Honestly, I don’t know. Or to put it somewhat more succinctly: if I knew I would resign as a journalist and start investing in crypto (which, by the way, I’m not allowed to do as the Economist’s tech editor; it’s a sackable offense).
More seriously, at least theoretically, blockchains (or “distributed ledgers”, to be more precise) are a fascinating invention, which “offers a way for people who do not know or trust each other to create a record of who owns what,” as we wrote in ain 2015 entitled “The Trust Machine”.
The problem is that some people have turned the blockchain into a religion. Even more than the internet itself and, more recently, AI, blockchains are one of these “back-to-paradise” technologies that are supposed to solve almost all of humanity’s problems, from making the financial system more efficient and securing the supply chain for food to protecting elections and creating entire virtual nations.
Yet as organisations have started to apply the technology, more and more issues have come up (some of which I’m discussing in the answer to another question in this Quora Q&A). I think a realistic assessment is that in the medium term blockchains will be great for some applications, but in many other cases centralised databases will do a better job (if having a trusted intermediary, which is in charge of maintaining the ledger, is not an issue).
In the long run, however, distributed ledgers are an idea that is unlikely to die. It could have an impact to that of double-entry book-keeping, which emerged more than 500 years ago and was a big step in the development of the modern company and economy. Werner Sombart, a German sociologist who died in 1941, argued that double-entry book-keeping led to the birth of capitalism. It allowed people other than the owner of a business to keep track of its finances. And if double-entry book-keeping freed accounting from the merchant’s head, the blockchain could free it from the confines of an organisation. But this will take time.
(For more on this, read aI wrote about a year ago, though it’s a bit outdated now.)