Book Review: Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Is Changing the World by Don and Alex Tapscott

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Short Review

This book covers technical aspects of Blockchain very well, but it was not intended to teach core Blockchain. Although some sections could be ordered for more clarity, the book explains all key aspects very well. Furthermore, the book takes excerpts from many prominent people in the Blockchain community. You can read this as “Who is who in Blockchain?”. The authors have a structured and systematic approach in explaining where Blockchain can be used to disrupt which industries in which ways. If you want to learn how Blockchain can be used, this is your book. The only shortcoming is that sections do not have data analysis (i.e., Bitcoin transactions statistics, block data analysis etc) to corroborate the text.

This book by two authors (father and son) provides some of the best technical passages written on Blockchain. The book contains excerpts from dozens of coders, managers, researchers, journalists and philosophers. The excerpts add interesting perspectives to the discussed topics.

Although it was not written by blockchain developers, the book is quite adequate in explaining key concepts. For example, it contains the best explanation of the double spending problem (page 30). Concepts such as forking and P2P network are largely ignored in other Blockchain books, but not in this one. I especially appreciated the part where the transition from Bitcoin P2SH addresses to Ethereum Smart Contracts is explained.

Overall, by reading this book you would learn how the core technology works very well. However, the book needs a bit of reordering in sections. For example, a core part of Blockchains, Proof-of-Work is detailed in page 241, after the book spends quite a bit of space to explain why having a trust-less system is helpful.

A last note: A negative that threw me off quite often was the cheesy sentences that add nothing to the discussion. An example: after talking about how the music industry could benefit from blockchains, this sentence closes the paragraph: “if anyone doubts Heap’s ability to rally a community around new technology, think again” [p228]. I thought again, and do not agree with the authors.

Section 10 is the best section of this book.

Here are some sentences from the book, food for thought:

Quotes from the book:

Page 33 Your lawnmower or dishwater is going to come with a CPU that is probably a thousand times more powerful than it actually needs, and so why not have it mine?

Page 43 There are no honeypots of personal data on the blockchain.

Page 48 (Cuneyt: This is the first time transaction forwarding by using other technologies is mentioned in any of the books I have read on Blockchain): People could shut down the Internet and I could still transmit that transaction over shortwave radio with Morse code. A government agency could try to censor my communication, and I could still transmit that transaction as a series of smiley emoticons over Skype. As long as someone on the other end could decode the transaction and record it in the blockchain, I could affect the smart contract.

Page 65 Bear in mind that financial services infrastructures have not evolved in decades. The front end has evolved but not the back end, says masters. it has been an arms race in technology investment oriented toward speeding up transaction execution so that, nowadays, competitive advantages are measured in fractions of nanoseconds. The irony is that the posttrade infrastructure hasn’t really evolved at all. It still takes days and in some cases weeks of delays to do the posttrade processing that goes into actually settling financial transactions and keeping record of them.

Page 107 Yohai Benkler: What is exciting to me about the Blockchain technology is that it can enable people to function together with the persistence and stability of an organization, but without the hierarchy.

Page 121 As smart contracts grow in complexity and inter-operate with other contracts, they can contribute to what we call open networked enterprises (ONEs). If we combine ONEs with autonomous agents – software that makes decisions and acts on them without human intervention –we get what we’re calling a distributed autonomous enterprise that requires little or no traditional management or hierarchy to generate customer value and owner wealth.

Page 155 Why do we believe the IoT enabled by the blockchain has such huge potential? The primary driver is that it allows animation of the physical world. Once we bring these objects to life on the ledger, they can sense respond, communicate, and take action. (Cuneyt: The Truth Machine book termed this “giving IoT devices arms and legs”.)

Page 185 In fact, according to Skype, video calling consumes 500 kilobits per second. Sending one bitcoin takes about 500 bits, or roughly one one-thousandth the data consumption of one second of video Skype!

Page 260 Eric Jennings on Proof-of-Work electricity cost: The cost for having no central authority is the cost of that energy.

Page 296 The risk of regulating Blockchain technologies prematurely - before firmly grasping the implications - can have profound consequences. During Victorian era England, the so-called self-driving locomotives (i.e., automobiles) were mandated by law to be accompanied by a man walking in front waving a red flag to alert bystanders and horses of the coming arrival of this strange contraption.