can’t wait to see how they spin this so that the sheeple will think it’s for their benefit.
Next let’s take a look at the other aspect to this scenario of big centralized companies taking something like blockchain technology and slapping patents on their bright ideas of using it for their gain.
Keep in mind the spirit in which this technology was created. I hope that concepts like collaboration, information sharing, and open source come to mind. Let’s be clear that patents are the antithesis of the movement that brought us this technology in the first place.
I’ll be gracious here and go a bit “soft” and forget this fact about the beginnings of Bitcoin and blockchain technology and the fact that these companies adoption of blockchain tech is laughable for those who have strong opinions on these things.
So never mind all of that, because all of these companies are so fast to slap patents on their blockchain “bright ideas” they will completely miss out on the beauty of sharing their ideas, exploring other options, see what works and what doesn’t and having the ability to apply different ideas to their framework, we should feel bad for them.
They will be left in the dust.
So happy to cling to their old ways of control while others will inevitably spring up and emulate the words of
Bruce Lee, “…Become like water my friend.” These open source projects and platforms will have the ability to pivot, to absorb, to contribute to the bigger ecosystem of open source projects. They will be the ones to help build a more robust, creative, and innovative future. These outdated giants seem to be happy to cling to their beloved patents, which unfortunately for them, will only anchor them in one spot, not move them forward.
I introduced this all with a comment about power and responsibility. Blockchain technology is great but I believe its use with cryptocurrencies in particular is what will prove to be most empowering and freeing for those who seek it. So much can be realized if we pay attention to how this technology is used. Intentions and follow through are the indicators to which you should pay sharp attention; particularly the follow through. Actions speak louder than words and when it comes to how blockchains are used, those actions become immutable.