ETHNews spoke with author John Hargrave to discuss his forthcoming book, “Blockchain for Everyone,” and learn more about accessibility in blockchain education.
With the glut of blockchain-related advancements and innovations over the past few years, we sometimes forget that there are people who do not know what the technology is. Anyone who has tried starting a conversation about blockchain with a stranger at a party knows that most people haven’t got a clue. Blockchain and all its potentially revolutionary qualities remain unseen by many.
Education, then, emerges as the solution. However, in a realm dominated by computer science, jargon, and esoterica, information is not always communicated as effectively as it could be. Even as a journalist working in the space, I would struggle to explain Ethereum using only commonly understood terms. Therein lies the problem: Blockchain education is generally not accessible to the layperson, or it at least requires a familiarity with subjects (e.g., the web, technology, and finance) that many people know little about.
Enter author, blockchain buff, and self-proclaimed “truth teller” John Hargrave. His forthcoming book, “Blockchain for Everyone,” aims to overcome the educational roadblocks that may prevent individuals from learning about the technology.
He relates blockchain’s learning gap to the internet revolution of the 1990s. “In the early days of the web, it was really hard for people to use,” Hargrave told ETHNews. “You needed to educate people on what the web was and why you needed it. The tools weren’t very good. It was hard to get on the web, it was impossible to create a website, and there was nobody to ask.”
As people began to use the internet more, they became more familiar with it. Now, our world could not function off the web, at least not in the same way. For blockchain to reach the same level of ubiquity, accessible educational resources like an easy-to-understand book are crucial.
“What we’re doing with this book is educating folks, explaining – like in the early days of the web – here’s why blockchain is so important, here’s why you need it, and here’s how it’s going to change the world for good.”
Hargrave was inspired by the “For Dummies” book series, which make daunting subjects easier to digest. “When I first read those books, the very first one was ‘DOS for Dummies.’ DOS was a very technical, geeky subject that a lot of people had to master because they had to use it for work. It was so well-written that when I saw it, I was like, ‘This is brilliant!'”
He admits the Dummies books can, well, treat people like dummies. To some, they may appear overly cartoonish or overly simplistic. Although Hargrave appreciates (and certainly employs) humor and engaging illustrations as a pedagogical tool, he does not want to undermine the intelligence of his readers. “[My book] is meant for a smart person who is not necessarily a technical person, not a geek, and to make it really accessible and easy to understand.”
Of course, a Hargrave text would not be complete without a few jokes. The book channels his background as a humor writer and comedian to add a degree of levity. “I do a lot of speaking at blockchain conferences around the world nowadays, and I got to tell you: It’s dry,” he said. “It’s really boring. What is needed in this space is to make it interesting.”
To do so, Hargrave is not afraid to get a little weird. One of the first chapters is called “Unicorn Milk,” wherein he likens blockchain technology to the mythical dairy product: Both are expensive and difficult to understand.
“I go on to talk about all the qualities of unicorn milk and how you would actually milk a unicorn in the first place,” he said. “Not easy, right?” Although it may be difficult to acquire the beast’s sweet secretion, it ultimately “tastes like cotton candy.” The milky reward – or the promise of blockchain technology, as the comparison goes – is palpable.
Analogies like this may seem peculiar, but they make sense and cast an otherwise complicated subject in a novel, attention-grabbing light. According to Hargrave, blockchain education efforts need “to actually explain [the technology] to people in a way that holds their attention.” After all, he continued, “If we can make people laugh, we can hold their attention.”
A fun yet informative approach to blockchain education becomes even more significant if we consider the technology’s potentially widespread application. “It’s going to transform … life as we know it,” said Hargrave. He believes the technology is like a tidal wave that will “wash away” centralized institutions.
If the blockchain wave is expected to engulf organizations, it only seems reasonable for a general audience to understand the technology, lest the uninformed drown. To Hargrave, this is especially true in relation to cryptocurrency investment opportunities. “There are a lot of people that are essentially just gambling on new blockchain companies,” he said. “We need a lot more education around what makes a good blockchain company, what makes a good blockchain investment, and how you do your due diligence.”
In this sense, Hargrave sees his mission with this book as both a sort of consumer protection and a means to promote the technology’s advancement and adoption.
People like Hargrave think blockchain has the capacity to save the world, but that will be hard to accomplish if no one knows what it is. An easy-to-understand and lighthearted explanation, like Hargrave hopes to provide through his book, acts as a spotlight (or Bat-Signal) to rally the next generation of blockchain enthusiasts.
“Blockchain for Everyone” hits bookstores in spring 2019, bundled with an unannounced cryptocurrency to potentially offset the cost of the book and get people started in the world of crypto.
ETHNews does not endorse “Blockchain for Everyone” or any other blockchain-related project.
Daniel Putney is a full-time writer for ETHNews. He received his bachelor’s degree in English writing from the University of Nevada, Reno, where he also studied journalism and queer theory. In his free time, he writes poetry, plays the piano, and fangirls over fictional characters. He lives with his partner, three dogs, and two cats in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.
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