Inside the Blockchain Revolution- An Interview with Alex Tapscott

  • Just as the cloud hype panned out almost a decade ago (public, private, hybrid, PaaS, SaaS etc.), subsets of this technology with terms such as Hyperledger, The Ledger of Things and many more phrases are emerging.
  • As it happens, at the same time Don Tapscott (my co-author) was running a multi-million dollar research project investigating new ways of solving global problems using technology and one of the things he wanted to understand more was bitcoin as digital currency was full of intrigue.
  • To hack the bitcoin Blockchain would require an attacker to take over the whole network and rewrite the history of commerce in that Blockchain in a very short window across many computers – a very challenging task.
  • Furthermore I think there are lots of Blockchain use cases that do not require a full distributed permissionless network like Bitcoin and would be better served with something more “enterprise grade”

    Alex: “The best technologies are invisible.

  • Right now the governance network for Blockchain technology is nascent.

If I had to pick the hottest tech trend this year, it would undoubtedly be Blockchain. The promise of Blockchain technology is huge.
There’s a lot…

@SystemsandTech: Inside the #Blockchain Revolution- An Interview with Alex Tapscott via @HuffPostBlog

There’s a lot of hype at the moment around Blockchain, but does the average techie even really understand what it is and how it’s used? Personally, I don’t think many do. Misunderstandings about this hot technology are very common. Just as the cloud hype panned out almost a decade ago (public, private, hybrid, PaaS, SaaS etc.), subsets of this technology with terms such as Hyperledger, The Ledger of Things and many more phrases are emerging. This raises a valid point – “is the hype overtaking the actual understanding of Blockchain use cases?” Maybe, but to understand what Blockchain actually is, you need to understand how it works.

It was created as a way of storing records, transactions, a ledger if you will that is composed of digital information that’s distributed, shared amongst a varied amount of users and can only be updated by a consensus of the actual users of the system. Once these details have been entered, they do not get erased.

In simple terms, a Blockchain is a distributed set of information that is edited/updated by a collection of users that access the information. The information is spread across multiple locations, a distributed ledger (database) that stores information/data, a block if you will, that has a unique ID that links to a block of data. Each block references the previous block of data creating a chain of blocks. Hence the term “Blockchain” to denote a chain of blocks.

Alex: “Well Blockchain technology first came across my radar in 2013. At the time, it was all about bitcoin. The idea of cash for the Internet, which didn’t require the use of a third party intermediary intrigued me and I began to spend more time looking into it. Back then I was working in investment banking, focused on the technology sectors. As it happens, at the same time Don Tapscott (my co-author) was running a multi-million dollar research project investigating new ways of solving global problems using technology and one of the things he wanted to understand more was bitcoin as digital currency was full of intrigue. Over a steak dinner (and a bottle of wine) we agreed to collaborate on a new research project that led to our first published work on the topic “A Bitcoin Governance Network. “ We pursued more topics as well, including the impact of Blockchain within financial services, IT, corporations, new business models, government etc. The more we did, the more convinced we were that this technology represented nothing short of the second generation of the Internet. That research became the basis for the book!”

Alex: “The cryptocurrencies themselves were not hacked. That is a common misconception. In fact, cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, have proven very resilient to hacks. To hack the bitcoin Blockchain would require an attacker to take over the whole network and rewrite the history of commerce in that Blockchain in a very short window across many computers – a very challenging task. However, companies dealing in crypto currencies have been hacked (mt gox, bitfinex, etc) and that has made many firms wary to operate within them. There are also other limits to Bitcoin that are unresolved – namely scalability. Furthermore I think there are lots of Blockchain use cases that do not require a full distributed permissionless network like Bitcoin and would be better served with something more “enterprise grade”

Alex: “The Muskoka Group as we called it was convened to bring together leading stakeholders from different parts of this ecosystem- everything from government to banking to technology. In order for this technology to reach its potential and not get sidetracked or derailed, it needs multi stakeholder governance. Right now the governance network for Blockchain technology is nascent. Standards are one of 10 issues that we discussed but we also discussed policy, advocacy, knowledge and other components of governance. We came up with 10 proposals to advance a healthy ecosystem, available at muskokagroup.org.”

Alex: “Where to start? Virtually every aspect of the financial services industry – from retail payments, to insurance, accounting, even central banking, will be transformed. But this is not just about financial services. The energy grid needs a reboot – Blockchain enables massive scaleable peer-to-peer power grids. And how about the Internet of things? It turns out that the “Internet of Everything” needs a “Ledger of Everything” to secure and validate what will be billions of devices with trillions of device to device transactions per day. The possibilities are endless!”

Inside the Blockchain Revolution- An Interview with Alex Tapscott