Indonesia Crunch | What the blockchain wants

In What Technology Wants Kevin Kelly argues that technology isn’t separate from nature, but an extension of it. He views the collective mass of contraptions, structures, and even social organization humans and animals use to manipulate their surroundings as part of the same force, the technium.

As such, technology isn’t something made by us — the technium is expressing itself through us.

Without getting too deep into it (Kelly’s book gets slightly esoteric), I think it’s true that, once a technology exists, it persistently finds its way into our lives.

Blockchain is such a technology. Like any others– say machine learning or gene editing — there’s a phase in which we realize a new solution here but it doesn’t have many useful applications yet. The technium, in the shape of blockchain in this case, then seeks out evangelists to lobby on its behalf. It plants the narrative that it – blockchain – holds the key to a better future, that it builds trust, increases efficiency, and minimizes the power of mega-corporations and institutions.

That narrative has worked well for the technium many times before. It then infects other humans. It convinces them that blockchain must be nurtured; surely a breakthrough, world-changing technology deserves investment and attention. The blockchain has planted the narrative that it will make some people very rich if they feed it now. These people will then convince other people that they, too must care about the blockchain, and learn about it, and talk about it, and write about it, so more humans will create and use applications the blockchain now sneakily inhabits until it lives on every single device on earth and in space.

I’m half-joking of course. But I will say this: the blockchain just invited me to a conference in Hong Kong, expenses paid, to learn about how to be a better blockchain reporter. Of course, the blockchain didn’t pay for it. Its humans did – the pioneering blockchain startups, investors, and PR firms who believe the blockchain’s tale.

I’m starting to believe it too. This is super cool, I thought after the workshop. It’s like the internet, but better. There will be so many stories to write about how the blockchain made some people very rich and how some people are doing their absolute heroic best so that the planet may be saved with blockchain. And in the end, there will be stories about how blockchain failed to solve all our problems and even created some new ones. The technium laughs because blockchain is now everywhere it quietly plants a new idea in our head.

Around Indonesia

What’s been going on in Indonesian tech? Grab and Go-Jek continue to dominate the conversation. Go-Jek’s latest fundraise seems to be locked in, and it looks like that came at a US$9 billion valuation. That must be boosting Go-Jek’s ego because it’s not far off from Grab, who already operates regionally.

Worth noting is Tokopedia’s decision to onboard Ovo as its mobile wallet.

I caught a mini-scoop that doesn’t seem to interest many, but to the few 100 people in the scene: Sepulsa is rebranding and getting into hotels and tickets.

Good reads

A good profile of Yuval Noah Harari

A deep dive into the debate that erupted around the video from that insane White House press conference.

Nadine Freischlad is a Jakarta-based journalist, writing about technology, business, culture, and other things. Follow her on Twitter @texastee 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the columnist and do not represent DEALSTREETASIA. 

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