“Blockchain-powered smart cities are more attainable than people imagine”, says this article. Cool. But so is …
global warming, and many other things, both good and bad. Any answer to a question like the title of that article, that is “Can an entire city run on the blockchain?” has very little value if it doesn’t come together with serious answers to “Would it be good to run an entire city on the blockchain?”
The best explanation of this concern of mine is this paragraph of that same article (emphasis mine):
[blockchain-powered cities] can incentivize citizens to make positive decisions. [as an hypothesis...]
Say you decide to take public transportation to work every day this coming week instead of driving. When the wallet registers [that, instead of driving], you've used public transportation all week, you get a discount on your energy bill for that month. Or maybe you're credited for one free bus ride.
Whatever it is, the incentive has to gently push people towards ethical, sustainable, and transparent ways of consuming and producing goods and services.
This could lead to more sustainable, habitable cities with fewer issues and inefficiencies.
This example doesn’t help me to like blockchain-powered cities, for several reasons. To begin with, I wonder if such a complexity is needed:
If the goal is to make car drivers use public transportation by leaving more money in their wallet at the end of the month, there may be simpler ways than applying the business model of the year. Turning most parking spaces into public gardens may achieve the same effect. Solutions like that would provide local jobs to people without the skills to become blockchain programmers. They would also avoid the unfairness of rewarding with energy bill discounts people already “rich” enough to use a private car daily. Maybe the really smart city is the one that is ran just like the really smart home, for the same reasons: with the SMALLEST, not greatest amount of “smart” devices that is possible. It would be different, for example, if we were evaluating local cryptocurrences as the payment system for privacy friendly driverless-cars er I mean “shared, on demand micro-trains.
But the real bad part, the one that is enough to give me the creeps, is “incentivize citizens to make positive decisions”. Please tell me how it is different, in long term unintended consequences, from the citizen ranking and blacklisting mechanism planned in China to rate how valuable each citizen is.
If certain stories about the chinese “social credit system” demonstrate how it could potentially be used to “push the government’s agenda and to crack down on dissent”, why shouldn’t you have the same concerns about “blockchain-powered cities”?