Oil IT Journal reporting hits the Financial Times

The FT publishes Neil McNaughton’s ‘What blockchain owes to Kubrick’s masterpiece’ letter recapitulating his 2018 ‘Blockchain is bullshit’ editorial. No rebuttals from the blockchain brigade as yet. But a great endorsement from a world-renowned BS ‘slayer’.

Last December Oil IT Journal’s reporting was picked up by the Financial Times. In the December 16 2021 issue, star reporter Gillian Tett, wrote an article titled ‘Bankers quietly mold crypto innovations for their own use’ describing how ‘conservative corporate treasurers are being offered blockchain solutions to legacy problems’. Tett back-up her blockchain advocacy mentioning the BP podcast that we reported on in our ‘Blockchain consortium model isn’t working’ lead last year. I felt that Tett had not quite got the story right. Our BP piece was essentially about the supremacy of legacy supply chain technology over the new blockchain solutions. Tett was implying that blockchain was the way forward. We were reported that it wasn’t working!

So I wrote a letter to the FT which I am pleased to say they published (actually my 10th published letter to the FT in as many years). In fact I was so pleased with it that I ponied-up a small sum to have the right to re-distribute my own letter in a special FT-branded edition. You canread my contribution, which the FT letters editor elegantly titled, ‘ What blockchain owes to Kubrick’s masterpiece’. You are welcome to share the PDF file and I would love to hear your comments.

Even though I am beyond skeptical about the merits of blockchain, it trundles-on as a popular theme for supply chain ‘solutions’ and conferences. We continue to dutifully report on these activities (see elsewhere in this issue) but add a few words of warning and a pointer back to my 2018 ‘blockchain is bullshit’ editorial. We also shared this article with the blockchain protagonists asking for comments and perhaps a rebuttal. To date we have received none.

Revisiting my old blockchain is BS piece got me thinking. The thrust of my argument was that the blockchain, being merely a token on the computer, cannot be unambiguously tied to any real world object. What I did not realize at the time was that the world of blockchain was moving on along the same lines. If you can’t relate a blockchain record to a real thing, just rebrand a token as ‘nonfungible’ and sell it as an NFT. This means that there are now different communities trading in blockchain tokens. First there are the folks who believe they are buying and selling stuff (art works, steel pipe) that gets ‘certified’ by a blockchain record. This is delusional. Next there are folks who are buying and selling NFTs representing works of ‘art’ like internet memes that they don’t mind other folks copying. This is logical although fanciful. And then there is the rest of us who would not touch a blockchain token, an NFT or a bitcoin with a bargepole.

I think the whole blockchain thing represents the encroachment of fake news and junk science into the public consciousness. On this I am in good company. I had a quick email exchange with world-renowned ‘slayer of bullshit’ Vaclav Smil* to whom I sent my FT piece for appraisal. Smil came back with the following, ‘I have always thought that all and any e-stuff (blockchain, cryptocurrencies, metaverse etc.) are nothing but a mass-scale fraud perpetrated on ignorant masses . . . with much worse yet to come.’ Brace yourselves!

* Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Member of the Order of Canada. He has published over 40 books. We will be reviewing his latest, ‘How the world really works, A scientists guide to our past, present and future’ in a future issue of Oil IT Journal.

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