Tech Term: Blockchain

I read an article recently where someone suggested that blockchain could replace traditional copyrights for books. Taken alone, the article was a convincing case. In the real world, it was more of an interesting theory.  Some of you may have heard the term Blockchain bandied about, but aren’t too sure what it means. You aren’t alone. Trying to understand it makes my brain bleed a little.

Blockchain is a kind of public ledger where virtual financial transactions–think bitcoin–can be grouped into blocks in chronological order. Each block is a bit like a bank statement. In the case of the virtual currency Bitcoin, the blockchain will keep details of every single transaction with the virtual coin and prevent the same bitcoin from being spent twice. Personal user information is not displayed as part of the blockchain. Blockchain changes how records are kept in areas like title registry, identify verification and music distribution.

Another way to think of blockchain would be that it replaces a traditional third-party trusted-entity like a bank  (or in the case of a copyright, the government’s copyright agency) with a collective validation from other users.

The idea is this going to blossom into a beautiful open-source low-cost way to verify things that would traditionally require an auditor or a banker.

Blockchain is a crucial part of the “trust economy.” As more and more transactions become virtual, (ordering digital music online, getting a taxi ride with an app from a stranger) it can help add trust to untrusted environments.

Personally, I’m not sure if I’m not smart enough to get it or too smart to fall for it. But it feels a little hinky to me.

I read a quote that said blockchain was a solution looking for a problem. Gotta admit I liked that one.

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