Blockchain has become the word du jour – but if you think it relates to a marathon run of Tetris, think again. Blockchain is the tech that underpins cryptocurrencies, and very clever it is too – so clever in fact, that utilising it to its full potential could change the way we manage society in the future.
So, what is blockchain technology?
Simply put, blockchain is a shared database, but not in the traditional sense of say, a Word or Excel document which often needs to be locked for editing. Developed in relation to the most well-known cryptocurrency – Bitcoin; it records all transactions with the most recent collated in a block, once that block is complete, it gets added to the blocks before it – creating one long chain. So far, it doesn’t sound any more exciting than an accountant’s ledger, but it’s that universal shared element that has industries ranging from finance through to charities interested.
What makes blockchain so special?
Blockchain is completely decentralised and because it can’t be locked for editing, it’s visible at all times.
Information is simultaneously stored, shared, and updated through a network of computers – there are no individuals, or single large organisations that control the blockchain – it’s data management for the people, by the people.
In theory, this means the chain is incorruptible – to hack it, you’d need the ability to take over numerous computers worldwide, all at the same time. Any dodgy dealings outside blockchain community rules, results in that transaction being shut down – quite literally quashing a glitch in the Matrix.
So, a self-regulating, shared database that updates instantly, can’t be violated, or destroyed, with blocks of data that exist not only as individual sources of information but have an awareness of what all the other blocks contain – it sounds like a cut-price Skynet that’ll eventually overturn the human race – but until then, here are some less apocalyptic uses.
Transparency in government, voting, and democracy
Elections that can’t be meddled with are hardly a novel idea, but blockchain technology could ensure that rumours of election rigging and voter manipulation are things of the past. Storing and verifying voter registration, along with tamper proof vote counts will mean genuine democracy for all.
With instant updates, self-verification, and the ability to track progress, blockchain can also serve as an open audit trail of government decisions, policies and statistical data.
Recording financial transactions and ensuring insurance efficiency
The move to capturing other financial dealings is a natural progression. Blockchain essentially cuts out the middlemen, if information can be stored, assessed, and authenticated in one place and shared with multiple agencies, then financial transactions and risk assessment for insurance purposes can take place almost instantaneously rather than manual verification being required.
Also, decentralised technology without the need for approval from any organisation means there are no contrived parameters preventing people from gaining access to money. You’ll no longer need to prove you can manage a bank account in order to have one – democratising everyday banking.
Creating genuine transparency
Visibility has become a 21st century obsession, it’s not enough for businesses to make statements, provenance now has to be proven, and blockchain can do this.
Having a decentralised, peer to peer database could also boost charitable donations. No more ambiguity as the ability to track money will mean donors having confidence about where their hard-earned cash is going, and exactly what it’ll be used for.
Secure data storage
Blockchain is ultimately about data storage and adapting the technology could mean storing vast amounts of information in a secure environment. Medical notes, school reports, exam results, could all be kept safe and undisputable.
Plus, when it comes to intellectual property, a shared ledger that cannot be tampered with, either retrospectively or intentionally, would offer greater visibility and copyright protection. The fact that blockchain needs no central body to approve transactions or entries, means it really is a democratic record of data.
Blockchain is dead…long live blockchain
Whenever technology makes a leap forward, Luddites won’t be far behind and there will undoubtedly be debates about how tech is putting human beings out of jobs.
But as one door closes, another one opens – and for every job that may be lost, another will be created in its place.
You can already find roles for crypto analysts, blockchain solution architects, and cryptocurrency engineers – it’s not that we’ll all be made redundant, we’ll just have to adapt – it’s called evolution.
As the technology develops and progresses, who can predict what it could truly give us? Perhaps a new-found freedom, a society devoid of suspicion, the sharing of wealth that could set us on the path to true egalitarianism – surely not even a Luddite could argue with that?
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At Wirex, we want everyone to have a voice in the technical revolution – whether you need to go back to basics with Bitcoin for beginners, or whether you crave crypto and are looking for investment opportunities – we’ve got what you need right here
So, join the discussion and find answers to all those burning questions – go on…you know you want to.