Blockchain is going to save us from the evils of big banking, save our politics, and get rid of bad managers, once and for all. It is literally the cure for anything and everything that ails us, including erectile dysfunction and the common cold. Unlike fire, the written word, gunpowder, the wheel, modern monetary systems, political parties, nuclear energy, television, the internet, Facebook, and Twitter, blockchain will be unique among all the other things human beings have invented and will be impervious to corruption, greed, and the lust for power.

It is the ultimate technology. It will be the technology that saves us from the messy problems of being human.

At least that's what so many articles written over the past year would have us believe.

Of course, many of us can remember when 3-D printing was going to cure homelessness, social media was going to make us more social, and the internet was going to strengthen democracy.

I'm not saying blockchain isn't revolutionary. However, we tend to believe that the answers to the difficult problems of existing and coexisting as human beings will be solved by technology, and that whatever the technology of the moment is (and presently it appears to be blockchain) will be resistant to our worst tendencies.

Then we get our hands on that particular piece of technology and use it to find porn, scream at each other, or redistribute wealth continually upward--and then we move on to our next code-powered savior. And when we collectively move on, the people who create a lot of the content touting this technology never take a moment to reflect on our collective obsession with technology and whether any of it is actually making human beings happier, healthier, smarter, or better off.

Thankfully, there is one piece of popular media that is contemplating those questions. The Netflix series Black Mirror just released its fourth season of episodes. While often very dark, the smartest show on television (and the best sci-fi series since the original The Twilight Zone) continually asks questions we should all be asking, questions like:

  • Just because we can do it, should we?
  • What are the costs of constantly staring at a screen?
  • Are likes on social media really that important?
  • Could a crude cartoon really get elected leader of a country just because he says whatever is on his mind, and if so, what would be the consequences?

Questioning whether all this technology is a good thing is not being a Luddite. It's exercising our humanity. The tools we create work for us, not the other way around. Arguing that we would be better off being managed by an algorithm rather than a human being seems to disregard the lack of humanity that defines truly horrible bosses. Believing that blockchain will be impervious to greed ignores the fact that anything created by a human can be manipulated by a human--especially if there is a financial incentive.

You may not agree with this article, but if you feel like you're drowning in a sea of "tech will save us!" content while the already tech-heavy world around you seems to be getting a little meaner, harsher, and more polarized, you can take a small measure of comfort knowing that there are people out there who see the world the same way.

And some of them write for Black Mirror.

Published on: Jan 2, 2018