Blockchain is a computer-based system for recording data – money, health details, personal information, purchases, sales, hire agreements, land ownerships, etc.
And blockchain overcomes the intrinsic problem that has existed ever since humans first recorded and shared their information – incorrect, inconsistent or fraudulent data.
The underlying concept of blockchain is both simple and brilliant. But as well as explaining how it works, this introductory book also needs to consider how it might evolve in the future driven by often-conflicting interests. And as we’ll see, that is not so simple.
What is certain is that blockchain in one form or another will impact on all our lives; and for those working in financial, governmental and commercial roles, it will already be a common focus of discussion in the boardroom and in strategy meetings.
So, this book will help any reader to understand just enough about blockchain to engage in those discussions and to make better sense of the numerous books and papers on the topic.
And we’re going to start really simply.
If you and I decide we’re going to record the same sports results over a year in our own individual record books, the potential for human error means that by the end of that year we may not have exactly the same data in our records. And sorting out who got what wrong will not be easy!
At its simplest, blockchain is all about making it easier to store accurate information, to retrieve that information when required, and to prevent errors or fraud in the useof the information.
Today, governments and big business are investing heavily in future applications of blockchain, but the technology was born from a more modest desire to give ordinary people better value from their monetary transactions and better control over their personal information (discussed in chapter 2).
And it is through ordinary everyday experiences that we can most easily understand blockchain.
So we’ll start by looking at an ordinary problem that afflicts ordinary businesses every single day a small business owner might experience any day of the week…
Let’s say that you’re a marketing consultant. You invoice your clients monthly for the hourly work done on their behalf. However, one client appoints a new bookkeeper who discovers all kinds of anomalies in their books. She phones you to attempt to resolve these:
“I’ve got a record here of a payment for £1560 on 4 June, but no invoice. However, I do have an invoice from March that we appear not to have paid….”
You consult your own ledger but cannot tie up the figures to reflect what she has in her ledger.
Hoping to resolve the problem by finding definitively correct information you both revert to your online bank statements. But now we have two entirely separate ledgers AND two entirely separate sets of bank records to examine– the reconciliation challenge has just doubled in size.
By now you are growing distrustful of each other and becoming more reluctant to exchange information in an attempt to clarify the problem. In your own bank records you find items that might relate to this customer but you’re not sure, and you don’t want to start revealing confidential information by mistake.
Finally, after some phone calls to your bank and a lot of patient phone calls to your customer’s bookkeeper, the errant sums have been matched to the correct invoices and remittance slips. But in the process you discover another problem, a mysterious figure of £0.89 that they overpaid to you. So you now have to raise a credit note in your books, and your customer can deduct £0.89 when they pay your next invoice. But…
… if THIS isn’t correctly recorded in both ledgers, another data anomaly is created, another frustrated phone call made and yet more financial detective work to be done. And it’s all taking up valuable time you should be giving to running your business.
This is the reality of simple business record-keeping. But it is also the reality of many other mismatched transactions and information exchanges that we experience on a daily basis. And it presents a real dilemma…
The reliability of any recorded information is only as good as the accuracy of the data entry; yet having to expose that data in order to resolve differences can undermine our privacy. Resolving disputes by referring to third party records only adds to the delay – and presumes that the third party’s data is accurate and complete.
Now, imagine you could remove all this uncertainty, avoid the complications and delays and the hostile confrontations – in fact, imagine you could avoid any inaccurate record keeping altogether.
Welcome to Blockchain!
(…) Excerpt from the Book. Blockchain in Practice – Available now at Amazon.com