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The Future Is Decentralised


New month same story! I spend a lot of time reading about Blockchain technology and "white papers" which are an invaluable source of information and which counter all the nonsense pedalled by those determined to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt!

Bob Wigley is Founder Commissioner of the Blockchain Commission at the UN and has prepared an excellent document which I will refer to in this piece.

"We suggest that the transformative power of blockchain technology should not be seen as a threat to existing systems of governance; rather, it should be seen as an opportunity for national and international institutions to defend the rights of those they represent and to accelerate our collective progress towards meeting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals"

As stated previously in these notes the UN's belief in this technology is a clear sign that it is real, that there is SO much more to it than Bitcoin mining and/or trading and that it is here for good.

What is a Block Chain?

Block chains may improve any process where people need to access, verify, send or store information securely. This could be personal ID [in the news again this weekend thanks to Facebook] a product's shipment history, or a digital asset - like money.

Much of the world's information, from credit card transactions to medical and financial records is stored on databases, spreadsheets and ledgers. These systems have considerable and well documented weaknesses that stem from them being centralised. A centralised record is opaque and vulnerable to unauthorised access or distribution. Also, because it is a "master" copy, it is vulnerable to irreversible alteration or deletion.

Block chains are also used to store information but crucially DIFFER IN TWO WAYS:

First, information is parcelled up into blocks and sealed; second, this "chain of blocks" is not stored centrally, rather each block is copied and distributed around an entire network of peers - using distributed ledger technology.

Each time someone adds a new block to the chain, it is added to everyone's copy simultaneously.

Benefits:

Immutability - since multiple copies of a block chain are kept and managed by consensus across a peer to peer network, no one peer can alter past transactions

Security - it is a fundamental cryptological law that it is relatively easy to set a problem that is very, very difficult to solve

Verifiability - the combined effect of transparency and immutability provides full public verifiability and the knowledge that information cannot be manipulated

Resilience - even if many peers go offline, the information is always accessible

Transparency - all transactions are broadcast to all peers with encryption ensuring total privacy

" I discovered to my amazement, that through all history there had been resistance [..] to every significant technological change that had taken place on earth. Usually the resistance came from those groups who stood to lose influence, status, money [..] as a result of the change, although they never advanced this as their reason for resisting it. It was always the good of humanity that rested upon their hearts"

- Isaac Asimov, lecture at Newark College of Engineering 1974


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