10 Ways to Explain the Blockchain to Brits


“They come for the tool and stay for the network” — Ev Williams. Founder of blogger, twitter, and medium.

1) Would you rather…?

My favourite game to play in the UK is the British version of ‘would you rather…?’ Back home, this took on epic proportions, but here, the simple question ‘Would you rather hug an acquaintance intimately or ask someone how they are and spend 10 minutes actually listening to their answer?’ is enough to elicit the most acute looks of discomfort. Therefore, the best way in is, and will remain (in my most humble opinion) to ask ‘Would you rather I talk about politics or the blockchain?’

As sure as it will rain tomorrow, I get at least 20 minutes to tell them all about how we’re building a kickstarter with equity. Let the conservatives snoop all they want, no-one gets what’s at stake in complicated terms like ‘cryptoequity’ and ‘data retention’ anyway. But, hey, at least they’re polite about it all, even when I dovetail neatly back into politics-and-eye-contact. Always been a deadly combo, that.

Here is where I learnt all I know: ediplomat.com/

2) “In England, politeness, reserve, and restraint are admired. The English are courteous, unassuming and unabrasive and are very proud of their long and rich history.”

Hmmm, ‘unabrasive’? What strange words they have here… I have found it very hard to reserve politely my opinion that the UK is considering leaving the EU Bill of Rights, when not even Russia (yes, Russia) has proposed such a move, to be just about the height of imbecility. No-one seems to admire my restraint.

3) “Scots are passionate about their country, guarding its uniqueness and refusing to go along with English ideas. While cool and aloof externally, they are extremely sentimental about their family and their country. Overall Scots are free of class consciousness and social elitism, except in religion.”

Note to self: find a sentimental Scot with a brave heart and give him one last chance to annex the English.

4) “Wales has been part of the United Kingdom for more than 400 years, but has kept its own language, literature and traditions.”

Show a Welshman a few lines of PHP code and he’s bound to understand what’s going on better than you.

5) “Irish value friendliness, sincerity and nature.”

Whale oil beef hooked. Just have a beer, commiserate about Seamus Heaney, sing a few songs, tell him or her that they’ll never be any good at rugby, get into a fight, make best friends and compare the colour of their country to the ‘colour’ of the coins s/he could earn from a kickstarter on the blockchain.

6) “The British are reserved, which may cause them to appear cool and indifferent or overly formal. In fact, they are very friendly and helpful to foreigners.”

Rick Falkvinge and some other folks on the net have been talking about ‘murder and jay-walking’. Well, these two sentences are the classic British two-step that goes along to morals-based policy making. What ediplomat is really trying to tell you is that no-one cares, but they were raised not to say so.

Note to self: phone UKIP and check the facts on that last part. Perhaps approaching people clutching a camera and map would buy me enough time to tell them how they could be part of changing the world?

7) “Women should extend their hand to men first.”

Don’t try this one at home folks. British women and their government have never really been on the best of terms. But that’s helpful, this article has worked wonders for me so far: (women’s) gift circles.

8) “The British are not back slappers or touchers and generally do not display affection in public.”

This is another great ‘would you rather?’ game to play. You can almost position people around the room by standing too close. Being polite, they will shift slightly away but can never simply leave because they’re feeling uncomfortable. Get enough people doing it at a party and you can play Alien Invaders if you’ve spent as much time perfecting the art as I have.

Fun aside though: start out a healthy, respectable distance away and then slowly move closer. Lots of Brits are awesome and hate what is happening here, so if you’re good, you might even be able to sneak a hug in at the end.

9) “In older companies, business still centers around the ‘old boy network’ with prep schools, universities and family ties being of great importance. Newer companies are more progressive.”

Ah, the two step again. They do use full stops to such devastating effect on these muddy isles. Like Arthur in search of his grail, find the ‘newer companies’ with no ‘old boys networks’ and get them involved. London, in particular, is set to take off into the cryptoworld. It’s always been a weirdly liminal space, somewhere between tales of two (or more) cities.

10) Have fun.

People here, though confused about what’s going on and how they can alter the course this country is seemingly set on, have always had a great sense of humour. Appeal to that. I mean, it’s depressing that the Tories want to think seriously about leaving the EU. It is so far-fetched that they would even mention de-ratifying the EU Bill of Rights when not even Putin has considered it, that one can only laugh. And self-deprecation is a national talent, so use that.

Point out that, for a first world country full of very smart people, it is astounding that so many come to the simple-minded conclusion that because they did not vote conservative, this is not ‘their government’. Well, refer to the point on history. If you’re going to talk up a bloody and oppressive story as a tale of conquest and civilization, then the least that you can do is accept that – by definition – democracy entails the rule of the majority. Therefore, who you voted for is irrelevant once the election has occurred so far as considering who ‘your government’ is…

This sort of second-person pronoun stuff just doesn’t hack it with the politeness requirements in 2) though. People think you’re accusing them. But I’m not. There’s just this whole big picture, which is out there online, to be seen if you simply look. Ethereum and Whisper and swarm.fund are part of a much larger movement towards trying to save this world from the people who refuse to think beyond their own generation.

It’s not just about equity and blockchains – these things are just the start, just the structure on which YOU can build your dreams. Literally. Vitalik Buterin puts it thus: “Bitcoin is a blockchain that is intended to serve just a currency, but Ethereum uses the same technology to create a COMPUTING ENVIRONMENT where you can do basically anything: smart contracts, finances, intellectual copyright etc.

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