Ethereum puts time into computing

A compelling metaphor

(This is a repost of an article dated April 9, 2015 from my now defunct blog.)

Time appears to have direction. The past lies behind, fixed and immutable. The future lies ahead, awaiting to be shaped. Sounds familiar? This sense of time characterises Ethereum (and Bitcoin!).

Behaviourally, Ethereum is a computing engine with three key properties:

  • Immutable history: the past is fixed
  • Ubiquitous state: the present is a shared common
  • Guaranteed execution: the future is inexorable

In this light, Ethereum is simply a computational universe with true time dimensionality.

Let’s flesh out the metaphor:

  • the Genesis block ⟺ the Big Bang
  • blocks ⟺ space
  • mining ⟺ time progression
  • the blockchain ⟺ spacetime
  • the highest block state ⟺ the present
  • contracts ⟺ physical bodies
  • transactions ⟺ physical interactions
  • ether ⟺ energy
  • the state transition function ⟺ the laws of physics
  • block confirmation time ⟺ Planck time
  • block propagation speed ⟺ the speed of light

I believe this insight captures and crystallises the essence of the new era of computing pioneered by Satoshi Nakamoto. I hope it serves as a useful pedagogical tool.