With every new day comes a whole new world, with new and wondrous riches such as the complex and mind-blowing technology of blockchain.
It seems everyone, from well-known companies to startups, national governments to international agencies, is jumping into blockchain and investigating ways to put it to use. The possibilities for transformation in industries as diverse as energy and insurance, finance, retail, legal and health are huge – but some of you may be wondering: Should I trust in blockchain?
It’s a fair question, and one that came up at a recent TEDxPerth 2016 presentation I attended. The talk underpinned blockchain as a trust mechanism in any situation where there is mutual trust between two or more parties and the potential for a contract to be drawn up.
The technology makes this transaction extremely black and white and less colorful than traditional contracts. This can heed off legal disputes. But I wonder, how can a computer understand the moral compass that comes with a human judge or jury? How can a computer see the shades of color in the words and undertones of a contract, an action or a decision to pay out on a contract?
Finally, how do we know that the keeper of the key to the Blockchain Cave of Wonders will keep it safe and is worthy of this great power?
How is trust used in blockchain?
After the presentation, my husband and I discussed the trust element and agreed blockchain could be used anywhere a contract was required. It would sure make life easy to have all of the contracts you ever entered into in one discrete place.
Think about that: How many agreements and promises do we make on a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily basis? Whether we are buying something, insuring something, marrying Mr. or Mrs. Right, giving birth, mortgaging our home, developing something, working on something, looking after something, or simply trusting in something or someone — everything needs a contract or verbal agreement.
In a heart-stopping moment, my husband and I realized that blockchain could even be used to represent our own Will and Testimony and the future lives of our children. We now have the ability to trust a computer program, a software product (where the originator is still to be contested; who is the real Satoshi Nakamoto?) with our most intimate contracts. We may trust blockchain even more than a lawyer or our own family with our legacy. Blockchain could be used to pass on what we have created to the next generation, including things that life cannot put a value upon.
“Do you trust me?”
Those are the words Aladdin whispers to Jasmine when they first meet in Disney’s “Aladdin.” He says this while reaching out his hand, and after she says “yes,” they leap (safely) off a building to get away from police in the market square. In this example, his action of reaching out creates the trust, not necessarily what he says or how. The contract is signed when they join hands.
Aladdin does this again later in the movie. “Get out of this place, see the world,” he invites Jasmine, as the Magic Carpet presents itself to be stepped on. “Is it safe?” she asks. “Do you trust me?” he responds, reaching again to to hold her hand.
In some cultures, a handshake is as good as a contract. In some situations, emotional intelligence plays a role in shaping how a person responds to another person, and the trust level you build. In the blockchain world, this interaction will be unnecessary; a person will simply trust another through the use of a software program.
In Aladdin’s world, the all-powerful Genie in the Bottle is a humble person with a kind heart. But when his powers are taken over by the horrible villain/advisor Jafar, the trust is broken. “Trust me my pungent friend,” says Jafar, but of course his words mean nothing.
If we consider blockchain as a Genie in the Bottle with absolute power, we must ensure the key is in the hands of a “person” who has a heart full of good and not necessarily of gold. Then when someone asks “Trust me?” we know they have right actions and intent for the humanity and the digital world.
When I look at this in more detail, I now understand why the inventor of blockchain decided to set the Genie free to the world and give “Phenomenal Cosmic Power” to all of us. By decentralizing blockchain, he or she entrusted us all with the power of the tool. In the hands of one person, it could be very dangerous indeed.