Not Everything Needs to Be ‘on the Blockchain’

Please ignore Crypto Twitter’s snake oil peddlers.

AccessTimeIconNov 8, 2021 at 6:37 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 7:03 p.m. UTC

Ever since the word “bitcoin” wormed its way into the mainstream, people have been obsessed with putting things “on the blockchain.” There’s an army of crypto influencers and snake oil peddlers out there dedicated to promoting this stuff: real estate on the blockchain, social media on the blockchain, Soundcloud rap on the blockchain.

It makes sense, in a way – smart contracts let you put any sort of computer program on the blockchain, and shiny new tech can be an attractive angle for investors. But how much of the tech we already use today really needs a crypto component?

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The latest case of crypto overreach comes from an investor named Greg Isenberg, who operates a design studio-cum-investment fund called Late Checkout. He used to run a social startup called Islands, which – in a miracle of good timing – he sold to WeWork in the summer of 2019, just before the workspace juggernaut’s fall from grace.

In a tweet last week, Isenberg suggested that recruiters put their hiring processes on the blockchain. Unfolding over the course of a few halting lines, the post reads like a bad prose poem:

How it will work:

- You apply for a job

- It scans the blockchain and rates your set of on chain experiences and credentials

- If above a certain rating, you’re hired within 60 seconds

No prejudice, no wasted time, no pain

Just a quick yes or no

This is a big deal

Similarities to China’s social credit system aside, the idea is almost too easy to trash. That’s because we already have a system in this vein, without a crypto component, and it doesn’t work.

“Automated resume screening” – a computer program meant to separate the good candidates from the bad, without the need for human discretion – is a notoriously ineffective framework. A report from Harvard Business School earlier this year outlined how so-called Applicant Tracking Systems and Recruiting Management Systems are trained to maximize efficiency rather than seek the best candidates. Though they’re “vital,” according to the study, they contribute to a “broken” hiring market.

There’s a danger in reducing human beings to data on a spreadsheet: a GPA, an SAT score, a Boolean value set to “true” or “false” depending on whether an applicant graduated from a four-year college.

Of course, Isenberg was just spinning his wheels for a sympathetic audience. Most of the influencers on “Crypto Twitter” are very obviously biased – deep-pocketed investors with a financial stake in promoting this tech, or crypto enthusiasts looking for ways to get richer.

And yet the more investors start to buy into these dangerous ideas, the more they start to look like reality. It doesn’t matter whether consumers actually want to live in Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse; we may end up there anyway, because that’s where the money is.

Why should it be any different in crypto?


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Will Gottsegen

Will Gottsegen was CoinDesk's media and culture reporter.