我们都在夸区块链,那区块链做不到什么?

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我们都在夸区块链,那区块链做不到什么?

前言:哈佛商业评论(英文:Harvard Business Review;简称:HBR)是自1922年起,由哈佛商学院集结专家、教授,针对管理事务的研究而出版的专业杂志。HBR是一份专门提供予专业经理人及工商管理者参考的月刊,其主要读者群是产业领袖、学者、高阶管理者及管理顾问等。本文选自哈佛商业评论2018年6月刊。

 

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Blockchain technology has the potential to do amazing things. It can provide an immutable, digital audit trail of transactions, and can be used to cheaply verify the integrity of data. It can help businesses and individuals agree, on a global scale, about the true state of affairs within a market without relying on a costly intermediary.

区块链可以做到一些神奇的事情。它能提供一种无法篡改的电子记录,并可以承担帮助轻松,简捷的验证数据的准确性这一重担。它还能允许全球各地的个人和企业在无须第三方的前提下,验证在某一领域的事件的真实性。

This is achieved through a clever combination of economic incentives and cryptography, and ensures that at any point in time, digital records reflect the true “consensus” among the key stakeholders involved. When it comes to sharing digital records and assets, it can therefore replace the need for trust between players, or the need for a central authority to verify and maintain the records of transactions.

区块链通过给予激励和密码技术的巧妙结合实现了上述功能,并且能够保证在任何时候,其数据记录都反映了相关方面的真实“共识”。所以如果出现了需要贡献数据记录或资产的场景,区块链就可以在相关方之间提供信任,从而替代了能够验证和保管记录的“权威中心”。

 

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However, when assessing blockchain business models, it is useful to understand what blockchain can’t do.

然而,在评估区块链的商业模型时,我们也有必要知道区块链无法做到什么。

Think about the problem of tracking babies within a hospital ward and beyond. This is a very serious problem. The consequences of a baby being mistaken for another baby can be horrendous. Therefore, storing records that contain a baby’s current location in a way that makes these data points immutable and verifiable seems like a great use of blockchain technology.

我们假设,现在有一个婴儿在医院的看护之下。如果我们把这个婴儿和其他婴儿给搞混了,那后果就不堪设想,这个问题非常重要。所以,如果能够将包含婴儿目前所处位置的数据上传到区块链上,并且保证这些数据无法篡改,随时可验,那就是区块链能派上大用场的地方。

But there is a big problem with using blockchain to solve such a problem. The digital records may be immutable and verifiable, but how does someone know which digital record is attached to which baby? To link an entry on the blockchain to an actual, real-life baby, we need to give the baby a physical identifier through a physical tag, or in a more futuristic world, a small chip or digital genome record that links the baby to its digital record. And this is where blockchain falls down. It can’t help with this process, and can’t verify that perhaps the most important step of verification is happening correctly.

但是在这个场景下,区块链的使用面临一个重要问题。相关的数据记录也许可以无法篡改,随时可验,但谁知道某一数据对应的是哪个孩子呢?如果想要将虚拟世界中的区块链与一个现实时间中的孩童对上号,就必须发给每个孩子一个电子吊牌,并标识他的身份信息。或者在未来我们可以使用微型芯片或者数字染色体记录,把一个婴儿与他的链上记录对应上。而这就是区块链的局限性所在。它对这个过程无能为力,也无法确保“验证对应性”这个最为重要的步骤做对了。

 

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At the interface between the offline world and its digital representation, the usefulness of the technology still critically depends on trusted intermediaries to effectively bridge the “last mile” between a digital record and a physical individual, business, device, or event. In our example, the technology would have to rely on humans to correctly and honestly implement the match between baby and digital record. And if humans get that wrong or manipulate the data when it is entered, in a system where records are believed ex-post as having integrity, this can have serious negative consequences.

在类似这种,虚拟世界与现实世界的交界处,区块链的有效性极度依赖可信第三方,需要他们来打通数据记录与对应的人,企业,设备和事件相联系的“最后一公里”。在我们的举例中,需要有人类看护员来准确,诚实的把通过安装电子吊牌,把数据记录和婴儿联系在一起。而如果有人有意或无意犯错,在区块链这种所有上链数据默认为准确无误的场景下,就会发生大问题。

On the other hand, if the link between an individual and their medical record is successfully established and the last-mile problem is solved, then a blockchain can be used not only to ensure data integrity but also to give individuals control over how their medical data is used (for academic research, a fitness app, or commercial drug development, for example).

而另一方面,如果个人能有效打通最后一公里,并且成功拥有他的医疗记录数据,那么区块链不仅可以保证数据的准确无误,还能让这个人对他自己的数据有控制权(例如他可以决定是否开放数据给学术研究,某个健身APP,或者给商业药物研究机构。)

There are other parallel examples. Within marketing, one issue that often comes up is that a pair of eyeballs that an advertiser is paying for may not actually belong to the person they’re supposed to. The advertiser might think they’re paying to show an ad to a mid-thirties male in the market for a Lamborghini, but the ad might actually be shown to a minivan-driving academic who has no intention of buying another car for kids to wreck but who likes to dream. Or, even worse, the ad could be being viewed by a bot. Blockchain technology can track which digital identifiers are associated with the viewing of an ad, but it cannot help with verifying humanness or the honesty of a buyer’s intentions. Verifying who’s actually behind the digital identifier requires offline verification. Verifying the honesty of apparent buying intentions is perhaps beyond any technology we possess today.

其它领域也有类似例子。在市场营销领域,有一个经常出现的问题,那就是观看广告的个人人经常不属于广告方想要投放给的群体。兰博基尼的广告商期望自己的广告受众是个想要换兰博基尼的三十五岁男性,但观看广告的可能只是个开小面包车的学术人员,没有想要买辆车给孩子折腾的意愿,但却喜欢看着豪车广告做白日梦。或者更糟的是,观看广告的是个机器人。区块链可以追踪广告受众的电子账户中的数据,但没法确保观看广告的是人还是机器人,或者受众是否有真切的购买意愿。想要验证数据账户背后的实名身份,则必须在现实社会中验证。而想要判定一个人是否有真切的购买意愿可能已经超出了现代科技的能力范围。

 

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On the bright side, blockchain technology can be used to change the relationship between digital content creators, advertisers, and consumers. Advertisers can reward users for their attention by giving them access to exclusive online content they would otherwise have to pay for. Content creators can explore new monetization models that benefit from blockchain’s ability to cheaply and effectively settle transactions. While consumers hate micropayments because of the mental costs they involve — micropayments are like a hated “taxi meter” in consumers’ heads — this could reshape how paywalls and subscriptions work behind the scenes across different digital properties. Moreover, if we are not worried about verifying a pair of eyeballs’ humanness, but instead want to ensure ownership over digital records such as browsing data, then blockchain can work perfectly. One of the issues we face constantly in establishing the economics of privacy is the issue of property rights over data. And blockchain is perfectly positioned to define them.

事情的积极一面是,区块链可以使网络上的内容生产者,广告商和消费者之间的关系发生变革。广告商可以通过允许用户免费观看原本需要付费的内容的方式来回报用户。内容生产者可以借助区块链便捷,低成本的转账优势,来开发自己的变现模式。而鉴于用户讨厌小额支付所带来的心理成本——因为小额支付就像“出租车里程表”一样给用户以心理压力——区块链可以将原本的付费和订阅模式重新塑造。此外,如果我们不需要验证付费者是人是鬼,而是只想确保用户拥有他所产生的数据(例如浏览记录)的话,那么区块链能完美适应这个角色。在建立隐私经济的过程中,一个老生常谈的问题就是如何确定数据的所有权,现在区块链能精确地定义数据所有权了。

 

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As the ecosystem around blockchain technology develops, new types of intermediaries will emerge that turn the last-mile problem, of keeping digital records in sync with their offline counterparts, into actual business opportunities. While the technology is early stage, as these key complements mature, blockchain has the potential to fundamentally reshape ownership over digital data, and the digital platforms we use every day.

随着区块链的生态系统慢慢繁盛,会出现专门负责打通最后一公里的中间方,确保线上线下的数据完美同步,从而创造商业机会。虽然这项技术还处在早期阶段,随着这些关键技术的补全,区块链有可能为电子数据的所有权,及我们日常使用的网络平台带来新变革。

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