Blockchain: bringing truth back to the internet?

Over-promising and underdelivering are phrases often associated with the worst cases of technology hyperbole. With its associated cryptocurrency backstory, mysterious inventor identity and lack of obvious demonstrable impact, it is easy to think that blockchain has slipped down the Gartner Hype curve like other technologies before it.

However, with Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trend report highlighting the rise of encryption apps and Facebook’s tentative foray into cryptocurrency with Libra, perhaps there is a resurgence in the recognition of blockchain’s potential. But let’s first take a step back and consider blockchain itself.

Blockchain, in simple terms, is a recordkeeping technology that uses digital timestamping to ‘deter backdating and tampering’ of data (otherwise known as a block). A block stores different types of digital information: transaction information and unique information (a hash) that is used to identify the block. The blocks are connected by ‘chains’, which are databases.

Blockchain works as a distributed ledger, which means all stakeholders in the blockchain have access to the blockchain. It doesn’t require a third-party intermediary and is, notwithstanding hacking attempts in the financial industries, difficult to tamper with. Blockchains can be both permission- or non-permission-based.

So far, so good, although to paraphrase Gil Scott Heron, this revolution hasn’t been televised — at least not yet.

As Adam Draper, blockchain entrepreneur, said: “If blockchain does one thing, it replaces third-party trust with mathematical proof that something happened.” And this is why, in the world of data ownership, privacy challenges, health records and supply change dynamics, blockchain use can be found anywhere from Walmart’s food tracking and Coca Cola’s North American supply chain to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s monitoring of a country’s health or insurers using it to process claims of those who’ve…

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