If you follow tech news, you may recall that headlines a few years ago were dominated by reports of artist Akon's ‘blockchain metropolis,' called Akon city. The proposed metropolis was hailed as a pan-African utopia that would harness the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and it was frequently likened to Wakanda, the mythical African nation.
This project was first revealed in 2018 and was to be erected in the singer's birthplace Senegal, just a few miles from Dakar, and was a dream come true for many. However, more information about Akon City has come to light in recent months, indicating that all is not as it seems.
First, information regarding the ‘shadowy’ persons who are allegedly sponsoring the $6 billion project has surfaced. Furthermore, despite the hype surrounding its unveiling years ago, it has been reported that development on the project has yet to begin. The project's viability has also been questioned, as it was announced with grandiose promises of resolving decades-old structural difficulties in Senegal, such as electricity shortages and access to cutting-edge technology.
With this project in limbo and the scrutiny that has followed, it's worth considering how presenting blockchain technology as a virtual saviour could be damaging.
Blockchain to the Rescue?
Without a question, blockchain technology has a lot of potential in terms of how it may be used. Because it creates permanent ledgers, it may be used in a wide range of businesses and solve a wide range of problems.
Supply chains can be managed more easily using blockchain, voting can be more effective, record keeping and referencing can be more quickly, and so on. The problem is that, while blockchain is extremely beneficial and has enormous potential, the industry risks overpromising.
This is because blockchain is a relatively new technology that is still trying to establish itself on the global scene. Cryptocurrency is likely the most well-known blockchain product, and it has a complicated relationship with the general public, with some people trusting it and others distrusting it. In many ways, blockchain is perceived as "safer" and "less controversial," particularly when it comes to the issue of criminal activity and the threat to economic sovereignty.
As a result, blockchain and crypto enthusiasts frequently promote blockchain as the solution to all of humanity's problems. While blockchain can improve voting efficiency and minimise errors, some reporting has dubbed it the end of election manipulation, and while blockchain is effective in record-keeping, there is occasionally a narrative that blockchain is flawless as a technology, which is simply not the case.
Is This Framing Harmful?
This exaggerated portrayal of blockchain technology is debatable, with objections on both sides. It may be argued that because blockchain is such a new technology, it must market itself in order to be taken seriously by the general public. This can be compared to the internet boom in the 1990s and 2000s, even if some of the assertions made are not totally factual.
The internet was hailed as a game-changing tool that would transform every aspect of existence. While the internet has been revolutionary, it has not cured all of humanity's problems, and the world is still far from the utopia that some envisioned in the 1990s or earlier. Why not blockchain? If the internet's marketing could be improved, why not blockchain?
The problem with this strategy is that if initiatives like Akon City fail or fall short of expectations on a regular basis, blockchain risks becoming a fad technology, similar to 3D glasses, which were supposed to represent the future of industry but are now just a relic of a bygone era.
While the benefits and possibilities of blockchain should be widely known, pitching technology as a panacea risks backfiring and depriving the industry of the opportunity to mature. Instead, a balance should be achieved between marketing blockchain as an innovative technology while not over-hyping it as the next great technological saviour.
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