As somebody interested in science communication emerging technologies are very exciting to me. It seems that I missed the emergence of the internet, biotech and nano – by the time I realized they are there, they were really there.
So when I heard the first time about block chains I was really interested. I had missed their first emergence in cryptocurrencies – however, it seems that only now its possible application outside the financial sector become apparent. Blockchains, it is claimed, are laying the groundwork for the next century’s economic growth – outgrowing its uses in the finance sector to encompass the whole society.
Blockchains are distributed databases,
They have funky attributes. They are autonomous, meaning they run on their own. They are absolutely durable because they are copied across thousands of computers it would be able to fully rebuild itself even if most of the computers would be taken offline. They are said to be secure, as it is open source, and therefore ‘cryptographically auditable’, which means you can be mathematically certain that their entries have not been manipulated. This together with their open use policy will make them ubiquitous. Anyone can audit the code.
So what uses can they have outside the money business? Well, you could us them to have a time stamped proof of your copy right or idea, you could use them to sign and adapt contracts.
This makes me think that I read about a special contract that Estonia seems to consider: Marriage on Blockchain
This made me realize just how difficult it is to understand this concept of data bases. I believe it is partly because the first data bases are compared to accounting ledgers. This analogy worked probably well for data bases such as Excel. But does it really work for others? I always imagined databases to be data that is physically stored somewhere like old leather bound books in the library, and data that’s there to tell you where to find the data, like the card register in the library.
But this analogy doesn’t work at all for Blockchains. This would be register cards left on pieces of books telling you were to find the rest of the book or the next volume. And these books, or pieces of books would not be in one library, but the same pieces of books would be distributed through many libraries, constantly copied and constantly added onto new pieces of books with registration card refering to the next piece of books. That would not work at all as a system of organising a library.
I was looking for different metaphors that suited this model more, and was quite happy to think of the brain and how it forms memories (which is in a way ironic if you think that one of the problems in understanding the brain was that it used the inappropriate model of linear computers)
So now, we’ll see what’s emerging.