I Explain Blockchain To My 6 Year Old Brother…
Blockchain, AI and VR seem to be the technological buzzwords in 2018, but what do they actually mean, and why should I care?
Me being me, I went off on my own to find out what these things are and what affects they’ll have on my future.
AI, for example, will continue to automate tasks of repetitive nature, while VR/AR will slowly creep into our production and construction sectors of work.
But Blockchain…? What’s so cool about that? Bitcoin was obviously just a random “glitch” in this simulated world that we live in, right?
It’s interesting, because the technology for Blockchain is virtually flawless and the concept is perfectly sound. We just don’t know what to do with it yet beyond cryptocurrency and cataloguing wine bottles!
Naturally, I thought it’d be cool to talk and joke about this incoming technological revolution with my friends and family. Most of them understood, some of them didn’t… One of them was a lot more curious than I would have expected.
My 6 year old little brother came over in awe.
“Jordan! How do I Blockchain?”
“Well, lil’ bro, it’s currently a developing technology, that utilises a massive peer-to-peer network to operate a decentralised, easily verifiable and unalterable cryptocurrency.”
“But Jordan, how do I do it?”
Yep… This is going to be harder than I thought.
How to Blockchain
The easiest way to explain Blockchain technology is to break it down into it’s core components.
The peer-to-peer network.
Think about a Microsoft spreadsheet, or if you’re 6, a game of Connect Four. Consider this ‘game’ is being played by 1,000,000 people, all of whom can see the board (spreadsheet) and play when it’s their turn, all with their own chips (data).
Every time someone plays a chip, they are adding a block to the chain. You can’t move the chip once it’s in, and all 1,000,000 players can see exactly where this chip is, make sense?
Each person is considered to be a unique part of the chain, or a node in the network. Peer-to-peer meaning that each player is a “server”, negating the need for a central server… Oh, I mean… There’s no need for a ‘referee’.
As everyone is a server, all of the information is there for everyone, all time.
This relates back to the peer-to-peer network. Since everyone is playing Connect Four, everyone is a part of this game. Anything that happens affects everyone, and anything anyone does is observable by the whole network.
This is important for crypto because it means that the people no longer have to trust a bank/government with their money.
No middle man means that 1) no one takes a cut out of your purchases and 2) no single person or authority can cheat the system… We’re all watching.
Since all the players can see the board, it’s easy for any one of us to verify what piece is where and whose turn it is. The validation comes with the openness. It comes from trust.
This goes hand in hand with the data, or chips, being permanent, because anyone who’s played Connect Four knows how much of a pain it is to move a single chip, mid-game, without destroying the entire board.
Similar on Excel. Where you have conditional formatting and summations everywhere, it becomes a real task to undo any single specific cell without having to amend the whole thing, or at least a whole section.
Where it gets a little more complex is that each block on the Blockchain is structured a certain way, meaning each proceeding block is structure to fit exactly there in the chain.
Changing one block is virtually impossible because the two blocks on either side are formatted perfectly for this block just the way it is.
Imagine a LEGO piece that shifts to fit the next piece you connect it to, then stays that way forever.
“Jordan, can I just go back on the PlayStation, now?”
For those a little more technical minded, each block is structured similarly, with 4 key data points — a “magic number”, the number of transactions, the block size and block header. For more, Google it, dummy!
The Future, briefly…
While we don’t have much planned for Blockchain technology yet, the future is looking bright.
There’s the obvious use which comes in the form of cryptocurrency, but where else can Blockchain be useful?
Right now, companies are aiming to use Blockchain when it comes to food and drink production, as more and more people seek transparency, when it comes to knowing where and how their meals were harvested or produced.
Another use is in an even newer technology, coming in the shape of smart contracts. Now smart contracts basically use Blockchain to take out the middle man from typical sales and trades etc.
When engaging in a smart contract, the idea is that you input your asset on one side, and the other party inputs the cash. Once this is done, the contract closes and both parties get to leave satisfied… In short, at least!
Again, if you want to know more technical information… Google away!!