Since subscribing to The Economist four weeks ago after many years’ hiatus I’ve found that its front cover headline has so far supplied me with a useful prompt for a blog-post, even before I break open the plastic covering and read what its unknown writer says about it inside.
The headline today is “The trust machine” and the sub-headline is “How the technology behind bitcoin could change the world”. Both the bitcoin and the technology itself are, in my view, nonsense. The bitcoin itself, created by the massive use of electricity in solving a maths problem in your and anybody’s computer is still a hobby coin of a small minority of enthusiasts despite years of propaganda. is still no more a currency than a Lego brick.
The blockchain or ledger system is designed — sensibly in principle — so that every bitcoin ever created keeps its unique identity forever. It means, however, that a huge and growing load of data has to be shared and processed by everybody who uses bitcoins. It means that, in due course, if bitcoins ever took off as a currency that every personal or business computer in the world will be working non-stop in keeping the ledger system alive and well. In short, it’s not scalable.