Blockchain Technology Versus Cryptocurrencies
Blockchain technology used to be interchangeable with Bitcoin, and then with other virtual currencies as they sprang up, as it was first developed to support them. However, the public ledger has come a long way since. A lot more uses for blockchain technology, over and above altcoins, are being identified and developed. Cryptocurrencies are now just one of the many applications that blockchain can be used for.
Separating Blockchain from Altcoins
All cryptocurrencies are inextricably linked to blockchain technology because the mining of the tokens is validated through the public ledger. For a while, people were not sure how blockchain technology could function if it didn’t produce an end result of some kind of unit of value, such as Bitcoin. Now, new ways of using the technology that don’t involve an end product in this way are evolving.
The biggest change for blockchain applications that are not cryptocurrencies is that Proof of Work is no longer required. With every kind of altcoin, a certain number of miners had to process a public consensus algorithm to verify the work and bestow the new token. Instead of doing this, companies are using “ring signatures”.
In a consortium using a public ledger, the ring signature system means that as long as a majority validates the information, it can be entered into the blockchain. Only a limited number of participants can perform the validation, so the technology operates in a private chain. Every participant on the blockchain understands that they can’t change the data, so they start to trust it.
Members of the consortium might not feel like they can trust everyone else on the ledger, but if they feel like they can trust the information everything can keep moving forward. The decentralised, hack-proof nature of the public ledger that most corporations are interested in is preserved, without the unnecessary extra of a generated token. Blockchain has moved past cryptocurrency and into the logistics of all kinds of business and industry.
How Blockchain Has Been Used Beyond Cryptocurrency
Ultimately, the blockchain is far more anti-fragile than cryptocurrencies; it helps us work with everything in modernised ways that fit with our current technological era. And it is being seen everywhere. The first blockchain casino has just been launched, and there are many more examples of exciting public ledger applications.
Hyperledger, the blockchain platform that IBM developed, has been used by Walmart to reduce food-tracing processes from 6 days to mere seconds. The now intention is to use Hyperledger in many other industries. A blockchain trend insight report by Gartner asserts that by 2030 blockchain will add value to businesses to the tune of $3.1 trillion. The report mentions supply chain as a good area for blockchain application, as the Walmart example illustrates, and lists healthcare, education, manufacturing, energy and government as other sectors that could benefit.
Any industry that requires swift information verification – in other words, every industry – will be able to run with public ledger technology. Even Starbucks wants to get in on the action; the coffee chain’s Chief Executive Officer, Howard Schultz, has said he wants to use blockchain to “deepen digital customer relationships”.
What Does This Mean for Human Jobs?
If we accept the fact that blockchain technology is literally going to change the way the world is run, thanks to cryptocurrencies but also through transformations in virtually every other industry, what does that mean for the workforce? Interestingly, modernisation has historically threatened blue-collar workers although now, thanks to Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, white-collar jobs are coming under threat.
Blockchain technology is starting at the top though; it’s not threatening hamburger flippers, it’s threatening accountants. That is scary, but we need to take it with a pinch of salt too. Many leading economists have maintained that work won’t dwindle; it will just change, as technology develops. So while machines can now pour over cases to find precedent, for example, paralegals are still required to bring it all together with insight.
In the same way, we don’t need to fear blockchain; it’s relatively easy to understand and it’s a tool to make industry work better. Accountants, lawyers, auditors and government administrators with a good working knowledge of the ins and outs of the blockchain are going to be in high demand. Walmart’s quicker food tracing allows human administrators to make better decisions and thus minimise food-borne illnesses. In the near future we should all be working with public ledger technology, not fighting against it.