Wednesday, May 22, 2024

McHugh David: Blockchain could solve a lot of controversy – but do we want it?

by BIZ Magazine

There is a beauty and curse to the Internet. As things occur and we watch, listen, or read them many are also bombarded with both that information or event, and more information regarding it, in real time. Consistently, information is being funneled out at a steady flow from many different media and platforms.

The near stream-of-conscious delivery makes true absorption and understanding almost impossible, so many consumers look for media to explain the gist of whatever piece of information is delivered utilizing analysis, fact-checkers, independent specialists, and their own opinion to do so. It seems many outlets have their own ‘personal mixture’ on a subject which draws a specific audience, fracturing many people in-and-around subjects that are, in some cases, opinion-based or belief-based but in others, financially backed and based in numbers.

But with so much information being delivered in real time, it’s difficult to sort through it all in both an efficient manner, but also thoroughly and without pause. Combined with the partisan stances of most of the electorate in the United States, the door was wide open for such a landscape.

There is an option, however, that would put much of this to rest and give consumers of information as many facts as they could possibly handle, all in real time. Blockchain technology was originally designed for the financial sector – a means by which to track the movement of money, in real time. The tech came with the rise of crypto-currency, especially Bitcoin which has continued to rise in value, as a means to keep tabs on what is real and what is fake.

But are we ready for such technology? It’s hard to say due to data constraints at present, because there’s a lot of data out there. The human spirit has always been a push to overcome all odds, so that explanation appears more of an excuse than a reason. Perhaps individuals most vested in a blockchain product, and the information it will make easily available and consumable, are afraid of what will be shown when the lights come on?

Perhaps stakeholders are equally afraid of turning on the light, afraid that they will truly see a boogeyman in the closet?

Louisiana’s legislators gave it the ‘ole ‘College try.’

Two years ago, the treasury department from the State of Indiana ventured down to the Bayou to present to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) their way of tracking state and local government expenditures and revenues, in real time. It was called Indiana Checkbook, and it worked in real time using blockchain technology.

LABI pushed the idea in the legislature, and it received the necessary votes, hit Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk, and became law.

And then immediately fell apart.

‘Not enough money,’ ‘too much data,’ ‘some departments can’t get it working’ were a few of the reasons for Louisiana Checkbook to hit the wayside before it even began, but what might have been? To quote a movie, ‘you can’t handle the truth!’

Or can we?

The problem with truth is that it is, often, very boring. What’s better, at the federal level? Tracking the latest lie, scandal, conspiracy, or controversy? Or the day-to-day grind of dealing with other representatives and bureaucrats to get things accomplished?

In the world of the 24-7 news cycle, option A of course!

But what if there was a system that kept each politician’s information in one place? How about a bill? Maybe even a conspiracy? What if that system could fact-check based on what was in the blockchain? In real time, you’d have a very black-and-white answer about what effect a bill would have, how much it would cost, etc.

Or even know if a speaker was lying or not.

This technology exists, some states are already using it, but the federal government and some states have shied away from it, why?

It could be many different reasons, from the inability to accept the mountain of issues that could be exposed and have to be fixed, from sheer laziness.

Whatever option is chosen by politicians (and perhaps those pulling some strings), it’s all irrelevant. The electorate should be pushing for these blockchain options, wherein information is available real-time, and delivers a black-and-white answer. The fact that in 2020 stories can be spun as much as they are to the point where dollar amounts are argued (which should be easy to track) is a detriment to this country.

Perhaps the fact that governmental finance and political theater remain that way means it’s what America wants?

Hard to believe, turn on the lights, because everything starts with money.

McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.

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