Saving The World… One Blockchain At a Time
I first learned about blockchain about 11 months ago and I have to say I was truly overwhelmed by its potential! Having researched some of the sectors it’s having an impact on, it’s easy to understand how blockchain technology could benefit the world. However, it only works if an individual can be trusted…
If it is the way forward and it’s certainly not clear yet whether it can it be used to ease poverty, food wastage, and for a positive environmental impact in general.
If you follow blockchain you will know that it’s having a big impact in the Charity, Real Estate, and Data Management spaces. It’s still in its infancy but its safe to say that companies around the world are starting to see its potential.
Cryptocurrency is also at an all-time high at the moment. Between me and you, I really wish I had invested when I had the chance. Experts predict that one bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, will soon be worth $2,000.
The big selling point of cryptocurrencies is the ways in which they use the blockchain to make any transaction trustworthy. I try to think of it as blockchain being Natwest and Bitcoin as £1 but in a cryptocash form, but actually, the blockchain renders treasuries, banks, credit cards, and all those other stuffy relics of our financial past completely obsolete. Enthusiasts believe decentralised, cryptographically sealed databases – i.e. the blockchain – could totally take the middleman out of all the arduous stuff we currently have to deal with.
A blockchain assigns information with its own unique signature. If that information is altered, that unique signature no longer works, so, in theory, it reduces the risk of fraud and money laundering. In bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the whole community then reviews every attempted transaction to ensure each is unique—preventing people from spending the same money twice. Blockchain transactions are theoretically secure, but that security relies on people keeping track of their personalised string of characters. Even in the developed world, stories exist of people having their private keys phished away by hackers.
Transparency is one of the key things that is improved by the use of blockchain. Many sustainably sourced goods come from small communities that are sadly prey to exploitation. Using a blockchain could ensure that companies working with those individuals do not wittingly or unwittingly contribute to such exploitation. Handily, blockchain could also discourage corporations and governments from backpedalling on their environmental promises or misreporting their progress.
Blockchain & The Environment
Wastage, Quality Control, And Supervision of Production
Walmart has trialled using blockchain to fight food poisoning and waste by tracking food from supplier to shelf. If there was a salmonella outbreak, for example, Walmart’s blockchain would irrefutably trace the tainted product directly back to its source, the farm or factory where the product originated. This is clearly a brilliant idea, as food wastage is so high in the UK and other EU countries that if we could trace the exact source, we could potentially cut wastage and increase profits.
Brigid McDermott is the Vice President of IBM’s blockchain business development and helped Walmart develop this project. She identifies that approximately one-third of all food is wasted, partially due to improper handling or shipping, or as a result of storage issues along the supply chain. If we were to eliminate such wastage, there will clearly be more food to go around. Such a saving would, of course, have maximum impact in the developing world.
Nonetheless, there are issues involved with online privacy, particularly when it comes to developing countries. As Steve Wilson, the vice president of Constellation Research, a company which specialises in online privacy, explains:
“If you are going to use this technology to provide money to people in Africa, or grant land titles to Brazilian tribes, you can’t just ignore the fact of how easy it is for people to lose their private keys”
Cybersecurity and Cybercurrency
We are experiencing more and more issues with cybersecurity these days, as the recent ransomware attack on the NHS has demonstrated. The blockchain promises a solution to the crisis by making it easier to track and monitor transactions, whether that be monetary, product, energy, or any other commodity. However, it’s far from perfect yet. It will take time before we can start widespread blockchain implementation. But when we do, there is the prospect of a safer, better future ahead.
It’s all a real sign that techies aren’t just geeks and entrepreneurs. These are people actively seeking to disrupt the status quo and create a new and better world. There is an anarchic, countercultural spirit at work behind the blockchain, and I, for one, cannot wait to see just how disruptive it really will be.