Check out this short video with Chris Ellis on the excellent IamSatoshi site. It’s only 5 minutes long. Chris has long been an insightful commentator and active participant within the scene (see the World Crypto Network and his recent World Passport). If you’re still struggling to understanding why the blockchain is so significant, watch this and see if this helps with the concept of timestamping.
Chris makes the point that the blockchain acts like gravity in a way. It helps the ever-increasing mountains of data being produced to maintain internal consistency by ensuring that important information is now timestamped using Bitcoin’s distributed network. Or, to put it another way – anyone now has the ability (for free) to record important documentation on the blockchain in a way that doesn’t reveal the details as such but simply the fact that it existed at a particular point in time.
This timestamp concept is crucial. We now have an open free system that anyone can access which represents the truth. Anyone can confirm whether specific information existed at a particular point in time. A quick search can confirm that the majority of the network was fully cognisant of that fact. And as a side-product, we automatically prevent the fabrication of claims around the sequence of events that are all too common in our current systems.
With the technology, everyone on the planet now has the potential to access to the same information that was previously restricted or incomplete that they need to be fully informed about a variety of decisions that they will inevitably make in their lives. No more pulling the wool over other people’s eyes.
On a basic level, that means that a charity for example now no longer has any excuse not to record events on the blockchain in order to build cast-iron proof of its activities – and expenditures – at a later date. Seeking such a level of accountability should prove to be uncontroversial when it comes to looking at any charitable organisation. However, during the next few years the promise of the technology is that commercial organisations will be required to show publicly whether they are willing to adhere to the same ethical standards.
On a higher level, the power to share information fairly across space and time on the blockchain means that the balance for power within societies will also inevitably change. You’ll often hear the argument that Bitcoin can do little in the developing world where food and running water remain of greater importance than fancy new currencies. But Chris’ point is that this is an over-simplification. The reality is that the very information that will be captured on the blockchain is of crucial importance and should not be under-valued. Whoever controls the information controls the system. Such control impacts on the beliefs, actions and freedoms of those within that society.
The promise of the blockchain is that such transparency and accessibility of truthful information on a global scale will inevitably reset that position.