Big Ocean Cargo Carriers Join Blockchain Initiative

The addition of France’s CMA CGM SA and Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company to the effort called TradeLens means the three carriers that control nearly half of all seaborne containerized cargo capacity will make the movement of freight in international supply chains more transparent and potentially generate substantial annual savings.

.. For ocean carriers, the blockchain technology allows trusted participants to share information as goods move through supply chains. The system also promises to reduce the cost of paperwork. Maersk said the maximum cost of the required documentation to process and administer many of the goods shipped each year makes up roughly one-fifth of the actual physical transportation costs.

Widespread participation across the supply chain is key to making TradeLens work, however. Many companies, including transportation operators and freight forwarders that manage the flow of goods, have been reluctant to share data on common platforms.

.. “The fact that CMA CGM is now on two platforms means blockchain solutions in shipping won’t be a winner-take-all, but there may be room for a couple of competing platforms,” said Lars Jenes, chief executive, Copenhagen-based SeaIntelligence Consulting.

.. The blockchain pact comes as Maersk and IBM are trying to reinvent themselves.

IBM has been looking to new lines of business including blockchain as sales in its legacy business of selling hardware and software slow. Maersk has been trying to transform expand its business from port-to-port shipping into more of an integrated logistics provider likeFedEx Corp.

The Big Blockchain Lie

Now that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have plummeted from last year’s absurdly high valuations, the techno-utopian mystique of so-called distributed-ledger technologies should be next. The promise to cure the world’s ills through “decentralization” was just a ruse to separate retail investors from their hard-earned real money.

.. Faced with the public spectacle of a market bloodbath, boosters have fled to the last refuge of the crypto scoundrel: a defense of “blockchain,” the distributed-ledger software underpinning all cryptocurrencies. Blockchain has been heralded as a potential panacea for everything from poverty and famine to cancer. In fact, it is the most overhyped – and least useful – technology in human history.

In practice, blockchain is nothing more than a glorified spreadsheet. But it has also become the byword for a libertarian ideology that treats all governments, central banks, traditional financial institutions, and real-world currencies as evil concentrations of power that must be destroyed. Blockchain fundamentalists’ ideal world is one in which all economic activity and human interactions are subject to anarchist or libertarian decentralization. They would like the entirety of social and political life to end up on public ledgers that are supposedly “permissionless” (accessible to everyone) and “trustless” (not reliant on a credible intermediary such as a bank).

.. Yet far from ushering in a utopia, blockchain has given rise to a familiar form of economic hell. A few self-serving white men (there are hardly any women or minorities in the blockchain universe) pretending to be messiahs for the world’s impoverished, marginalized, and unbanked masses claim to have created billions of dollars of wealth out of nothing. But one need only consider the massive centralization of power among cryptocurrency “miners,” exchanges, developers, and wealth holders to see that blockchain is not about decentralization and democracy; it is about greed.

For example, a small group of companies – mostly located in such bastions of democracy as Russia, Georgia, and China – control between two-thirds and three-quarters of all crypto-mining activity, and all routinely jack up transaction costs to increase their fat profit margins. Apparently, blockchain fanatics would have us put our faith in an anonymous cartel subject to no rule of law, rather than trust central banks and regulated financial intermediaries.

A similar pattern has emerged in cryptocurrency trading. Fully 99% of all transactions occur on centralized exchanges that are hacked on a regular basis. And, unlike with real money, once your crypto wealth is hacked, it is gone forever.

.. Moreover, the centralization of crypto development – for example, fundamentalists have named Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin a “benevolent dictator for life” – already has given lie to the claim that “code is law,” as if the software underpinning blockchain applications is immutable. The truth is that the developers have absolute power to act as judge and jury. When something goes wrong in one of their buggy “smart” pseudo-contracts and massive hacking occurs, they simply change the code and “fork” a failing coin into another one by arbitrary fiat, revealing the entire “trustless” enterprise to have been untrustworthy from the start.

.. Lastly, wealth in the crypto universe is even more concentrated than it is in North Korea. Whereas a Gini coefficient of 1.0 means that a single person controls 100% of a country’s income/wealth, North Korea scores 0.86, the rather unequal United States scores 0.41, and Bitcoin scores an astonishing 0.88.

As should be clear, the claim of “decentralization” is a myth propagated by the pseudo-billionaires who control this pseudo-industry. Now that the retail investors who were suckered into the crypto market have all lost their shirts, the snake-oil salesmen who remain are sitting on piles of fake wealth that will immediately disappear if they try to liquidate their “assets.”

.. Moreover, in cases where distributed-ledger technologies – so-called enterprise DLT – are actually being used, they have nothing to do with blockchain. They are private, centralized, and recorded on just a few controlled ledgers. They require permission for access, which is granted to qualified individuals. And, perhaps most important, they are based on trusted authorities that have established their credibility over time. All of which is to say, these are “blockchains” in name only.

Is Quantum Computing an Existential Threat to Blockchain Technology?

although there are but a handful of quantum computing algorithms, one of the most famous ones, Shor’s algorithm, allows for the quick factoring of large primes. Therefore, a working quantum computer could, in theory, break today’s public key cryptography.

.. The NSA announced in 2015 that it was moving to implement quantum-resistant cryptographic systems. Cryptographers are working on quantum-resistant cryptography, and there are already blockchain projects implementing quantum-resistant cryptography. The Quantum Resistant Ledger team, for example, is working on building such a blockchain right now.

What makes quantum-resistant or “post-quantum” cryptography, quantum resistant? When private keys are generated from public keys in ways that are much more mathematically complex than traditional prime factorization.

How Blockchain Can End Poverty

Two-thirds of the world’s population lacks access to a formal system of property rights.

The great economic divide in the world today is between the 2.5 billion people who can register property rights and the five billion who are impoverished, in part because they can’t. Consider what happens without a formal system of property rights: Values are reduced for privately owned assets; wages are devalued for workers using these assets; owners are denied the ability to use their assets as collateral to obtain credit or as a credential to claim public services; and society loses the benefits that accrue when assets are employed for their highest and best purpose.

.. two-thirds of the world’s population lacks access to a formal system of property rights, resulting in undeveloped resources and assets worth an estimated $170 trillion, or 63% of the value of the assets of the U.S.

.. Hernando de Soto—discovered that even in the most primitive societies records exist on who owns what. Based on this discovery, ILD undertook an organized effort in Peru to begin to assimilate and formalize these records to establish a registry of property ownership.

.. We first collaborated in 1990 when Peru sought American assistance to replace the gun with the rule of law by officially recognizing that the indigenous Peruvians’ primitive property records were legal proof of ownership.

.. Blockchain is an especially promising technology because of its record-keeping capacity, its ability to provide access to millions of users, and the fact that it can be constantly updated as property ownership changes hands.

If Blockchain technology can empower public and private efforts to register property rights on a single computer platform, we can share the blessings of private-property registration with the whole world. Instead of destroying private property to promote a Marxist equality in poverty, perhaps we can bring property rights to all mankind. Where property rights are ensured, so are the prosperity, freedom and ownership of wealth that brings real stability and peace.