Blockchain has loads of potential, says PwC report

By Jemima Kelly | FT Alphaville

Some people think there’s potentially a lot of potential in the blockchain.

But it can be hard to visualize potential, can’t it? Because it’s so vague, so amorphous, so indeterminate.

That’s why we need numbers. And charts. Because even if those numbers and charts are just potential numbers and charts with absolutely no connection to reality, they give us something that we can actually see with our own eyes.

So here is what blockchain’s potential looks like, fresh from PwC’s new “Economic impact of Blockchain” report:

Isn’t that a beautiful chart? So simple. So exponential.


As you can see there, PwC’s economists have decided that blockchain has the potential to boost global gross domestic product by $1.76tn over the next decade! Potentially accounting for 2.3 per cent of GDP in 2030! (The word “potential” is used 15 times in the report.) And if that feels too far away for you then no worries because it’s going to boost GDP by $66bn even in 2021!

PwC’s experts also expect “the majority of businesses to be using the technology in some form by 2025”. Which is quite surprising given that the blockchain has been around for more than ten years and it’s very difficult to find a single major company that has gone beyond the experimentation stage with it. But sure, give everyone four years and two-and-a-half months longer and why not!

The report was bulked out by some compelling quotes, like this from PwC’s “global Blockchain leader” Steve Davies:

Serious activity around blockchain is cutting through every industry across the globe right now. It’s driven by an acute need to win trust in the digital world.

We’re not sure about your industry, but we can confirm that serious activity around blockchain is certainly cutting through the media . . . never to be seen again. (Remember CivilYeah.)

Also we thought blockchain was the new internet but apparently it’s the new barcode! Barcode pioneer Brian Marcel, chairman of IBCS Group is quoted in the report thus:

There’s a competitive advantage to be gained in adopting blockchain technology early because it’s going to change the world like barcodes did in the 70s and 80s — creating even greater trust in all of your business transactions.

Actually wait — it’s also the new internet!! Guenther Dobrauz, a PwC global leader in financial services, tells us (emphasis ours):

Blockchain is going to become an infrastructure technology — like the internet. No one really cares how the internet works, but it has become integral to our daily lives. The same will be true of blockchain. We haven’t reached that tipping point yet because there are no dominant players. At some point soon, this will change.

Can’t argue with that.

Aside from the hype, there’s quite a lot in PwC’s report that strikes us as not quite correct. Like this:

The technology, as we’ll see in this report, creates digital records — such as certificates, public registers or agreements — which are stored, shared and amended online.

Blockchain does not create certificates or public registers or agreements. In the bitcoin version of blockchain, it does automatically generate a record of a transaction (literally a transfer of strings of 1s and 0s from one person to another). But it does not create a digital record aside from a string of 1s and 0s. That record has to be put into the blockchain, either manually or by some other means, but the blockchain in and of itself does not create the record.

And this one of our major issues with the tech. Because you know, GIGO. It’s no good having an immutable record of the provenance of your venti salted caramel mocha coffee frappuccino with extra cream if you can’t be sure that the supply chain of each of the 923 ingredients has been recorded accurately on the ledger in the first place.

PwC concludes:

As organisations look to reconfigure and embrace new technology, they should seize the opportunity to explore blockchain solutions.

It’s quite comforting really. The world might be turning upside down but at least we can count on blockchain hype to keep on filling up our inboxes unabatedly, unashamedly, uninvitedly. Thank you Satoshi.

Copyright 2020 @ Financial Times

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