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November 21, 2017

What Is Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain technology offers a way for untrusted parties to reach agreement (consensus) on a common digital history. A common digital history is important because digital assets and transactions are in theory easily faked and/or duplicated. Blockchain technology solves this problem without using a trusted intermediary.

The short answer: in unique instances.

Specifically, a blockchain is needed for Bitcoin because:

Bitcoin is a public ledger of bitcoin transactions
There are untrusted nodes recording transactions on the Bitcoin ledger
Bitcoin does not want to trust a third party to administer the ledger
Effectively, Bitcoin uses a blockchain to decentralize payments. Where else could we use this unique database architecture to get rid of the middleman? Are there other things that could be decentralized?

Let’s take this step-by-step. What’s another scenario where everyone needs a record of ownership, and where a trusted third party isn’t preferred?

A couple of immediate use cases come to mind.

Land title is one. It could be quite useful for everyone to have access to a decentralized source of record saying who owns a given parcel of land. Considering that coups and wars often redistribute land unfairly and/or incorrectly, this could not only prove useful, but also have humanitarian implications. Once a land distribution is agreed upon, it can be recorded in a distributed ledger and no longer be subject to ongoing debate. A number of companies are working on this, including velox.RE.

In the same vein, a blockchain could be used to establish ownership over any number of physical assets – cars, art, musical instruments, and so on. Let’s think about why this makes sense.

A paper record of title is prone to forgery and/or physical degradation. Centralized databases are prone to hacking, human error, and/or tampering. A blockchain means there is no single entity controlling the ledger. Therefore, recording physical assets on a blockchain is a prime example of where the technology might come in handy to track ownership with a tamper-proof, neutral, and resilient system…

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