Why should we embrace blockchain technology?

Creativity is a unique human feature. One creative “spark” in a person’s brain is enough to set a fire. This idea also forms the basis of the blockchain and the bitcoin. Coincidence does the rest. And exactly that is what makes this invention so promising.

Klik voor Nederlandse versie (Dutch version)

Abstract

  1. Blockchain under the hood of the bitcoin is an invention that could mean much more than just digital money. It is a disruptive innovation that offers great opportunities and great threats at the same time.
  2. Blockchains greatly benefit from the worldwide use of mobile phones and the Internet, and the rapid emergence of biometric authentication techniques.
  3. Modern management of virtual electronic identities using blockchain technology results in more balance, security, efficiency, privacy and ease of use.
  4. With blockchains in their hands, children will naturally enforce new rules in economic and social life.
This article is an overview of my personal motives to take a turn with my company (2Value) as of 2016.

It is the “world of numbers” that fascinates me. It has brought on what I was not able to do anymore over the last years — that is to eliminate (or at least ignore) the negative parts of human behaviour. The homo sapiens still has an extensive to-do list to improve its behaviour. But now a great opportunity has been invented: the promising blockchain.

Cut of “The Creation” by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

The bitcoin is the first appearance of blockchain. Bitcoin is digital cash that allows you to pay in a safe and easy way. It is cheap and fast. But the blockchain happens to be capable of much more than just making better money than there ever was. Long story short: You can store contracts and value on the blockchain, program it and transfer value. This might sound very abstract, I am aware of that. Blockchain technology touches virtually every aspect of a pleasant way of life: freedom, fairness, openness, self-determination, store value, reasonable contracts, reasonable fees, certificates of authenticity, do business directly, etc, etc.
The accidental circumstance that gave the blockchain a boost is the worldwide use of mobile phones and the Internet, and the fast-emerging use of biometrics as an authentication technique. But the most important coincidence is the determination of the average ‘connected’ world citizen, who wants to eliminate injustice, inequality, domination, exploitation of mother earth, madness, violence, etc. Blockchains offer a vehicle to accomplish all that.

You will only see it, when you get it

The original block chain guardian angels are tech-savvy individuals: cryptographers and IT professionals. However, today’s blockchain technology should be taken out of the hands of technicians and should be transferred to other individuals. Documentation, communication, good user interfaces, and trainings are in fact not the real strengths of the original helpful nerdy believers. We need to step in.

‘Beloften’ = promises

Many people are fed up with our society today: the grabbing of money, lying, stealing, deceiving and oppression. People get new energy from the blockchain technology. And there is a good reason for that. Well-known Dutch former soccer player Cruijff shared his famous wisdoms with us every now and then. One of them is appropriate for blockchains: “You will only see it, when you get it.”
If you try to grasp the idea of blockchains, you can actually have more fun, and be happier and more confident. The use of blockchains could contribute to a better, fairer world, a better use of natural resources and less annoyance.
So, nobody ever lies and cheats in a blockchain country? Of course they do, but that’s always the result of a human action. A lying and cheating blockchain simply does not exist. True, blockchains have been compromised. (Possibly bribed) users can cheat with blockchains. But normal users see right through these ‘attacks’. Everyone is on the lookout for attackers and inform one another quickly if someone encounters anything suspicious. They can quickly counteract and put an end to it.

Turning point in image from old to new order: Belofte (NL) — Promise (EN)

This does not imply that the road towards blockchain applications is a bed of roses. Trial and error is more likely going to be the path. However, expected setback is never a good reason to let go of realistic dreams.

Your country the winner of the World Champion Football in 2026?

Here’s a metaphor for football fans: imagine you heard afterwards that your country won the World Cup in 2026. While nobody believed in it, the impossible became possible. That’s a nice message of course, but you immediately think “Why wasn’t I there when it happened?!”
The analogy is: when you decide you want to get all there is to know about blockchain principles, that would be like experiencing the whole run-up to the World Cup in 2026, enjoying every step, every victory, and even every adversity, knowing that all will be fine in the end. OK, maybe this metaphor might be too simplistic, maybe you do not like football or ‘winners’. But hopefully you get the point: once you experience why the accidental invention of this technology is groundbreaking and worth the effort to explore, you just can’t get enough of it. And I like would like to be a part of this. Therefore, we should all know why this combination of circumstances crossed our path. Experience it.

From huge irritation to embracing a wonderful invention …

My digital identity is everywhere on the web, generally “managed” by others. 500+ passwords, 250+ profiles in web shops, web sites and social media. And every year I get profiled a thousand times based on these data that I put on the web over the years myself. That sh.t needs to change.
I am supposed to have trust in central authorities for everything and anything. That was hard to accomplish in recent years, sometimes damned hard: the banking crisis, political bull crapping, many laws without enforcement, a shaky Europe without vigor, or the climate change that we simply ignore. Here’s the good news: Trust is an intrinsic part of blockchains and its global real-time distributed algorithms. That is a tempting feature for our future.

When modern management of virtual (electronic) identities and blockchain technology come together, your (working) life gets more balanced and there will be more security, efficiency, privacy and ease of use.

We are going to experience the world differently

The underlying technology of bitcoin is called blockchain and it will change our activities. In fact, it is going to change us.
Having said that, blockchain is complex. Only few people know exactly what it is. People hear stories about vulnerability, sharp fluctuations in price, theft of money, drugs trafficking and arms trafficking.

Bicycle with square wheels, representing the harsh life of a banker anno 2016

The blockchain is an invention that will distort long-held strong vested interests. As a result, there is also a lot of negative information. When authorities discover that there on a bicycle with square wheels and are being surpassed by other vehicles with round wheels, of course they will counterattack. Therefore, it is crucial to get the message about blockchain across in a clear and simple way.

OK, what can I do with it professionally or in my personal life?

Ten examples of far-fetched dreams and promises that blockchain innovations could in fact realise:
1. Care allowances that can only be spent on certified parties.

2. Generate, store, buy and sell your own energy, without any intervention of central parties.

3. Authenticity of art and jewelry always ensured, and forever taken out of the sphere of crime, where it is currently in for way too long.

4. Give unspent donations back to the generous giver.

5. Build up a pension with no human operators. Rules formulated upfront, no way to deviate from those. Sounds like a relief, huh?!

6. Vending machines taking care of their own orders, maintenance and checkouts.

7. Drones sending parcels. Thanks to the blockchain, the parcel is delivered to the right person and payments are always made.

8. Administrative functions in public services in for instance health care, benefits, and tax authorities can gain reliability and efficiency significantly by distributing the recordings of transactions and movements according to the blockchain model. The current centralised processing and storage is expensive and error-prone with a single point of failure. Blockchain systems are also less vulnerable to hackers.

9. Every day, stateless children without any rights are born in refugee camps. We can offer these children a future by giving them an electronic identity, an account and “coloured” budgets on the blockchain for education and healthcare. Money from sponsors is spent on the intended target (colour), on the area permitted by the blockchain. If not, it will be returned to the sender.

10. Now, can you think of an example in your (working) life?

Of course it can wait, but why not enjoy it now?

Of course you do not need to have to be an early adopter and yes, you can ignore blockchains for now and let it overwhelm you (analogy: hear about the World Cup afterwards), but why not join the ‘believers’ and celebrate every piece of progress we make? The only thing you need to do is think “naturally” and live “like a normal human being”.

These systems can not be broken by adversaries and bribing does not work either. A blockchain that is used has sufficient funds of its own. Smart contracts on blockchains break central power by making them redundant. Cheaters immediately fail, because (sometimes tens of) thousands of eyes are watching them, in real-time and worldwide. The actual voluntary use of products and services that have blockchains under the hood, will determine whether they will survive or not. If a blockchain application is not going to make it, these services have usually already gradually been taken over by an enhanced version of the same principle. A comparison: Cars today are a lot better than the first Ford Model T from early last century.
So I hope that everyone picks up blockchain capabilities with enthusiasm. But there is another important reason, hold on.

The evidence for the younger generations

Twenty-five years ago I was travelling through Asia and I communicated by mail with my family and friends back home. I had to collect the letters that they sent me at a main post office in a big city. Telephone connections were poor and had a lot of latency. And approximately 1.2 euros per minute back then.
Fifteen years later, there was Skype for free, I chatted with my wife who was working in a faraway country at that time: video, sound, text and virtually no latency. I enjoyed every minute with amazement about the technical possibilities and progress that had been achieved in such a short period of time.
My daughter, 2,5 years old at the time, considered Skype as perfectly normal. I tried: “Look, look, look, mommy, mommy, very far away, say hello to mommy, it is very late at night over there!!” I cheered. My daughter gave me this look as though she want to say “something wrong with you?” She had more attention for the toy on the table than the image of mommy who was right in front of her all the way from the other side of the world, smoothly connected via Wi-Fi wireless, powered by a battery that lasted at least three hours. As if she wanted to say: “Mommy is here with us at the dinner table, what’s the big deal, Dad?!”

Progress is made right inside your own head. People of age 20 + are often numbed and prefer to stick to old rusty patterns, thinking thoughts like “It is always the same, a new banking crisis lies ahead, we spill the earth resources, the eternal political gibberish, abuse of power, skimming, illegal activities.”

Panama paper “coin”

Our children and grandchildren will not exhibit this type of behaviour, and more importantly: they will not accept others to behave this way. With blockchain in their hands and all around them, there will be new laws in the economic and social life. Not the present laws; nor the old, nor the obsolete. President Obama of the United States recently commented on tax evasion that the Panama papers revealed. Obama: “It is not remarkable that is happened, the fact that it is legal, that is what needs to change.”

Ah, there is our tenth example: In this case blockchains could set rules upfront concerning the behaviour and trading performed by our democratically voted delegates and powerful officials. At the same time these smart contracts could protect people’s privacy. What type of blockchain do you think the latter group would be willing to use: the Panama route contracts or the ‘hey-rascal, show me your hands’- contract?
Blockchains, born in their accidental circumstances, have already been disruptive and have put everything upside down; Now it is your (U-)turn.

Illustrations:
http://www.projeffect.nl/de-belofte/ and http://vanderdoncktjolien.blogspot.nl/2012/11/mens-en-medemens-10-beloften-nog-linken.html