Book Review – “Blockchain: The Next Everything” by Stephen P. Williams
by Manuela Miracle
As a business librarian, I look for patterns in information. What is the next big thing that may impact business owners? Over and over again, the terms “cryptocurrency,” “bitcoin,” and “blockchain” appeared in my reading. I groaned inwardly. “I don’t wanna.” I cannot imagine anything less appetizing than reading about currency. However, one does, what one must.
“Blockchain: The Next Everything” by Stephen P. Williams is relatively slim (189 pages long) and helpfully includes a further reading section at the end of the book. The author states that blockchain was originally developed as a platform for bitcoin that tracked the spending or sale of each digital coin, transaction by transaction. According to Williams, technologists realized that Blockchain, which serves as a permanent, unhackable ledger for any information you want to record, offering both transparency and privacy is a world changing technology that might have far greater value than the cryptocurrencies it was created to track.
Written in simple, concise language, the book offers real world examples of how blockchain works. For example, on page eight, Williams offers the following definition: “Blockchain is software. It’s as simple as that.”
Williams explains that Blockchain software works like an online ledger, keeping track of “the flow of goods, the movement of money, the provenance of artworks or poems, the treatment of refugees seeking asylum, and the health of the tundra among other things.”
The book states that in the next couple of years we should expect that we will be using blockchain daily via our devices. While we don’t need to understand the technology, we should understand what we can do with it, such as monetizing our social media posts that we currently give away for free. Unfortunately, the book falls short of providing a futurists’ vision for what the world might look like if this technology is as impactful as the author believes it has the potential to be.
Reader beware, the book has a tendency to soften unflattering information about blockchain by cushioning information in footnotes or far into the book. For example, on page 17, important information about the possibility of quantum computing posing a threat to blockchain technology, making it hackable is relegated to a footnote.
I also found it problematic that the author waits until page 68 to provide some of the potential negative aspects of blockchain; that it might not be scalable, process transactions fast enough, or be as secure as it is advertised. Sometimes the book also loses its footing, indulging in romantic similes and extensive depictions of coworking spaces, hunter gatherer societies and for an undetermined reason, the description of a Shaman trek into the Ecuadorian jungle.
If you want a relatively gentle introduction to blockchain, this may be a good read to start with in that it doesn’t require a lot of background knowledge about technology or finance. This book may also serve as an opportunity to dream about what business opportunities may be found in this digital landscape, albeit without a roadmap for how to get there.
To read more about blockchain, bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, you may search the Library’s catalog using the following general keywords: digital currency, cryptocurrency, blockchain. Several titles were published in 2019 but as we all know, technology moves fast, putting books a little behind the eightball when it comes to emerging tech.
I would also recommend reading articles that tend to be more timely (but also more narrow) on the topic. For readers researching different aspects of cryptocurrencies I would encourage exploring the Library’s Ebscohost. Additionally, SCLSNJ offers access to business magazines through the Flipster app or on your desktop at sclsnj.org/read-listen-view/magazines-newspapers.
If you would like help with a guided search, contact a SCLSNJ business librarian: firstname.lastname@example.org.