“We drive into the future only using the rearview mirror”
Canadian sociologist Marshall McLuhan died in 1980. He reached the fame in the 1960s with paradoxical expressions like “Global Village” or “The medium is the message”. His theories regarded the huge effects of media in social interactions and in our everyday lives: McLuhan claimed that the most significant changes in our societies always follow the introduction of new media. Today, his work has not lost its fascination at all: it is a full range of systemic ideas that can be applied with no difficulties even to the financial sector, considering that McLuhan fully treated money as a “medium”. But what is a “medium” for good ol’ Marshall? A medium is a technology that extends our bodies and our faculties giving in order to cope with various environments.
So, a new technology is never a stroke of genius.
If a lamp turns on in somebody’s brain, chance has no role.
Innovation is a necessary, unconscious answer to an unsustainable social stimulus.
Today, the financial sector is being fully disrupted by the introduction of digital technologies. If simplest media once extended a single part of our body (the wheel extended the foot, clothing extended our skin), electric and digital media seems now to extend the whole of our nervous system.
Today, the Internet alone extends the complex connections of our brain to cope with a complex world in which our brain computing capability is no more sufficient.
McLuhan also affirms that every new medium contains the preceding media.
For example, while Print swallowed the spoken word, the Internet absorbed radio, cinema and TV.
Keeping this in mind, let’s face the new mantra about Blockchain becoming the new Internet.
Will Blockchain swallow the Internet?
First of all, let’s ask ourselves if Blockchain can be fully considered as a new medium.
Is it a technology extending one of our faculties or all of them?
As a “trust machine”, i.e. a technology that improves our capability to trust a counterparty, it definitely is. Moreover, if we think that the Blockchain appeared in 2009 after the explosion of the worst financial crisis ever, the idea gets reinforced. Blockchain is a medium as intended by McLuhan. Blockchain is the unconscious innovating technology born to try to solve the deep reasons of the financial crisis. Blockchain is the automated answer to the question: should I trust you?
But should we necessarily trust what our unconscious suggests?
Are we sure that the unconscious really indicates the right or the good way for our future?
McLuhan considered himself as an explorer, so he would probably answer this question just saying that before claiming that something is good or bad, we need to understand exactly what it is happening.
He would remember us that we are trained to understand reality only using our old, linear, logical way of thinking, while in the digital world “there is no sequence”, “everything happens at once”, like in acoustic experiences.
So, we need to explore ourselves trying to find the deep reason of everything.
Fintech sector seems to be today’s part of this adventure.
Because… “The future job will be to learn to live in the age of automation” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, last chapter, 1964).
(visions are my own)