The Revolution: Bitcoin and/or Blockchain?

Dubai has vowed to become the ‘first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020.’

Dubai has vowed to become the ‘first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020.’ PHOTO: RUSTAM AZMI/GETTY IMAGES

Some interesting recent articles on blockchain and crypto:

Why Blockchain Will Survive, Even If Bitcoin Doesn’t

Latest blockchain applications could bring overdue change to critical, if unsexy, functions in shipping, real estate and…diamonds

We’re now awash in “crypto” hype—cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and fundraising efforts like initial coin offerings. For every venture capitalist or technical expert, there’s a half-dozen hype men and fly-by-night startups making the entire space look like a 21st-century version of the Amsterdam tulip mania.

All that noise has obscured the bona fide efforts involving the underlying technology, blockchain. Of all the manifestations of crypto, it’s the most seemingly mundane applications of blockchain that could lead to the biggest and most concrete changes in all of our lives.

These applications can’t be found on a coin exchange, and they aren’t going to turn anyone into an overnight billionaire. But they could bring much-needed change to some of the world’s most critical, if unsexy, industries. This means new ways of transferring real estate titles, managing cargo on shipping vessels, mapping the origins of conflict materials, guaranteeing the safety of the food we eat and more. Using blockchain, you could prove that a particular diamond on sale in a Milan boutique came from a particular mine in Russia.

What is blockchain? It’s essentially a secure database, or ledger, spread across multiple computers. Everybody has the same record of all transactions, so tampering with one instance of it is pointless. “Crypto” describes the cryptography that underlies it, which allows agents to securely interact—transfer assets, for example—while also guaranteeing that once a transaction has been made, the blockchain remains an immutable record of it.

Blockchain has the power to transform all these industries for three reasons. First, it’s genuinely well-suited to transactions that require trust and a permanent record. Second, blockchain typically requires the cooperation of many different parties. In cases where it’s implemented as open source software, it avoids the collective-action problem—the disincentives that prevent individuals from adopting something that would benefit them collectively—that occurs when a single company tries to push, and benefit from, a new standard.

The third reason is that hype I mentioned. The current excitement around cryptocurrency gives blockchain the visibility to attract developers and encourage adoption. Companies that have taken an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude toward back-office processes and logistics IT might be ready to spend big on updating those systems when they hear the buzzword “blockchain.”

In this way, blockchain resembles another buzzword, “the cloud.” While detractors argued that the cloud was just “someone else’s computer,” it gave many industries new business processes, new ways to charge for services, disruptive startups and new divisions within existing companies and an ecosystem of supporting technologies. Blockchain has the same potential.

Blockchain All the Things

Take logistics. Already, 1.1 million items sold or on sale at Walmart are on a blockchain—including chicken and almond milk—helping the company trace their journey from manufacturer to store shelf. Global shipping giant Maersk uses the same technology from IBM to track shipping containers, making it faster and easier to transfer them and get them through customs.

While these projects are still a fraction of the overall tracking that goes on at these giants, they are expanding rapidly both within the organizations and across their industries. Other companies using blockchain technology to track goods include Kroger, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Unilever, with many more yet to be announced, says Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of platforms and blockchain at IBM.

Everledger, a company started in April 2014 with the intention of creating a blockchain-based registry of every certified diamond in the world, already has 2.2 million diamonds in its registry. It’s adding about 100,000 diamonds a month, says Leanne Kemp, chief executive and founder.

By recording 40 different measures of each stone, including “physically unclone-able features,” Everledger is able to trace the journey of a stone from when it’s pulled from the earth to the day it’s purchased by a consumer. Every participant in that chain, from the miner to the cutter to the retailer, maintains a node—with a complete copy of the database—in the Everledger blockchain network.

Global shipping giant Maersk uses blockchain technology from IBM to track and transfer shipping containers and move them more quickly through customs.
Global shipping giant Maersk uses blockchain technology from IBM to track and transfer shipping containers and move them more quickly through customs. PHOTO: SUSANA GONZALEZ/BLOOMBERG

CartaSense is an eight-year-old Tel Aviv company that puts internet-connected sensors on freight pallets and uses analytics to determine when goods may be delayed or damaged. CartaSense customers, rather than physically handing off scanned and signed paper documents, use a blockchain database on which freight companies can record every stage of the journey of a package, pallet or shipping container. Kuehne + Nagel, one of the world’s largest freight companies, is one of CartaSense’s clients.

Replacing Regulations With Code

Blockchain is being implemented first within companies and centralized governments that can move quickly on new technologies.

Dubai, for example, has declared its intent to make itself the “first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020.” That could streamline things in real estate, says Stephen McKeon, an associate professor of finance at the University of Oregon who studies blockchain. By moving the central record of all real-estate transactions onto a blockchain, Dubai could make it faster and easier to transfer property titles.

Because such “smart contracts” on a blockchain are code, they can contain rules about how they can be modified or transferred. In this way, blockchain could become a way to transfer the obligation of enforcement from bureaucrats to computers. For example, to prevent fraud, titles could be transferable only to certain accounts, or might transfer only after another condition, such as the transfer of funds in escrow, is met.

It’s too early to say whether blockchain, as both a technology and a movement, has the power to overcome issues that thwarted generations of software engineers. The most justifiable skepticism is that blockchain is incremental rather than revolutionary. In some cases, it isn’t much more than a marketing term imposed on systems that hardly differ from existing databases. (There’s a healthy debate about what blockchain even means, and even companies like CartaSense call their system a “blockchain-like technology.”)

But if it works, it has the potential to be a fundamental enabling technology, the way new standards for transmitting data across networks led to the internet. More concretely, it could someday underlie everything from how we vote to who we connect with online to what we buy.

Write to Christopher Mims at [email protected]

Appeared in the March 12, 2018, print edition as ‘Blockchain Has Power to Transform.’


Don’t Be Evil?

The alarm bells keep ringing on the tech quasi-monopolies that rule the Internet. There are two main issues to address: one is the ownership and control over personal data – this data rightly belongs to consumers, not network servers – and two is the positive network effects that drive these cos. to dominance.

How we analyze these tech titans differs along these two issues. Amazon, Apple and Microsoft sell products and product markets are not easily protected from competition. They are middlemen between producers/suppliers and consumers. I expect we will discover new competitive models to deliver goods and services, which will eat into these cos.’ dominance. The promise of blockchain technology is exactly to eliminate the middleman.

Google and Facebook are different animals. Search is starting to appear to resemble a public good, like public libraries. With the positive externalities of network effects, it also resembles a natural monopoly – the more people use a search engine, the better is the information obtained, meaning the search engine becomes ever more valuable. We probably don’t want to destroy this value. To me, this suggests that Google’s search engine eventually will become a publicly regulated utility – because the politics will demand it. We already see this outside the U.S.

Facebook, the ultimate social network, is going through some ups and downs because of issues of how it collects and uses personal information. My impression is that a single social network for all socializing needs is probably not the ideal solution. If correct, competition will eat into FB, which will start to break up into different targeted functions, reducing its value as a one-stop-fits-all OSN.

We shall see.

How Silicon Valley went from ‘don’t be evil’ to doing evil

March 4, 2018

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday March 23, 2010.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

– The Who, “We won’t be fooled again”, 1971

Once seen as the saviors of America’s economy, Silicon Valley is turning into something more of an emerging axis of evil. “Brain-hacking” tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, as one prominent tech investor puts it, have become so intrusive as to alarm critics on both right and left.

Firms like Google, which once advertised themselves as committed to being not “evil,” are now increasingly seen as epitomizing Hades’ legions. The tech giants now constitute the world’s five largest companies in market capitalization. Rather than idealistic newcomers, they increasingly reflect the worst of American capitalism — squashing competitors, using indentured servants, attempting to fix wagesdepressing incomes, creating ever more social anomie and alienation.

At the same time these firms are fostering what British academic David Lyon has called a “surveillance society” both here and abroad. Companies like Facebook and Google thrive by mining personal data, and their only way to grow, as Wired recently suggested, was, creepily, to “know you better.”

The techie vision of the future is one in which the middle class all but disappears, with those not sufficiently merged with machine intelligence relegated to rent-paying serfs living on “income maintenance.” Theirs is a world in where long-standing local affinities are supplanted by Facebook’s concept of digitally-created “meaningful communities.”

The progressive rebellion

Back during the Obama years, the tech oligarchy was widely admired throughout the progressive circles. Companies like Google gained massive access to the administration’s inner circles, with many top aides eventually entering a “revolving door” for jobs with firms like Google, Facebook, Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Although the vast majority of all political contributions from these firms, not surprisingly, go to the Democrats, many progressives — at least not those on their payroll — are expressing alarm about the oligarchs’ move to gain control of whole industries, such as education, finance, groceries, space, print media and entertainment. Left-leaning luminaries like Franklin Foer, former editor of the New Republic, rant against technology firms as a threat to basic liberties and coarsening culture.

Progressives are increasingly calling for ever growing tech monolith to be “broken up,” calling for new regulation to limit their size and scope. Many have embraced European proposals to restrain tech monopolies which now resemble “predatory capitalism” at its worse.

The right also rises

Traditionally, conservatives celebrated entrepreneurial success and opposed governmental intervention in the economy. Yet increasingly even libertarians, like Instapundit’s Glen Reynolds, have suggested that some form of anti-trust action may be necessary to curb oligarchic power. The National Review even recently suggested that these firms be treated as utilities, that is, regulated by government.

Conservatives are also concerned about pervasive political bias in the industry. The Bay Area, the heartland of the industry, has evolved as Facebook co-founder Peter Thiel notes, into a “one party state.” Ideological homogeneity discourages debate and dissent, both inside their companies.

More importantly, conservatives seek to curb their ability — increasingly evident as traditional media declines — to control content on the internet. As the techies expand their domain, America’s media, entertainment and cultural industries would seem destined to become ever less heterogenous in politics and cultural world-view.

A clear and present danger

Whether one sits on the progressive left or the political right, this growing hegemony presents a clear and present danger. It is increasingly clear that the oligarchs have forgotten that Americans are more than a collection of data-bases to be exploited. People, whatever their ideology, generally want to maintain a modicum of privacy, and choose their way of life.

The perfect world of the oligarchs can be seen in the Bay Area, where, despite the massive explosion in employment, even tech workers, due to high costs, do worse than their counterparts elsewhere. Meanwhile San Francisco, among the most unequal places in the country, has evolved into a walking advertisement for a post-modern dystopia, an ultra-expensive city filled with homeless people and streets filled with excrement and needles. It is also increasingly exporting people elsewhere, including many people making high salaries.

Of course, technology is critical to a brighter future, but need not be the province of a handful of companies or concentrated in one or two regions. The great progress in the 1980s and 1990s took place in a highly competitive, and dispersed, environment not one dominated by firms that control 80 or 90 percent of key markets. Not surprisingly, the rise of the oligarchs coincides with a general decline in business startups, including in tech.

We have traveled far from the heroic era of spunky start-ups nurtured in suburban garages. But a future of ever greater robotic dependence — a kind of high-tech feudalism — is not inevitable. Setting aside their many differences, conservatives and progressives need to agree on strategies to limit the oligarch’s stranglehold on our future.

Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (

Blockchain Future?

This is a very long, comprehensive essay on bitcoin, blockchain, and distributed network economics. Published in the NY Times.

Full article

An excerpt I find particularly relevant to the tuka model:

The token architecture would give a blockchain-based identity standard an additional edge over closed standards like Facebook’s. As many critics have observed, ordinary users on social-media platforms create almost all the content without compensation, while the companies capture all the economic value from that content through advertising sales. A token-based social network would at least give early adopters a piece of the action, rewarding them for their labors in making the new platform appealing. “If someone can really figure out a version of Facebook that lets users own a piece of the network and get paid,” Dixon says, “that could be pretty compelling.”

That would be tuka.


Next-Gen Social Media


This article from is a year old, but most people are unaware of these new innovations that define Web 3.0. Web 3.0 is basically the decentralization of Web 2.0 that was/is dominated by central distribution servers like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix, etc. Web 3.0 will put the users in control of their own personal data and information networks. This means the value will be distributed according to the ownership and control of information data. These central distribution servers are the richest companies in the world today – just imagine if they had to start paying you for all the information you upload to their servers. The new services, such as tuka, will share that value.

Is Facebook About to Get ‘Myspaced’ by Next-Gen Social Media?

August 26, 2016 |

By Jamie Redman

Social media is a major component of the Internet and has already transformed how humans communicate and interact. Looking to take things to the next level, a few projects are trying to combine social media with the blockchain.


Blockchain-based social media platform Steemit has gained quite a following in the past few months. The project was built by Daniel Larimer, the founder of Bitshares, using graphene architecture. The company is also led by Ned Scott, who is a technical analyst with a background in financial data.

Steemit launched in March 2016 with moderate enthusiasm from the community and a small following. It has since been a hot topic in cryptocurrency circles and social media.

During the summer, Steemit attracted a lot of artists, writers, and vloggers to the platform because it pays people for sharing content. People have been paid thousands of dollars per post in some instances, with the most popular articles netting close to $15,000 USD.

The platform, which combines the concepts of Facebook, WordPress, and Reddit, operates on the Steemit blockchain and uses three types of crypto-tokens:

Steem Power gives users the ability to throw their weight around on the platform. The more power you have, the more significant your vote will be when you upvote a post or even a comment. Comments have been seen to be upwards of $20-40, so all interaction is rewarded.

Steem is a token that powers two smart contract protocols similar to Ether’s gas, and is tradable on cryptocurrency markets. The token is supported on exchanges like Bittrex or Poloniex. However, holders also have the option to use their coins to boost their Steem Power..

Steem Dollars are designed to be pegged to $1 USD and be the equivalent of one dollar’s worth of Steem for conversion over the platform. On cryptocurrency exchanges, SBD’s can be seen trading for a dollar or less depending on the current market value. So, in essence, it makes more sense to use the system’s seven-day conversion over a third-party exchange, though lots of people cash out their content earnings elsewhere.

Steem Adds New Features

Steemit developers has just announced the addition of highly-requested features to the site. The services will enhance the social media experience by adding private messaging, notifications, and follow buttons. The team believes implementing these new features will facilitate interaction between community members and attract new people currently using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Steemit CEO Ned Scott explains:

Enhancing the diversity of our application-specific blockchain is a natural progression for Steemit. Private messaging is perfectly suited for a decentralized system and will empower users in a similar way to how direct messages empower users on Twitter. The ‘follow’ feature will enable community members to receive notifications as soon as their favorite authors post, and the notifications will work just like Facebook in that users will be alerted immediately upon a new post or upvote from their favorite contributors. These features are the pillars of current social media giants and we look forward to integrating them into Steemit over the coming weeks.

Big Names & Skepticism

Steemit’s popularity has attracted quite a few well-known people to share content over the platform, including personalities like Trace Mayer, Larken Rose, Charlie Shrem, Roger Ver, Tatiana Moroz and Rick Falkvinge. Some of these famous users regularly take in four figures for introducing themselves, writing stories, and posting video and podcast content.

However, there have been some naysayers who believe the project is a scam, or resembles somewhat of a ponzi. Brave New Coincontributor and bitcoin technical analyst Tone Vays says Steemit appears to be a ponzi scheme. Vays highlighted many points on why he believes the platform is set up like a pyramid scam. He even debated the issue on the Dollar Vigilante’s podcast, Anarchast. Many people are waiting to see if the project can continue to hold its own, keep up its significantly large payouts, and ultimately survive as a social media platform with perks.

Competition Is Coming

Soon Steemit won’t be the only blockchain-based social media platform on the market. Tel-Aviv-based Synereo, founded by Dor Konforty and Greg Meredith, also aims to create a decentralized social media protocol.

The team has recently announced a prototype of the Synereo platform, which is in its alpha phase and works on top of the software’s distributed stack.

With Synereo’s blockchain-based social network, the protocol puts content creators in charge of the media they produce — just like Steemit. Users control their personal information and produce content that can be monetized within the Synereo community.

Unlike Twitter or Facebook, the Synereo application doesn’t store data on its users and cannot sell the information to third-parties. Instead, the platform works through transactions on the Synereo blockchain and is only available to network participants.

The Synereo social media network will operate without any central server, and will compensate its user base for their content and shared computational power. The team also says that the project “adheres to principles of the attention economy” that in essence rewards network users for creation and curation.

The platform includes text posting, image posting, content labeling, taggable posts and hashtags, decentralized searching and content amplification. Users will also be able to promote content by charging with the Synereo blockchain’s native currency, AMP. Users viewing content loaded with AMP will be compensated, encouraging people to interact with amplified content.

During last week’s developer and community hangout, the Synereo team talked about its recent joint venture with

The developers’ news update states:

The project has now API functionality and is able to work with outside networks, so that users can now be compensated automatically with AMPs for their contributions to their social network.—Also the components of the Synereo ecosystem are starting to converge and reveal a detailed picture of its capability.

Will Centralized Social Media Fall to the Wayside?

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are still the prominent social media applications everyone uses. The mechanics of these websites are very much centralized, as third-parties benefit from users’ content, targeted ads, and personal information.

Meanwhile, other social media services like DiasporaTSU and others haven’t been able to grasp widespread attention on par with the reception received by Steemit so far.

Given the rising popularity of Steemit, the next generation of social media will make it easier to monetize content, resist censorship and provide users with a true peer-to-peer experience. It may be a few years until Facebook loses its supremacy the way MySpace did, but the trend towards decentralization and better security will ensure that users do not only retain their privacy, but also share in the spoils of their online community.

tuka Integration = Web 3.0

tuka aligns the primary needs of a creative market–to promote, transact and connect–through three integrated digital technologies. These are an online social network (OSN) that is more accurately termed a online media network; a peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing protocol to exchange digital media; and a blockchain transaction ledger to keep track of information data flows and transactions.We might put it more simply in these terms:

OSN + P2P + BC = tuka.

1. Promote.

The purpose of the OSN platform is to share and promote content. It’s different from Facebook because postings are limited to sample files of creative content. In other words, good-bye to white noise and push ads. Through a timeline feed, users curate their feeds so creators can discover their audiences and vice-versa.

2. Transact.

Resulting transactions among users are enabled over a peer-to-peer [P2P] file-sharing distribution and payments network.

3. Connect.

The flow of transactions data and shared information is recorded by the Blockchain (BC). Peer networks are managed through a dedicated user dashboard.

Control Your Peer Network.

Blockchain is a distributed public ledger that records all transaction/data flows between users, whether monetary or non-monetary (read more here and here). Smart contracts can be programmed into the metadata of digital content so the Blockchain can distribute value to every user who contributes to the final transaction, meaning promotional efforts by fans can be rewarded by content owners, contingent upon sales. Successful promotion and marketing receive remuneration after the sale; while unsuccessful or free promo incurs no costs.

A Blockchain ledger system also means users have the power to build out and control their own peer networks on the platform. Users can reap the value of their data networks rather than surrendering that value to network servers.



Blockchain’s New World

What is the BlockChain?

Why it’s disruptive: Blockchain promises to make firms’ back-end operations more efficient and cheaper. Eventually, it could replace companies altogether.

Interesting article on the broad business/economic implications of blockchain technology with a wealth of relevant links to additional resources:

Executive’s guide to implementing blockchain technology

The technology behind bitcoin is one of the internet’s most promising new developments. Here’s how businesses can use it to streamline operations and create new opportunities.


Blockchains are one of the most important technologies to emerge in recent years, with many experts believing they will change our world in the next two decades as much as the internet has over the last two.

Although it is early in its development, firms pursuing blockchain technology include IBM, Microsoft, Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, Nasdaq, Foxconn, Visa, and shipping giant Maersk. Venture capitalists have so far poured $1.5 billion into the space, with storied firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and Khosla Ventures making bets on startups.

A blockchain is a golden record of the truth that creates trust among multiple parties.

The applications for blockchain technology seem endless. While the first obvious ones are financial — international payments, remittances, complex financial products — it can also solve problems and create new opportunities in healthcare, defense, supply chain management, luxury goods, government, and other industries. In more advanced stages, the technology could give rise to what Gartner calls “the programmable economy,” powered by entirely new business models that eliminate all kinds of middlemen, machine networks in which devices engage in economic activity, and “smart assets” in which some form of property such as shares in a company can be traded according to programmable or artificial intelligence-based rules rather than the control of a centralized entity.


What is blockchain: A blockchain is a single version of the truth made possible by an immutable and secure time-stamped ledger, copies of which are held by multiple parties.

Why it matters: It shifts trust in business from an institution or entity to software and could someday spell the demise of many traditional companies. It also promises to make trade-able many assets that are illiquid today, enable our devices and gadgets to become consumers, and bring trust to many areas of business, eliminating fraud and counterfeiting.

How it works: Cryptography secures the data and new transactions are linked to previous ones, making it near-impossible to change older records without having to change subsequent ones. And because multiple “nodes” (computers) run the network, one would need to gain control of more than half of them in order to make changes.

Why it’s disruptive: At the least it promises to make firms’ back-end operations more efficient and cheaper, but down the line, it could replace companies altogether.

Business opportunities: New services and products will pop up in areas such as creating and trading assets, tracking provenance, managing supply chain, managing identity, and in providing ancillary services to the software itself.

Main vendors: More than a dozen platform vendors have sprung up, and several dozen consulting and implementation providers assist in adopting blockchain projects.

Career options: The main blockchain specialists include developers and business and technical architects. But roles are also needed in risk management, security, cryptography, business process management, product strategy, and analytics.


A blockchain is a golden record of the truth that creates trust among multiple parties. Specifically, it’s a secure, tamper-proof ledger with time-stamped transactions, distributed amongst a number of entities.

This means a blockchain — a piece of technology — can replace an intermediary in situations where a trusted third party is required. So, for instance, while we now need a bank (or several) in order to make a payment to a foreign country, a piece of software — the program running bitcoin — can now send money to someone across the world for us. And the latter is much cheaper and faster — and, in the case of bitcoin, transparent so you can see when the money arrives, whereas with a bank wire, you have to find out from the recipient. (Blockchains can be made private as well, to protect data.) Overall, blockchain technology promises greater security and lower costs than traditional databases.

“The problem in the market is that blockchain is being used as a collective noun for the bitcoin blockchain and everything else in between, and that’s not exactly true,” says David Furlonger, Gartner vice president and fellow. Blockchain has become the catch-all phrase for a larger group of technologies called “distributed ledger technology” or DLT. Technically speaking, it is possible to have a distributed ledger that is not constructed as a blockchain (as described below), however, when people refer to blockchain technology, they are often speaking about DLT.

And if you want to get really technical, “DLT falls short because it assumes information gets distributed when in many cases it doesn’t,” says Javier Paz, senior analyst at financial services research firm Aite Group. But “blockchain,” “distributed ledger,” or “DLT” should suffice for all but the most technical discussions.

Additional resources


“The key differentiator between a database and blockchain is that a database is managed and controlled by someone,” says Eric Piscini, principal of financial services technology at Deloitte. “A blockchain doesn’t need to be managed by someone, so you don’t have to trust someone to run the platform. It’s run by everyone at the same time. That’s a shift in business models.”

Eventually, blockchains could give rise to a number of peer-to-peer networks not run by any centralized parties that enable the creation and transfer of money or other assets. For instance, the technology could be used to create an Airbnb-like network without the company Airbnb. When combined with the Internet of Things (IoT), it could create an Uber-like program without Uber. Such peer-to-peer networks are often referred to as distributed autonomous organizations (DAOs), and someday, they could transform our whole conception of companies.

Gartner projects that blockchain will result in $176 billion in added business value by 2025, and $3.1 trillion by 2030.

Additional resources


Not every blockchain works the same way. For example, they can differ in their consensus mechanisms, which are the rules by which the technology will update the ledger. But broadly, a blockchain is a ledger on which new transactions are recorded in blocks, with each block identified by a cryptographic hash of that data. The same hash will always result from that data, but it is impossible to re-create the data from the hash. Similarly, if even the smallest detail of that transaction data is changed, it will create a wildly different hash, and since the hash of each block is included as a data point in the next block, subsequent blocks would also end up with different hashes. This is what makes the ledger tamper-proof. Finally, security also comes from the fact that multiple computers called nodes store the blockchain, and so to change the ledger, one would need to gain control of at least 50 percent of the computing power in order to change the record — a difficult feat especially for a public blockchain such as bitcoin’s.

Additional resources


A common saying is that blockchain technology will do what the internet did to media — disrupt — but to sectors such as financial services, law, and other industries offering trust as a service.

“The industry has lived and breathed off the back of intermediation,” Furlonger says. Noting that banks typically control financial activity and governments usually control the economic assets we use, he adds, “If you think about the way authentication and identification is done, the way you onboard customers, the way you share records, all of this is done through siloed, decades-old channels and processes. And here you have a technology that basically says you no longer need a middleman, you have one golden copy of a record that no one can change … anyone can join any time because it’s open source … it’s kind of free, anyone can create any asset and distribute it to anyone else on the planet. You’re basically saying, we’re going to change the way the economic models that have grown up for the last several centuries operate. As a result, we’re going to change the way society operates as well.”

He believes the outcome will be what Gartner calls “the programmable economy,” which it defines as a global market powered by algorithmic businesses and DAOs running on blockchain-based networks whose assets engage in economic activity by rules coded in software or artificial intelligence. The two most commonly used public networks so far are bitcoin and Ethereum, a public blockchain like bitcoin’s that is focused on smart contracts, which are software programs that execute transactions when certain conditions are met.

But that’s at least a decade off. To start, the technology will make the back-end operations of many companies more efficient because, now, firms that work with each other and even different departments within one organization often maintain their own ledgers, duplicating work. “At least we will see it impacting the back and middle office, eradicating the problems and cost associated with sustaining multiple versions of the truth,” Paz says.

A recent report by Bain and Company estimated that the savings from implementation of blockchain technology would amount to $15 to $35 billion annually. As services at certain companies become more efficient and cheaper, marketshare among incumbents is likely to change. And because the technology is open source, “You can build that platform for a fraction of what it would cost you with traditional technologies,” Piscini says. That gives both startups as well as the software itself an opening. For instance, people could use the bitcoin network, which is not run by any one company, to make payments cheaply, quickly, and efficiently. “If you just enable transactions for others, you’re in big trouble,” he says, “because the blockchain can replace you as an entity without the need for a legal entity to run it.”

Additional resources


Though some executives might fear software replacing their role or their company’s, even email hasn’t killed snail mail. Though the technology does promise to change existing marketshare, Piscini says companies can avoid becoming obsolete by seizing upon new opportunities. “If companies provide incremental services, if they provide you the ability to dispute transactions, to do some analytics on top of that platform — incremental value that you don’t have today — that’s how they’re going to survive.” In fact, blockchain technology will enable companies to offer services that previously were impossible without it. Gartner predicts that by 2022, at least one new business based on blockchain technology will be worth $10 billion.

Blockchain technology makes possible new offerings in industries as diverse as financial services, healthcare, supply chain, oil and gas, retail, music, advertising, publishing, media, energy, government, and many others. In finance alone, it can be used for making international payments, trading stocks, bonds, and commodities, and providing an audit trail for regulators. It can create new forms of assets and make it possible to trade existing illiquid ones, such as mobile minutes, energy credits and frequent flyer miles. It can be used to track provenance, stamping out fraud and counterfeiting in areas such as luxury goods, fine art, pharmaceuticals, food, and government documents. It makes it possible for musicians, writers, and other artists to embed royalty payments into their MP3s, ebooks, and other creations to pay themselves every time their work is bought or resold. It can be used by publishers to run publications funded not by ads but by micropayments issued by readers’ browsers. It can enable people to manage their identity and the privacy of their data instead of having to rely on centralized entities such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter. It can show an individual voter that their vote was counted correctly and the entire electorate that no votes were fraudulent or counted more than once. And those are just some examples.

Gartner projects that devices or things using blockchains to transact will comprise 30 percent of the global customer base by 2030. One of the more popular futuristic scenarios is that we may someday tell our self-driving car that we’re in a rush and to send a micropayment to any car that is willing to be passed on the highway. The money will be transmitted via a combination of blockchain and IoT technologies.

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A host of platform vendors to enterprise have already cropped up. Although the space has more than a dozen players, the most active groups (two are not companies), in alphabetical order, are:

  1. Chain, which, together with Nasdaq, created the first private blockchain in production (though on a small scale) — Nasdaq Linq, which is used in managing shares in private companies. It also has partnerships with Visa, Citi, and Capital One.
  2. Ethereum, a P2P network that’s public like bitcoin but focused on smart contracts, not payments, and that has an enterprise initiative, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA).
  3. Hyperledger, the open-source effort run by the Linux Foundation and closely affiliated with IBM which counts companies as diverse as Airbus, American Express, Daimler, and Intel as members.
  4. R3, a consortium of financial institutions whose distributed ledger offering, Corda, is not structured as a blockchain, meaning that transaction data is not published to the ledger of every participant in the network. Instead transactions are published only on the ledgers of the relevant parties.

Others include Axoni, Digital Asset Holdings, Monax, Ripple, SETL, Symbiont, and T0 (T-zero, as in settlement in zero days).

Businesses helping firms implement blockchain solutions include Accenture, CapGemini, Chainsmiths, Deloitte, Ernst and Young, IBM Global Services, Infosys, KMPG, PwC, Polaris, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, and others. IBM and Microsoft are leaders in cloud blockchain services.

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