How Can We Understand Blockchain?

A simple explanation of what blockchain is: Blockchain is a type of database that anyone, anywhere with an internet connection can use. It is like a giant Google spreadsheet shared among millions of users. You can view the data. You can add to the data. But the nature of the technology doesn’t allow you to change the data that is already there. The records on the blockchain are constantly updated and verified by the network of computers around the world. You can use blockchain to record a variety of transactions.

“What is so special about blockchain technology?”

There are three main properties of blockchain technology:
1. It is decentralized. This means there is no single entity that holds full control of the data. Transactions no longer need to be approved by regulatory authorities such as a government or a bank.

2. It is transparent. This means all transaction records will be shown publicly, but the identity of the record is not exposed. It is confidential, not anonymous. If you were to look up a person’s transaction history, you will not see “Tom sent 1 ETH”. Instead, you will see “1MF1pjzFLuBaaa9vlFYymvwT2abbCn7mZJ sent 1 ETH.”

3. It is immutable. This means once information has been entered into the blockchain, it cannot be edited and tampered with. The blockchain enforces this by using a form of math called cryptography.

“So.. how does it affect my life? Why do I need to care?”

If you’ve encountered how an elderly struggle with a self-service e-payment kiosk, then you would understand the importance of an agent of change. The world isn’t gonna cater to us. Rather, we adjust to how the world works. There is no need for the elderly to know the entire infrastructure of how the Internet works, he simply needs to understand how to pay electronically for his carton of milk. Similarly, unless you’re on the blockchain programming side of things, I honestly believe most of us aren’t interested to know how blocks, miners and nodes interact with each other to form the technology. We want to understand the outcome of the technology now or at least have a glimpse of how it’ll affects us than simply being forced to deal with it later. Ultimately, the blockchain technology enables new ways for us to interact. Can the elderly still pay in cash if he insists on it? Yes. However, is it better that he pays electronically? Yes. Can we stick with our conventional methods of interaction? Yes, many people would even argue that we should.

But, is it better that we adopt these new methods of interaction with blockchain technology? Yes.

Some companies are already adopting the blockchain technology which is shaping the world to look a little something like this. You no longer need to wait for days, go through multiple procedures and incur expensive transaction fees to send money to someone who lives in a different country. With blockchain, it is instant, straightforward and cheap to manage overseas funds. When it comes to voting, you no longer need to physically stand in line and wait. With blockchain, you’ll vote digitally. When it comes to industries such as healthcare, real estate and insurance where it is highly dependent on tracking stacks of essential documents, you no longer need to worry about your information being lost or tampered with. With blockchain, you can visit multiple doctors, real estate or insurance agents and still have your records being accessed anywhere, updated accordingly and stored securely. The verification process will be a breeze. For most parts, records will be more public and the technology will be taking over third-party platforms to move towards a peer-to-peer economy. Blockchain is already changing and will continue to change the way we pay, manage and communicate.

There is a fine line between fishing and doing nothing. We would like to think that we’re fishing, but the truth is we don’t have the line.