Blockchain and Bitcoin

I have recently become extremely interested in the blockchain technology that makes Bitcoin possible. I’m only marginally interested in Bitcoin itself. I think I can wait a while before I start doing high-value transactions with it.

No, the thing that is much more interesting is Blockchain. Should that be capitalized? I don’t know. Blockchain is a public, decentralized ledger, maintained and kept true by the world at large. It depends upon knowing the cost of computations to keep it legitimate, and mathematically proving (so much as we can assume that P≠NP) that trapdoor functions like elliptical curve encryption are strong. At least, it’s better than any other system I know anything about.

I got started by watching a couple of TED talks:


What is most interesting is the idea that any kinds of record which are about possession or ownership are ideal for keeping in a blockchain ledger. This doesn’t include merely currency. It can include real property, media licenses, access to transportation or lodging, equities, patents, … the list can go on and on. It could even include something like public transcripts or recordings.

Imagine that a recording of an important event, like a vote, could be hashed and recorded in a blockchain within moments of its happening. This recording could be proved, beyond the need for forensic experts to assert, to have been made at the time it was certified to have happened.

I’m sure that many more things can or will be possible. I predict that blockchain technology will be a major disruptive force in many industries areas for many years to come. There will no longer be a need for central registrars. The owner of a domain name, for example, could be found in the blockchain – it wouldn’t have to go through IANA or anyone else. The ownership could automatically revert based on scripts in the ledger, similar to the way Bitcoin scripts work (I’m still trying to understand this part).

Anyway, I’m going to do my best to get ahead of this technology. I’ll start with a presentation at the Sacramento Code Slingers meetup next week. One of the things that I clearly need to do is get consistent on how I present certain ideas. One of the most confusing things about security, cryptography, etc., is that so many ideas are difficult to grasp. The relationship between the ideas is not always obvious, and seems to shift depending on who’s trying to communicate the idea.

So, I’ll try to create some consistency of my own.


Alan McBee

comments powered by Disqus