Bitcoins And Blockchains, What Else Does The Future Hold?

Bitcoins online commerce

Five dollars’ worth of bitcoins purchased in 2008 would be worth about $4.4 million today. The digital currency has proven to be one of the most outrageous investments in recent history.

In 2010, an early adopter of the digital dollars decoded to splurge on some takeaway. "I'll pay 10, 000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas….like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day," posted “lazlo” on May 18, 2010. "I like having left over pizza to nibble on later."

It took Lazlo four days to find someone to take him up on his deal, the hankering for a late-night snack eventually ended up costing $21.7 million.

Back in 2010, 10,000 Bitcoins was only worth about $.003. Let the haters chew on that for a while.

Seven years later, there are Bitcoin ATMS, vending machines and Japanese parliament is considering making Bitcoins legal tender in their country. Not bad for a something which was once a tool for criminals and geeks to conduct transactions online.

Blockchains - The Building Blocks of Bitcoins

Bitcoin enables online payments to be transferred instantly, directly and most importantly, without an intermediary. Still, the most revolutionary stuff is behind the scenes. Bitcoin’s exist on fine line between being private but still a matter of public record--and that’s all because of blockchains.

Blockchains are to Bitcoins as what satellite is to television, they’re the backend to a powerful platform for change.

Each Bitcoin transaction is on a public ledger. The public ledger is broken into chunks (blocks) and then linked together chronologically (chains)—coming together to form an international ledger that is processed by volunteer computers around the world. The valuable information is never completely available to just one device so the result is a decentralized method of doing business.

Last year, the World Economic Forum predicted that roughly 10% of the world’s GDP will be stored on blockchains.

The move is a paradigm shift, as it stands today, most of the world’s financial information is private and a closely guarded secret. Imagine a list of every online transaction that has ever been conducted being anonymized, scattered and available for processing to anyone with an idle computer running. Blockchain technology can also be applied to the energy sector, healthcare sector and even revolutionize the way we vote.

A unique way to get energy

Blockchains could change the way we get our energy. Instead of dealing with large corporations to get energy for your home, people will be able to go right to the well and get peer-to-peer (P2P) Electricity.

Leading the way are a couple of Dutch community-based power companies called Powerpeers and LO3 Energy. “Just give me your solar energy and I will take care of your plants during your summer break,” Lars Falch told his friend Michiel Ooms a couple of years back – and the idea for Powerpeers was born. Powerpeers hopes to buy environmentally-friendly energy from your friends and neighbours by trading money, labour or even things you may have lying around your house.

Similar projects are in their infancy around the world. Brooklyn Microgrid (another Dutch project), is kind of like Uber for electricity. It requires users to attach wifi-enabled boxes to their electricity meter, then simply order green energy over their smartphones on the same local grid.

“Now, if someone’s producing solar power and someone wants to consume local clean energy, we no longer have to ask someone in the middle to approve the transaction,” said Scott Kessler, director of business development for L03 Energy, the company behind the undertaking.

Blockchains could cure cancer

Sony sold Playstation 3 at a loss, anticipating profits from the sales of accessories and software titles. “Folding@home” was a program developed at Stanford University which utilized the Playstation’s idle processing resources to conduct research on Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer by computing the way protein folds. Users who left their device on for an extended period were actually helping Stanford perform simulations with their gaming devices.

Alphabet is also getting in on the action with Google DeepMind. Healthcare records are highly fragmented. Alphabet’s new project creates a new code for each piece of healthcare data collected. The result will be real-time data which will be impossible to fake. Google (partnered with the NHS in Britain) signed a data-sharing agreement which will collect, anonymize and analyze healthcare information.

The software would also be able to alert medical staff to early signs of illnesses, diagnose eye disease and guide cancer treatment.

“There are potentially huge advantages for all of us in improving the way our health system uses data, both so that we can have our own data used to help us faster and more efficiently, and by using aggregate data to make predictions,” said Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind.

Voting and blockchains

In 2001, Estonia became the first country to hold ‘electronic elections’ and this year NASDAQ facilitated blockchains to help the voting process. Shareholders were able to use blockchains to cast votes for the first time ever. Considering the ‘hanging-chad’ scandal in 2000 and accusations of foreign hacking during this past American election, the Australian government’s plans to implement blockchain voting might be the right way forward.

“In many ways voting is an ideal use case for blockchain technology application beyond crypto currency. With demand for digitization high and technology shifts opening up new approaches we believe that now is the time to solve the digital voting challenge,” said Tim Adamson, Director of Victoria Government. The idea seems to be gaining steam, especially since the counting of votes would be anonymized and spread out across multiple devices. There are still detractors, however, since there is always the ever-looming threat of data breaches and hacks.



Syed Haider | The Edge Blog


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