Blockchain: the answer to life, the universe and everything?
Bitcoin hasn’t lived up to the salvation rhetoric, but the digital engine behind the currency may be about to change the world
Have you heard the good news? The blockchain is here – and it’s going to save everything.
If you aren’t tied to the tech community, you might not have picked up on this salvation rhetoric. But you probably have heard of bitcoin, which burst into the public consciousness before imploding dramatically in 2014.
But now, bitcoin is starting to look less important than the engine that drives it – the blockchain. It was created to solve a problem that had been puzzling digital activists for decades: how to create digital property without a central authority keeping track of who owns what.
The answer to that question, first proposed by bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, was to create a decentralised digital ledger, keeping track of every transaction made, and with its accuracy guaranteed through the combined honesty of the entire network.
The core of the idea is to get computers burning energy in order to prove that they are trustworthy, and stamping that trust on the ‘blocks’ of recorded transactions. You could still lie to the network – but you’d need to burn more energy doing so than every honest participant, combined.
This post was published at The Guardian on 7 July 2016 07.00 BST.