Author & futurist writing about QC, AI & other interesting things
The future is definitely out there, but whatever it is, it’s our own making, our own destiny. To refurbish what we’ve already accomplished, and to go beyond it is going to take a great effort. However, there is one kind of technology that can do all this and more, especially in the financial sector. Surprisingly, though, it isn’t AI nor Robotics. Neither big data nor quantum computers. Not even, thank goodness, social media. It is called the blockchain, and it’s coming for you, it’s coming for all of us.
Lenin created the perfect revolution, but not the best. That’s been saved till now.
Blockchain, to describe it in simple terms — or as simply as can be expressed without inundating you with technical words and geek-speak — is the underlying technology of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Although often confused with the digital currencies as being the same thing, they are inherently different.
Since the first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971, to the genesis of the Internet in 1989, we have ridden the wave of technology with what some might call an ‘air of nonchalance’. This is no surprise, actually: innovations have come thick and fast, one after the other, in a continuous stream of wondrous techmanity that has even outstripped the magnificent achievements for inventions and human endeavour in 15th and 16th century Italy and the 1800s in Great Britain.
But that was all before the blockchain arrived, which if it promises to do what the specialists in the field are telling us, will change the financial landscape of the world for all time.
Since the advent of the internet, we as individuals and society have been able to disseminate information across borders and over continents at great distances with the click of a mouse. Documents, emails and text messages. The internet can send them all.
No big deal, right?
Yet what the blockchain can offer us is something different, a more secure environment for delivering and transferring information.
Take money, for instance. One of man’s greatest inventions, and something very important to us. Fiat currencies, those controlled by governments and central banks, are at the core of everything we do in regard to trade, exchange and banking services. Bonds, stocks, financial assets, too — are all tied to fiat currencies and business. If something goes wrong with it, and the whole house comes tumbling down, there’s trouble.
2008 saw that happen.
When we send a document on the internet, all we are actually doing is sending a copy of it, a facsimile of the original content. It doesn’t really matter how many times we do it because it is only a reproduction. With money, however, this would be a very bad thing to do.
This phenomenon, called double-spending by cryptographers, is one of the big problems facing cryptocurrencies and the blockchain ecosystem.
When one person transfers money to another, it is of paramount importance that I, as the sender, do not still possess the money after I have transferred it to the recipient.
Presently, to complete these types of transfers with fiat currencies, the financial world relies on middlemen or agents, to verify and accomplish this task, which in turn, establishes trust in the financial markets. These intermediaries usually come in the form of banks, governments and other high-level institutions. Up to now, they have generally (with some blips) done a good job.
(Boos and sighs go up)
Yet, cracks have appeared in their system, especially in relation to our high-tech, switched-on world, where data is vulnerable to hacking and other odious invasions.
There are countless examples of financial institutions with multi-million-dollar cybersecurity systems suffering ignominious data breaches: Citigroup in 2011, JP Morgan Chase in 2014 and First American Financial Corporation this year. These are just a few examples of such cases, but as times goes by, and hackers get smarter, things can only get worse.
Such companies, sadly to say, are dinosaurs in more ways than one. Take a bank transfer — if you want to transfer money by traditional methods, it can take a few days. Across the globe, say to a poor African state with only a rudimentary banking system, a week or even more, all the while the bank takes a handsome cut in the percentage of the transfer.
That’s simply unfair.
Ten, fifteen, twenty percent commission, that just isn’t right for doing virtually nothing.
And it’s got to change.
But there’s more bad news.
They steal your information, your data, the personal stuff about you, too — a double whammy!
Our privacy, the lives we live, are all being kept under tabs by a 21st century Stasi.
Take a moment, if you will, just to think about this:
These companies, colossal, magnates of the modern age, have stolen the endowment of the digital age, raped and slaughtered the masses, metaphorically speaking, to gain the upper hand, the power to control us, manipulate us, to mould the world as they see it.
There’s wealth creation next to a growing poverty index.
Inequality is a fashion statement to be ashamed of.
We have Trump and his New York coterie. Putin and his Russian oligarchs. High-ranking Chinese members of the Communist party. Arab oil billionaires. All members of a worldwide conspiracy of Freemasons, a club you and me ain’t in, unfortunately.
Now, do you believe me, that things have to change?
And they have.
We have an internet of information.
We have the blockchain.
There should be a BC and AD of blockchain, but re-christened BB and AB: Before Blockchain and After Blockchain, because that’s how groundbreaking it is. The world will never be the same after this, and who wants it to be, anyway?
The blockchain is the global ledger, the internet of value, the information system available to every person with a pulse, where every human endeavour — be it creative, pecuniary or free-form — is available peer-to-peer, unshackled by the restraints of governance, third-party exorbitant charges and copyright issues.
Storage. Management. Transactions. All sorted.
This is the new age, motherfucker. And without the haemorrhoids of intermediaries to contend with.
Because now we have a universal value system.
Jesus, thank goodness for brains, for foresight. Satoshi Nakamoto, the person (or persons) who sprung up from the Land of Nowhere in 2008 and saved the future world from travesty with his white paper on a new protocol for digital cash, a cryptocurrency, called Bitcoin, should be awarded a Nobel prize.
But he won’t be, of course.
Because the men upstairs, those cretins in control, won’t let him/her/them/it receive it.
We don’t care, though, because Bitcoin lets the masses establish trust and do transactions with financial modalities without the hassle of third-party dopes who are a waste of oxygen.
Satoshi’s maneuver, somehow, incited the about-face stance with the financial degradation not seen since the Wall Street Crash of ’87 and 2008’s debacle. The reversal in thought, a shock to the system for many, was a counter to that greed, the compulsion for wealth and ‘show me the money philosophy’ that marinated most of the ethos pre-bitcoin.
Don’t get me wrong, Bitcoin is nothing more than a speculative asset, something that goes up and down, at least at the moment. If you like the stock market, or cryptocurrency trading platforms like Coinbase and Binance, then go for it. You may make a shitload of cash, fiat variety, that is.
To gain currency status, I don’t know, could take a long time, maybe never.
The fiat currency of today, regulated by Trump and all the other sheriffs in the Global Dodge, controls the market of all nation states.
And grateful you and me should be for this.
But there’s still blockchain.
And the blockchain is going to create a society based on trust and common motivation for peer-to-peer transactions without the scams, without the criminality, without all of the bullshit many people face every day through the schemes of banks and other untrustworthy financial establishments, through some clever coding in cryptography.
Traditionally, money or any other digital asset has been centralized, but with blockchain, the global ledger, it is spread out, disbursed across all member (called nodes) and utilizing the highest level of cryptography known to man. Once a transaction has been completed, it is sent across the world to all the other nodes, so they all have a copy of the transaction.
But there’s more. People called Bitcoin miners, these are big players. Some are individuals, others operating in groups in what are called mining farms, and they have powerful computers to work with.
Every so often, let’s say every few minutes, a block of transactions gets created on the blockchain, which has on it every transaction done within that specified amount of time. This is where the miners earn their supper: immediately, they get to work, competing with each other, trying to crack and then validate the block. Once successful, they are rewarded with Bitcoin or any other altcoin on a specified blockchain.
What happens then is a stroke of genius: That block, now validated, is connected to the preceding block, which has been connected to the one before it and so forth. Each of these blocks has a timestamp embedded on it, which secures the block, and all other blocks, from being hacked by double-spending trickery. This works on the premise that to hack the block, the hacker would have to hack all blocks at the same time in that chain across the millions and millions of nodes across the blockchain ecosystem, which are secured by the most advanced encryption devices available.
Impossible, or almost that.
This is the blockchain. This is what it does.
For decades the traditional ways of moving fiat currency and doing business have been in the hands of the few, using complicated, outdated methods that have had their day but are still, quite unbelievably, used to the detriment, in most cases, of society.
The financial service industry is the guilty party.
Just think about it like this: I make a payment by card, say for a flat white at Starbucks. That payment then goes through numerous financial institutions, each of them with their own computer systems, until a few days later the transaction is settled.
But it’s not good. The status quo has to change.
That’s where blockchain and cryptocurrency come in. With them, the payment and settlement are actually the same, completed instantaneously with no hassle and no extra cost.
This revelation has the financial industry quaking in its boots. Cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology is there to take over its mantle. Now, the thought leaders in the financial industry are worried whether they should fight the coming onslaught or try to accept it as the new modality.
The fear is warranted, though, because the blockchain could, for the first time in history, spread the wealth out because at its very essence the technology is fair, transparent, egalitarian, invented by people, just like Satoshi Nakamoto and others, who believe a system that benefits the few, as in the current financial model, is not in humanity’s best interests.
Let’s allow it to happen, and fast!