Important stuff can be hard. So, somewhat against our better judgement, we are covering a pretty technical subject, but one that has enormous potential: Blockchain. Best known as the technology underlying Bitcoin (which we covered here), a blockchain is essentially a distributed database of transactions which can be applied to almost any series of related events involving the same assets — from real estate to currency (this brief blockchain primer is a good place to start).
Of paramount importance here is that the data is distributed — what makes blockchains particularly intriguing is the last of any centralized repository. The ability to remove a centralized authority (be it a government, a bank, or just a middleman) both protects users from abuse or incompetence and unlocks value that might otherwise be captured by an intermediary.
Interest in moving money in a secured and audited way while remaining anonymous lead to the initial use of blockchain technology for bitcoin-related businesses that wanted to escape scrutiny. However as acceptance grew, so did legitimate blockchain uses. As this long article in the Economist explains, blockchain could easily be used to establish land registries and other functions where centralized systems too often fail. For what is at the core of blockchain technology, the Economist explains, is “a way of making and preserving truths.” And goodness knows we could all do with more of that.