BY DEANNA SHOSS
How will blockchain influence your life?
First off, the Dukes, the two $1 bet guys in Trading Places, are gone. And your children or grandchildren will find it incredulous that the ledger found in the glove compartment of Alan Alda’s car in Tower Heist was the actual, only, real copy.
Gone also may be the four-inch stack of paper forms needed to apply for a mortgage, or the conversations your car salesperson has with their manager in private while you fidget uncomfortably, waiting for an answer (a la Fargo).
Blockchain started as a way to move Bitcoin (a brand of cryptocurrency, like Kleenex for tissues) from point A to point B. Now it is being used by a host of big companies to monitor and move any number of assets around the world as easily as sending an email. Billion-dollar companies currently are embracing blockchain technology to speed up business processes, increase transparency and save money. According to the Forbes Blockchain 50, those businesses include Amazon, Citigroup, BMW, and Dole Foods, among others. You may already be benefitting from Blockchain and not even know it!
What is a Blockchain?
“A Blockchain is a peer-to-peer distributed ledger forged by consensus, combined with a system for ‘smart contracts and other assistive technologies,” says, Thierry Hubert, CEO, and Michael Cave, Senior Data Scientist, of Darwin Ecosystem. “Together these can be used to build a new generation of transactional applications that establishes trust, accountability, and transparency at their core while streamlining business processes and legal constraints.”
What people like about Blockchain technology is that stores blocks of information that are identical across its network—so it’s not controlled by a single entity and has no single point of failure. None of the participants can alter the ledger and all can trace it. “It is peer-to-peer electronic governance free of human error,” says Hubert. As a result, “you can’t cook these books,” he adds.
“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.”
A lot of talk about the value of blockchain is around its use for “smart” contracts. The evolution could be thought of as how you once (and probably still) emailed forms back and forth to one another. Then we got fillable pdf forms that you could save onto your own computer; then things could live on the cloud or be shared via Google Docs. Even there, think how annoying it is when someone makes a ‘stupid’ (anything you don’t agree with) change to a GoogleDoc. Sure—there’s only one version that everyone is updating, but anyone can make changes with no approval from the others.
In Blockchain, all on the network have the same exact document/ledger at the same time. If there is no consensus the networks ignore the change. When a digital transaction is carried out, it is stored in a cryptographically protected ‘block,’ governed by rules defined by a governing body, such as an industry consortium, or a predetermined group of members.
And to be clear, we are not just talking about docs. This is just a metaphor. “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.” (Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)
For example, after several high-profile recalls last decade, Dole adopted blockchain across all vegetable processing, for millions of pounds of lettuce, spinach, and coleslaw. Customers at Walmart can now check where their food comes from by scanning a code used by farmers. Dole is planning to apply it to fruit processing next.
Future of Blockchain
While originally only used to document bitcoin transactions, blockchain technology exploded in 2020, and the global blockchain market size is forecasted to grow exponentially. The financial sector is likely to lead the way, and some of that is influenced by COVID. As people are out less and are more concerned about touching physical money, banks will look to streamline and modernize operations with things like contactless transactions and redesigned financial services.
Hopefully, this will all be seamless to you as a consumer, making your digital financial and other transactions easier and more secure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DEANNA SHOSS (CEO Intercultural Talk, Inc., Marketing) helps non-digital natives promote their businesses or life projects with digital, intercultural, and real-life marketing. She takes an intergenerational approach that combines online communication platforms like websites/blogs, social media, and video with tried and true practices such as partnership building, email marketing, and in-person events. Deanna writes for the National Diversity Council and is the Tech Columnist for Grand Magazine. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and French and is a certified Body Pump instructor. Learn more at interculturatalk.com.