What is Blockchain & Why Should I Care?

E L Emerson

Ask someone about “Blockchain” and the likely responses will vary from abject dumb-face, to tales of a Silk Road, Dark Web, Breaking Bad money laundering machine, and maybe even the more accurate description of something resembling a public ledger petri dish born of the open source community, and with it gaggles of cryptocurrency children, each claiming varying degrees of legitimacy and value.

But for most it’s just cryptic.

And efforts to rationalise the blockchain public ledger – where transactions are recorded and confirmed anonymously, shared between numerous parties, and once entered cannot be altered – and its original Bitcoin currency system is like trying to describe the Internet to someone you met on the street back in 1992.

Good luck with that!

Now, maybe we just don’t have the right words yet.

Back in the early 1990s the Internet was probably considered like some kind of fantastical global communications  Skynet system with an imagined neural net-based global consciousness that could at any point release The Terminator.   

But once the Skynet cleared, so to speak, and a common understanding prevailed, what was once a fledgling mainstream Internet resource would go on to fundamentally change how we communicate and distribute information globally, along with providing access to every funny cat video you never knew you needed to watch.

Some will draw similarities between the impact of the Internet and what is expected of Blockchain.

And you can hardly blame those who extend the Blockchain line forward and arrive at a world-altering conclusion.

Imagine the revised structures of a global society that no longer requires financial intermediaries (amongst others) to buy houses and cars, “purchase” goods from one another over great distances and settle contracts?

No middlemen. No banks required. (First, we’ll kill all the lawyers.) No real discernible cash or coin used in transactions, and no real precious metal or other basis upon which the value of currency and exchanges operate.

Strange days indeed, eh?

But maybe a bit less different from today’s economies than you might imagine, particularly when you consider the evolution of money and its various forms into what is now essentially a series of digital blips and numbers in an ATM window.

As for the cryptocurrencies existing solely in digital format (no gold coins with a big “B” on them like in the pictures), we need to arrive at a new concept of “ownership.”

The tangible clinking of coins in your pockets, wads of bills and the once ubiquitous cheque cashing process will go the way of snail mail – used only sparingly, or perhaps retained like phonebooths; as reminders of a different time or even stalwarts in any cataclysmic shock to the crypto and communications systems of the future.

Seemingly socially influenced, the nearness of Blockchain transactions is very Internet 2.0, where separation is no longer an issue of degrees but channels where everyone is afforded a touchpoint.

Equally Blockchain is not housed in a single location, but rather it is managed by distributed nodes – each carrying a copy of the entire Blockchain, and each in turn synchronising their copies with other users, and in doing so ensure system fail safes through decentralisation. 

In other words, your money is in everyone’s digital pockets at once, but you still own and control it.

That’s the power of the Blockchain. And we’re only now realising how it will fundamentally change the future.

E L Emerson, Editor, HNW

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