If bitcoin has been called “digital gold,” then what does that make blockchain
The blockchain was created for the all intents and purposes for the exchange and settlement what we now call cryptocurrencies. The idea being to tear from the very heart of the financial transaction the need for an intermediary or middleman. The essence of the whole blockchain exercise is based on many deeply technical components that only a small block of the the earth’s population can come to terms with. when we ask about blockchain we are implicitly talking about mathematics, statistics, economics, financial programming and cryptography at the same time. Easily some of the more in depth and overtly complex arguments that are out there. All in the effort to create a system of financial trust based on mathematics.
But since it’s initial conception it has evolved into something more far reaching than a virtual money. And while many may content to understand the elements and boundaries if blockchain (i profess not to be one of them) the question every single person who is not a mathematician, programmer, economist or statistician is still asking What is Blockchain?
There a tonnes of explanations and analogies out there all professing to explain in 10 or less easy steps what is What is Blockchain Technology? A step-by-step guide than anyone can understand? Blockchain in 5 minutes and so on.
This is not one of them.
If you want a clear concise explanation of what the blockchain is here is a nice quote from Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Getting a handle on the blockchain basics is no easy task.
Sites and articles promise allegedly clear, non-technical guides to the most advance and often misunderstood technologies doing the rounds today. The problem is that this flies in the face of the logic that blockchain covers. Its a complex, articulated subject and I have yet to come across anyone that sees the irony in creating a dummies guide to a subject as overwhelmingly complex. It would be like creating a guide for the aspace landing.
The truth remains that in the wayward spiral of bitcoin, blockchain and dlt guides Blockchain is remains for the most part an abstracted concept. Most at their very best cover the basics for a conversation starter anyone can get. Brining the reader jsut barely over the most simplistic concept of trust and blockchain
Any half way decent explanation of blockchain will inevitably need to cover architecture, mathematics, cryptography, theory of basic crypto-economics programming and complex financial understandings.
To have a firm understanding of any of all the above specialties is the domain of the selected few. And even then, the possibility of applying them to real world blockchain cases adds another order of complexity.
Most humble souls simply want to know what all this ‘blockchain‘ talk is about. Not necessarily how it works. While the fundamentals of how it works can help, it stil doesn’t go a great ways to show why it exists and who it will impact.
And this is exactly where I was failing to get to grips with. If I needed to come to terms with the core technical components that made it all tick, then I was already doomed. I was of the opinion that I dont need to know how the internal combustion engine works if I want to drive a car. So at the very beginning of trying to get to grips with blockchain I was frustrated with the amount of “know about blockchain in 5 easy steps”. Until I happened upon an article about the very beginnings of Ripple, which led me to old classic ripplepay site. And that was my epiphany because it was obivious where the shortcoming of ripplepay were. No way of creating Trust at scale. And the missing pice had yet to be invented that could deliver this trust at scale. The blockchain was needed.
An introduction to Ripple.
Ripplepay when it first came out was intended as a free and open source monetary system that routes payments through networks of trust.
Lookingat it now it seems almost quaint the way in pre-Bitcoin days that Ripple A free and open source monetary system proposed to route payments through networks of trust. Thing is there was no way of creating trust at least at scale. It was the user who decided who to trust. Who did you trust? what did you base that assumption on trust on?
Historically transacting anything of value, be it money, gold, spices, people and organizations have always relied on intermediaries to add an element of trust to the equations. This ensured both parties could have a level of certainty that the transaction could take place and close as predicted and there was less risk of default.
While early on it was not scalable it was nonetheless revolutionary.
The idea that a whole payments system could be created basing exchanges on trust made perfect sense.
The classic site is still on line an worth checking out for two reasons. The first being nostalgia. The old site has the unrefined and retro look we can all admire. The second reason being the concise and simplistic explanation of trust behind the payments.
If you are looking for a quick, un-noisy explanation blockchain the building block of what would once become a blockchain its no harm checking out the homepage explanation.
Less inclined to spend time reading more blockchain articles?
They also took the trouble to make some videos. Currently upladed to youtube they use cute computer generated voice recording which adds to the vintage
Here you’ll find general presentation
And here a more detailed explanation of how it all works:
And here is the official old site