If you’re a movie fan – especially one who came of age in the 1980s – you know Alex Winter very well. After playing one of lead vampire David’s (Kiefer Sutherland) minions in the 1986 horror classic ”The Lost Boys”, he joined Keanu Reeves when they were almost still teenagers as Bill S Preston Esq, one half of the immortal duo in ”Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adevnture” (1989).
But if you’re an even more well versed movie fan you know another Alex Winter. He’s a documentary maker, and he’s one of the few creative voices in film who really understands and can distill the technology age we live in today. His 2013 film ”Downloaded” makes you an instant expert on the assault on the music industry in the early web age by the likes of Napster and Kazaa.
Here he turns his attention to the blockchain and if, like most people, you think it’s about using digital money to buy guns and drugs, ”The Trust Machine” is for you. Narrated by Rosario Dawson and featuring (as ”Downloaded” did) the most important talking heads and opinion makers from the field, Winter sketches a picture of how so many people believe it will change the way we transact and behave online, and some of the voices present really sweep you up in their enthusiasm.
Many like Brit Lauri Love – the hacker and activist pursued with the full weight of the US Justice Department – contend that the web today has morphed into something like the TV industry of old, a corporate hegemony in the hands of a small group of very powerful interests who make obscene amounts of money selling your preferences and attention.
But Chris Fabian, a guy putting charity programs together using blockchain systems for UNICEF, describes the new potential as being like the web in its early days when anything seemed possible and nobody pulled the strings. He describes our tendencies as being ‘nasty and greedy’, but how for just a minute the accessibility of the web put everyone on the same level. Blockchain, he’ll make you belive, could bring that world back.
Don’t feel bad if you still don’t understand the technicalities when the movie’s over. The blockchain is a bit like quantum physics in that it’s very hard to really get a grip on it. Winter even seems to acknowledge as much – there’s no animated skit trying to describe what the blockchain is and how it works, and even when the film talks about the workings of the technology it’s done with complictaed equations superimposed over the top of computer scientists and experts talking near-gibberish.
What he’s more interested in is what it might all achieve – undoing the stranglehold on finance, insurance, legal process, contracts and a thousand other areas of life traditionally controlled by a small number of entrenched and powerful bodies and institutions. The application of blockchain technology in cryptocurrencies has allowed things to like Bitcoin to take on a decentralized aspect which is appealing to many – learn more about this over on the VanillaCrypto website.
If you take nothing else away from ”The Trust Machine”, just remember how much governments hate the blockchain because of its potential to wrest so much control from them. Just watch any of the clips of near-hysterical conservative newscasters and commentators who haven’t got a clue how it works but still foam