A few years ago, at the height of the buzzword ‘Blockchain’, I was invited by the local Architectural Association (of Kenya) to give a presentation on how ‘blockchain’ would affect their industry.
My opening remark was “Why would you call an IT expert to explain to you what you have been doing for centuries?”
Suddenly, the room went chilly – cold. Here were the leaders of an industry who had taken away their most valuable block of time; architects thrive in the dark and this was an evening event only for them to be told their time would have been better-utilised sketching.
Too bad for them. They were all adorned and sniffed up with the networking and hobnobbing part of the session scheduled after I was done with them. The power some of us have wielded, at times, scares me.
Technology people are the new snake oil merchants in the universe today from preaching paperless offices to monetising one’s social media content. We claim to have the elixir for all the world’s ills, and we have convinced the media of its efficacy. This has been the case since we started writing with charred sticks on cave walls as our ancestors proceeded to spread the word.
The Block in blockchain, I speculated and proceeded to verbalise at the event, was actually appropriated from the culture of architects known as a Title Block which provides details about the drawing and how it relates to other drawings done previously and relating to it. When an architect picks up a drawing or opens it on their computer, the first thing they do is look at the title block to make sure they are looking at the correct version.
During the era of drawing boards, when you wanted to make a change to a drawing, you would trace the original one and then make the changes on the copy and not the original. You would then reference the original drawing within the title block of the copy including the date, time and who made the change after which the new drawing would be reproduced on linen cloth.
For the geeks reading the paragraph above, sorry speed readers. What I have just described is an immutable record or in buzz speak, a blockchain. I remember filling drawings for construction I was involved in sometime in the early 2000s with the then Nairobi City Council and was required to present the architectural drawings in linen.
So, what is really new in the so-called technology space? In my humble opinion, not much really. Just a lot of fluff. We believe that what we are digitising is ground-breaking but more because we have no historical reference; and because of our boastful nature, those who know better avoid correcting our false sense of importance.
After we had appropriated “block” from the architects, we unashamedly turned to the financial sector and picked the word ‘currency’ then baptised it ‘Crypto’ arap ‘Currency’ forgetting that for it to be valid, there needs to be an entity with an army to defend it.
The architectural event finally thawed as it progressed. By the time I got to the whiskey station, I was not being treated as an outcast. Instead, I was embraced as one of them. Today, I pay back their tolerance and open-mindedness. Now all I need to see is if the same can happen amongst my peers.