Blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, is a ledger of records and transactions called blocks. Each block contains a time stamp and is linked with the other blocks in linear, chronological fashion. This is made possible by the technique of hashing, which is compressing a string of characters into a shorter one. Think of it like a URL shortener (Bitly comes to mind).
To quote Marc Andreesen on Blockchain, “It gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.”
Digest that. Now here comes the interesting part.
Professor Campbell R. Harvey from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business captivated us today on 27 Start-Up Ideas from his Innovation and Cryptoventures course (that Stanford and NYU have also started offering). A course that led to a 60% increase in enrollment at Duke in it just it’s second year of offering. Beat that.
A partial gist of the many interesting ways in which Blockchain could potentially transform the world we live in:
- Revolutionizing how we pay for cable: Using Blockchain to create a system that lets you pay only for what you want to watch. It would give scope to content providers for dynamic pricing and also allow them to see who their viewers are as opposed to an Amazon that severs the link between readers and publishers.
- Micropayments through phone minutes: Similar to what Safaricom in Kenya does, except Safaricom is centralized and customers rely on the provider.
- Eliminating counterfeit: A hash that is etched in currency means counterfeiting is impossible.
- Donation: Especially political donations that cannot afford to be anonymous. One of the interesting statistics that came to light was that India spends almost the same amount in election campaigning spends as the United States does. Blockchain brings in transparency.
- Enhanced security: It is apparently difficult for devices to identify thumb impressions of doctors due to the sheer number of times doctors cleanse their hands. Blockchain’s four finger scan not only solves this but is also far more secure than a retina scan.
- Efficient paywalls: Done with your free allotment of NewYorkTimes articles for the month and want to read just one or two more? You could do so with a small fee. What this does is not just monetize better but also generate revenue from non-paywall sites.
- Irrefutable archiving: To safeguard the intellectual property of those whose ideas are not publishing ready, through a hash in the blockchain with metadata, a date and time stamp, and voila – you have a way to prove the idea was originally proposed by you no matter how many stake claim to it later.
- Donation tracking: A way to see where your charity money goes – something attractive to both charities as well as donors alike.
- To manage land: Where municipalities can utilize Blockchain to monitor all the land it controls. The Honduras Government is building a Blockchain based land registry that will help reduce transaction times among other benefits.
- Book sharing: Every book is sold with a unique serial number that can then be sold in a secondary market. What this does is help in price discrimination
- To better manage bets: Ease of transaction. No fraud.
- Gaming: Blockchain to replace the various fees you’re required to pay while gaming and the frauds that come with that
- Spam counter: A small fee for sending an email or visiting a website. Like one-hundredth of a cent. And you put the spammers out of business.
Boasting of speakers from Bitcoin Foundation, Bitgo, Coinbase, Bitshares, IBM, MIT Media Labs etc.. it would take a herculean effort to not envy the students of Duke.
But then again, we’ve got Business Design 😉