Blockchain

Don Tapscott’s ‘Platform Revolution’ book review



Enterprise blockchain started to take shape in 2016, a time when companies like IBM began to leverage private networks for supply chain management. It was also during 2016 that author Don Tapscott wrote and published Blockchain Revolution, a book that examines the way that blockchain will transform a number of industries.

Following the release of Blockchain Revolution, Tapscott — who is also co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute — published Supply Chain Revolution in August 2020. Given the timing of the book’s publication, Supply Chain Revolution detailed the way the COVID-19 pandemic exposed glitches throughout supply chains across the world, further explaining how blockchain could be used to solve these challenges.

Almost a year after the release of Supply Chain Revolution, Tapscott has published his latest book, Platform Revolution. Unlike his other two books that explain what blockchain is and how it can be applied to advance certain industries, Platform Revolution goes a step further, taking the thesis that blockchain has reached “platform status.”

Specifically speaking, Tapscott told Cointelegraph that blockchain has matured so much over the years that firms and industries are now building new models upon blockchain as a “platform.” Moreover, Tapscott believes that blockchain has reached a “trivergence” point, making it the greatest technology of today’s digital age:

“There are lots of new technologies in today’s second era of the digital age, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things. In the end though, the greatest of these technologies is blockchain, which is ‘triverging’ with all of these other technologies.”

Understanding the trivergence of blockchain technology

Tapscott explains throughout the eight chapters of Platform Revolution the way that firms, supply chains and sectors of the economy are building upon blockchain as a platform to make further advancements.

In order to describe the trivergence of blockchain with AI, machine learning and IoT, Chapter 1 of Platform Revolution discusses the way blockchain can secure the future of the digital age. In a nutshell, this chapter talks about digital conglomerates like Facebook (now Meta) and Google, noting that these entities act as landlords for user data. “We create the data and these companies take it away. We are then left with almost nothing — we can’t monetize our data or secure that data as our privacy is being undermined,” said Tapscott.

To solve this ongoing dilemma, Chapter 1 explains the way that open access, fair participation and self-sovereign identity on a blockchain network can improve web access. In particular, the chapter focuses on the way blockchain can solve the problem of manipulation, promote fairness, protect the rights of content creators and more. While this may be, Chapter 1 also details why the trivergence of blockchain, AI and IoT will ultimately lead to Web 3.0. This is described as a network where billions of people, devices and decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, will be able to transact and analyze data for better decision making.

The book’s second chapter examines blockchain’s impact on big data. “Big data” is characterized here as a new asset class that may trump all other assets, given the notion that digital conglomerates have been privately stockpiling user data for years. Yet through encryption technologies like those found within blockchain networks, new privacy rights and property rights to data could very well be achieved.

Related: Book review of Don Tapscott’s collaborative ‘Supply Chain Revolution’

Chapter 3 is an important section of Platform Revolution, as Tapscott and his co-author Anjan Vinod thoroughly examine the relationship between blockchain and AI. According to Tapscott and Vinod, AI is making blockchain one of the broadest technological revolutions ever. This chapter explains the way blockchain can provide a decentralized infrastructure for the entire AI ecosystem. For example, it’s noted here that a decentralized blockchain-based solution may ensure a more democratized, yet secure, means for transmitting data required for AI models.

Chapter 4 further focuses on blockchain and IoT, noting that connected devices will require a ledger to learn and adapt to new things. “It’s where the rubber meets the road for blockchain,” writes Tapscott. While implementation challenges such as quantum computing are also mentioned throughout Chapter 4, this section ultimately describes Web 3.0 as running in a distributed cloud, with a combination of decentralized public and private servers with edge computing capabilities.

The threat of quantum computing

While the impact of blockchain on autonomous vehicles is discussed throughout Chapters 5 and 6, ensuring that Web 3.0 remains distributed and quantum-proof is detailed in Chapters 7 and 8 of Platform Revolution. In particular, the quantum threat to the cybersecurity of global IT systems is analyzed.

For instance, Chapter 7 notes that “There is a one-in-seven chance that a quantum computer will be commercially available by 2026.” In turn, Chapter 8 highlights the need for governance of standards development at three levels: protocol, application and ecosystem.

Related: ‘Blockland’ book review: Part gonzo, part Bitcoin-thriller, 100% recommended

The author of Chapter 8, Christian Keil, details in-depth the different layers of the blockchain technology stack, concluding that stakeholder involvement and the power of network effects are needed for standards development. “The blockchain community needs a standard like OSI, with which cataloging, organizing, and communicating advances in this new technology might be made significantly easier,” writes Keil.

How blockchain relates to other technologies

Platform Revolution concludes with the notion that blockchain is still in its early stages and that its success will depend on how well the current challenges and opportunities are handled for its development. While it’s difficult to predict the future, Tapscott mentioned that the goal behind Platform Revolution is to help people understand the way blockchain fits in with other technologies:

“This book introduces the concept of trivergence, while explaining the relationship between blockchain, AI, IoT, big data and quantum computing. These are all topics people struggle to understand.”

This in mind, Platform Revolution is a must-read for individuals curious about the technologies within the second era of the digital age. For instance, while some may only be familiar with mainstream concepts like AI, Platform Revolution explains the way blockchain relates to artificial intelligence and other popular technologies. 

The book further underscores why blockchain will continue to serve as the backbone for industries, economies, supply chains and other aspects of our lives. “These are all big technologies that everyone is talking about. Platform Revolution explains the way they fit together and why blockchain is central to everything,” added Tapscott.