An essay on the implications of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology as understood by a tech simpleton.
Despite having grown up on a diet of technological accessibility, the only command I have over a computer is playing games, sending email, or surfing the occasional web site. Also I don’t really use Twitter or even Facebook. And sometimes not even that. What happens “underneath the keyboard” is vague at best, and explained through misplaced allegories at worst.
RAM is “random access memory,” as opposed to “certain unattainable memory.” The “Cloud” is a fluffy white thing floating in space with the occasional burst of with static electricity. Like I said, spotty. However, this does not preclude me from understanding the import that certain developments have in the logical world of computers.
Extrapolation can occur by grasping the real world result of a certain application. Along with my Dad, who was the brains behind this operation, I have slowly discovered the implication and meaning of blockchain technology; what it can do for the future of the internet and what it can do for us.
I first heard about Bitcoin two years ago as a passing topic in a Great Books seminar discussing Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The resident computer science kid outlined a brief explanation of Bitcoin. We all nodded like we understood. We moved on with our arguing about invisible hands and individual economic action.
Back then, my only exposure to digital money were those fun-choking “in-game currencies” used by video game publishers to rob parents’ wallets through their children’s pleas for meaningless content. As such, any sort of money associated with a computers was something annoying and prevented me from having fun. Bitcoin got dropped in this mental hole and forgotten about. Now back to the present. Summer of 2016, and my Dad catches the Bitcoin bug. I’m not sure where or how, but pretty soon, the only thing he’s watching are YouTube videos on blockchain and cryptocurrency.
And then it happened. Through raw exposure I was sucked in too. I remember being on the phone as he explained the implications of Bitcoin:
- transfer value or wealth to anyone in the world with an internet connection;
- money getting to the people of the third world instead their corrupt governments;
- secure and truly individual and free global economy.
This last point about security is incredible because security is a major issue within the arguments between collectivism and individualism. Alternately, people must band together because there is security in unity, or each person must ensure his security himself. The blockchain allows a balance between these two: individuals are free to act as they will, utilizing the full range of abilities that blockchain allows within a decentralized structure that provides security through ease of openness.
A truly public ledger is a huge revolution that eliminates the need for trust-based exchange systems which must be protected by anti-fraudulent methods. With blockchain there is an inherent and simple security of ubiquitousness. Complete restructuring of the way humans exchange goods and services is what we’re talking about. And it goes further than that. A couple of weeks after the phone conversation about Bitcoin, Dad discovered Ethereum. This prompted a long face-to-face discussion in which I soon realized the prophetic power of science fiction. Philip K. Dick’s Ubik has characters paying in cents for usage of mundane household objects like doors, toasters, and refrigerators. And this is precisely a possibility of what Ethereum means to blockchain technology. My mind was officially blown, and my conversion to the gospel according to blockchain was complete.
And now begins the long journey of thoroughly exploring everything a “techno-simp” can know about the technology that is going to revolutionize the future of exchange and commerce.