Apology of Permissionless Blockchains

I don't believe that private blockchains will get big. They won't become global. At best, they will be confined to national governmental use or to industry specific consortiums.
I'll try to demonstrate my position by examining the architecture choice that different users may take though the lens of the following human motivations.

Motivations

Acquire (greed) – Desire to collect physical objects as well as immaterial ones like power, status, and influence
Defend (fear) – Desire to protect ourselves and our property
Bond (belonging) – Desire to form relationships
Learn (curiosity) – Desire to satisfy our innate curiosity

Of course, other motivations exist such as Feel (escape – Desire for sensory stimulus and pleasure) but I don't think they are applicable to this reflexion on the architecture choice of a blockchain solution.

Users

Businesses & Enterprises
Entrepreneurs
Random people
Governments

Pre-analysis

User Greed(Acquire) Defend(fear) Bond(belonging) Learn(curiosity)
Businesses & Enterprises xx x
Entrepreneurs xx x xx
Common people x x x x
Governments xx xx
Total 6 4 2 3
  • Business & Enterprises: profit driven institutions (greed).
  • Entrepreneurs: also want to make money (greed). Ready to take risks. Want to innovate (learn).
  • People: as it may naturally vary between individuals, I scored equally all attributes.
  • Governments: especially interested in maintaining their power.

Permissioned or permissionless?

1. Greed: where is money to be made?

Public blockchains are to transacting-transaction what Internet is to communicating-information. Permissioned/private blockchains are to blockchain what intranet is to internet.
Do companies from a same industry exchange information and communicate over an industry-wide intranet?
They don't. They use the open world wide web. It is where all the services were, are and will be built.
Because open networks stimulate innovation. While restricted and closed ones hamper it. Real value of blockchains are in coordination and permissionless innovation. So I believe more entrepreneuship and therefore more value creation will be happen public blockchains.
Problem: they are slow --> see post to come about scalability solutions (dedicated post to come)

Permissionless > Permissioned

2. Fear: what provides users with the best protection against what they value?

What do users value? Who/what may they seek protection against?

User Values Protection against/Fear
Business, Enterprises, Entrepreneurs Assets, capital, cashflow, copyrights, licenses, specific knowledge, secrets (technologies, deals, ideas...) Competition, thieves, spies, data destruction, data loss, data modification, disclosure...
Governments Control, surveillance, coercion power; military secrets; justice; democracy; cultural heritage; art; land registry; monetary, media control Foreign states, fraud, injustice, spies, data destruction, data loss, data modification
Common people Personal assets, privacy, legacy, freedom, identity Thieves, censorship, arbitrary decisions, intrusive surveillance, spies, data destruction, data loss, data modification

Unsurprisingly, 3 famous blockchain attributes emerge as mechanisms to offer protection against the different threats just listed:

Privacy: people protecting themselves from surveillance, businesses protecting competitive secrets.

Some private blockchain solutions providers such as Corda claim that "permissionless blockchain platforms—in which all data is shared with all parties—are largely unsuited for businesses.".
This statement used to be true. But today some privacy solutions on public blockchains exist (dedicated post to come).

Governance

By governance I mean the ability to define or redefine the rules of the network.
Permisioned blockchains are the most straightforward architecture to fulfill this need, which is paramount for governments.
Indeed governance seems incompatible with the decentralization and immutability of public blockchains.
However public blockchain have been (more or less successfully) experimenting with on-chain governance and DAOs (dedicated post to come).

Security

(Dedicated post to come)
Permissionless = Permissioned # Diligence required!

3. Curiosity & Belonging: what's more open and inclusive?

Public blockchains are by design permisionless: open and inclusive. While permissioned ones are the opposite.
Anyone can join public blockchains. Which is obviously the preferred choice for curious people who want to freely exchange & transact or try & learn new things. Morevoer, innovation and entrepreneurship (see 1) will thrive on an open network whereas restrictions on a closed network will hamper it.
Permissionless > Permissioned

Conclusion

I only see two motivations that would drive the selection of a permissioned blockchain over a public one:

  • The fear of loosing a central control power that individuals, organizations or governments may possess.
  • The fear of data destruction/loss/modification due to specific security risks or features of public blockchain architecture (such as miners collusion if PoW is used, immutability/incapacity to rewrite history...)

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