When most people think about blockchain, they probably associate it with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ripple, and Ethereum. But, according to experts in the know, blockchain has the potential to revolutionize humanity as a whole.
So how can blockchain go beyond business finance and cryptocurrency as a whole? We caught up with Ian Khan, founder of the Futuracy Institute, three-time TEDtalk speaker, author, filmmaker, and blockchain/IoT/AI advocate at the Money 20/20 USA conference in October to discuss the potential of blockchain impact on humanity as a whole.
In Khan’s soon-to-be-released documentary Blockchain City, Khan interviews experts around the world concerning the potential effect of blockchain on economic, social, and political systems. While Khan claims the technology is still in its infancy, blockchain brings its main facets of providing transparency, trust, and efficiency in whatever application.
Khan interviewed leaders in cities around the world that have already begun to use the technology including the Netherlands, Estonia, and Dubai. In Dubai—the city that touts the title of the “city of the future”—the goal of the government is to use blockchain to transfer all visa applications, bill payments, and license renewals to blockchain technology by 2020. According to Smart Dubai, an initiative founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to make Dubai the “happiest city on earth,” the adoption of blockchain could save 25.1 million labor hours and $1.5 billion per year for the emirate.
Khan when on the explore the potential of transparency and efficiency in logistics, royalties in advertising, healthcare, the rights of artists and musicians, and more. He believes the technology can lead to the next cultural revolution. It could lead to the decentralization of economic markets, social networking sites, distributed cloud storage, even lead to authenticated voting.
But, What is Blockchain Anyway?
A blockchain is a sort of distributed ledger or decentralized database that retains records of electronic transactions. Rather than having a central administrator like a conventional database, (think banks, governments & accountants), a dispersed ledger includes a network of replicated databases, synchronized through the world wide web and visible to anyone within the community. Blockchain networks can be private with restricted membership much like an intranet, or public, such as the Internet, accessible to any person on the planet.
When a digital transaction is performed, it is grouped together in a cryptographically protected block along with different trades that have occurred in the last 10 minutes and shipped out to the entire network. Miners (members from the system with high levels of computing power) then compete to validate the trades by solving complicated coded problems. The first miner to fix the difficulties and validate the block receives a reward.
The validated block of transactions will then time stamped and added to a chain in a linear, chronological arrangement. New cubes of confirmed transactions are linked to older blocks, making a chain of blocks that reveal every trade made in the history of the blockchain. The whole chain is continually updated so that each ledger in the network is identical, giving every participant the ability to prove who owns what at any particular time.
Any Potential Dangers?
With the adoption of the internet of things, blockchain, and AI, the potential for cyber attacks increase, Khan says. This issue should concern those growth institutions, businesses and governments researching blockchain for more efficient delivery of aid, cash remittances, smart contracts, health services and much more. Similarly, social entrepreneurs must ask the same question as they chase the potential for cheaper global payments, clearer property rights and broader access to finance.
Blockchain has a bright future beyond cryptocurrencies. The technology can bring trust, transparency, and efficiency to many different institutions outside of business and finance. And many of its more exciting applications have not been discovered yet. Keep your eye on this emerging technology.