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Hey Blockchain, Is Cryptocurrency All You Got?

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This blog is dedicated to all the souls who lost their life in the 9/11 terrorist attack some years ago. May we never forget their sacrifice and always appreciate our freedoms.

Having worked in technology for the past 30 years, I’ve seen how consumer adoption of innovations can limit the understanding of said inventions, and sometimes, interfere with their potential across broad use cases. Consider the world wide web in the early days, when searching was the primary – often only – use case for the internet. For many, “Googling” and the internet became synonymous with each other in any given sentence or context, thus making it seem to the casual user that they were really one and the same. Of course, we soon came to learn that the internet had much deeper ambitions, and while search is still an important one, the enablement of commerce and social have become features as important as any in today’s connected world.

The technology known as blockchain is progressing, slowly, through this same evolution. By one definition, blockchain is an immutable time-stamped series record of data that is distributed and managed by clusters of computers {1}. Yet another definition describes it as a system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency is maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network {2}. Note, the former describes a generic view of a capability whilst the latter a specific implementation of the service, namely that within bitcoin.

Which definition is correct? I suggest that both are truthful, yet only one does any justice to the massive potential that resides within the blockchain protocol. Let me elaborate…

First Mover. Since its conception in 2008 by a person(s) named Satoshi Nakamoto, blockchain became synonymous with the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Without a central bank in the middle, the blockchain served as the “trusted authority” within the bitcoin apparatus and solved the “double spend” problem that previously plagued other payment systems. Indeed, the very nature of this trust-no-authority mindset allowed bitcoin to explode in popularity among particular groups, including those in the counter-culture and those dealing in underground commerce. Certainly, The Silk Road was an original “dark web” trading site enabled by bitcoin, which led to the labeling of bitcoin – and blockchain by association – as a shadow technology for those on the margins or involved in nefarious practices. To this day, blockchain still struggles to separate itself from the morass that is bitcoin.

Don’t Put Baby In The Corner. Spend any amount of time understanding what blockchain really is and you will quickly realize its potential. In summary, there are seven tenets that define the essence of blockchain and two of them – security and privacy – stand out as enablers in a capitalist market. Consider the idea of smart contracts, such as an automated escrow for property transactions. Given the distributed architecture, strong cryptography, and individual identities separate from any transaction, the blockchain is an ideal approach to enable commerce in these complex transactions across multiple parties where natural trust is not established. Taken a step further, the recording of deed and title can be enabled on the same blockchain as the transaction itself, thus preserving owners’ rights (another tenet of blockchain). Imagine someone looking to buy property having the ability to go to an electronic record of all transactions on a said asset without having to leave their home – or navigate the county office of records, file cabinets, microfiche, etc. Elegant and beautiful, indeed.

Big Business. Given blockchain’s roots in the aforementioned bitcoin culture, it’s ironic that Wall Street and big tech are finding ways to implement cryptocurrency within mainstream economies. Facebook, as an example, has its Libra crypto that they plan to roll out backed by fiat currency and broad governmental approval (good luck with that). JP Morgan – venerable as they come – has been testing their digital currency JPM Coin with institutional investors for several months now. Walmart and other large enterprises are testing blockchain within their supply chain. It’s clear that blockchain has pervasive and important application within the 21st-century world economy.

Blockchain is an inclusive, distributed, secure, and value incented protocol – better than any similar concept to precede it. Shackling its value to only one use case – bitcoin – would be a shameful waste of the potential that lies within.

By Jim Mulholland
COO and Partner, Life Sciences

1. www.blockgeeks.com             2. Oxford Dictionary

 

This blog was originally published on LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hey-blockchain-cryptocurrency-all-you-got-jim-mulholland/

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