Today, trust is the basis of many of our everyday interactions and exchanges. We put money in a bank with the confidence that it is safer there. We give information to each other on the basis that they will not share it with anyone else without prior permission. We also put a lot of trust in pieces of paper – money, land records, transaction information, etc. But these pieces of paper can be easily stolen, forged or altered. As we move toward computerizing information these days, data can still be easily hacked and leaked.
Blockchain is a series of records or data distributed through a network of computers so that no central computer or database contains the information, instead each computer contains the data that makes it a fully transparent system. Why blockchain is so impressive is due to its unbreakability. Each exchange, transaction or record entered into a database is time stamped and verified by a large group of trusted computers before being placed as a block in a chain of various other exchanges, transactions or records. Once entered, the information “block” can not be changed or deleted, because it means that the chain on all the computers must be changed or deleted at the same time, which is almost impossible.
The social impact that blockchain technology can have is tremendous and can be implemented to address many of the issues facing the world today in a variety of areas. In most developing countries, agriculture contributes a large part of their GDP; yet many farmers suffer from a lack of money, a lack of land and a lack of various resources needed for farming. Even if a farmer owns a large piece of land, it is often recorded incorrectly. Property titles also tend to be susceptible to fraud, as well as expensive and labor intensive to administer. Blockchain can be implemented to digitize land and farmers will no longer have to fear someone hacking the database and committing land ownership fraud as all types of record keeping will become more efficient.
The technology will not only tell you who currently owns the land, but it can also tell you who previously owned the land, making it extremely simple to track the title chain. Blockchain can correctly update the records of what portion of the land belongs to which person and how much of that land was produced, enabling farmers to get the correct amount of funding needed.
Among many other areas, blockchain technology can contribute to the healthcare sector. Maintaining public health records is a constant issue in many countries with its inaccessibility to doctors and patients. By creating a decentralized ‘ledger’ of medical data, we are able to remove the paper trail in healthcare and make patients’ medical records available to patients and doctors easily and efficiently. It also eliminated the fear that the medical files would be lost. Such a change is not only convenient, but essential where doctor-patient confidentiality becomes increasingly important.
Currently, blockchain is mainly used in finance. Blockchain can accurately record the transfer between people, and because every transfer is minimal to no cost, it has the potential to disrupt today’s financial organizations that make money by charging a fee for every transaction or transfer made. This makes what is called a peer-to-peer network, where a third party is not required for a transaction to take place.
In the financial world, what this means is that if a person wants to buy something, usually the bank and the place / premises from which you buy, a fraction of what you pay will take. And because there is no fee for a transaction in blockchain or the transaction fee is small compared to the transaction value, most if not all of the money goes directly to the creator or distributor of the product.
The same logic can be applied to the music industry. In fact, it is already being implemented today. Rather than buying a song through a streaming service like Apple Music or Spotify, they will pay the artist directly and obtain the rights to listen and use the music. This eliminates the need for a ‘middleman’ and makes each transaction only between 2 entities.
These are just a few examples of where blockchain can be used to completely change the way things used to be, which is essentially changing our lives, the economy and our world. Blockchain is a versatile technology that can be applied in one way or another to almost every business sector. An exciting technology that can change society for the better; a change that is not only convenient, but essential.