🔒 WORLDVIEW: Your Guide to Blockchain revolution (and understanding the Bitcoin surge).

In this fascinating contribution, Biznews’s Gareth van Zyl draws on the brilliance of Don Tapscott, the innovative Canadian who placed 4th in the last two biennial Thinkers50 rankings. The latest list, released last year, saw Tapscott with only Michael Porter, Clay Christensen and authors of the breakthrough book Blue Ocean Strategy ahead of him.

I’ve marvelled at Tapscott’s insights during his presentations in Davos. But it is his revolutionary book written with son Alex that has captured my colleague’s imagination. For good reason.

Gareth writes: “Kicking yourself for missing a great investment opportunity is exactly how I felt after witnessing the latest Bitcoin boom this year.
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About a year ago, my wife and I decided to buy a single unit of Bitcoin as the price started to surge. Forecasts suggested that Bitcoin would top the $1000 mark by December 2016, an unthinkable but tantalising milestone. Ultimately, we sold our unit months before December 2016, after Bitcoin prices globally started to fall amid hackers hitting a cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong. Luckily, we still made a profit.

Bitcoin has subsequently been on a tear this year again, surging past $2000. Pundits who failed to call the upward move now talk about a bubble akin to the dot-com boom or even the 17th century Dutch Tulip craze. But what interests me is not the latest surge and roller coaster ride in Bitcoin prices. Rather, I’m much more interested in the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin and clones of the cryptocurrency.

I recently finished reading Don and Alex Tapscott’s book with the lengthy title of Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business and the World’. Don’t let that put you off. It’s a good and interesting read.

Blockchain technology, pioneered by Bitcoin’s founder ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, is a distributed digital general ledger that works with cryptocurrency server ‘miners’ to verify transactions.

As the Tapscott’s point out, blockchain is set to disrupt many areas, ranging from politics and money transfer players through to even the recently emerged “shared” economy dominated by the likes of Uber and Airbnb – which could lose their newfound position of a middleman in online transactions.

The blockchain could disrupt their model by offering the same services but actually taking out these newly emerged ‘aggregators’, thereby providing drivers and homeowners with a bigger slice of revenue.

The Tapscotts write: “Imagine instead of the centralised company Airbnb, a distributed application — call it blockchain Airbnb or bAirbnb — essentially a cooperative owned by its members. When a renter wants to find a listing, the bAirbnb software scans the blockchain for all the listings and filters and displays those that meet her criteria.

“Because the network creates a record of the transaction on the blockchain, a positive user review improves their respective reputations and establishes their identities – now without an intermediary,” they add.

This notion of creating a record of transaction measured on the blockchain can be applied further to fighting corruption in governments, particularly those that receive Foreign Aid.

By putting Foreign Aid on the blockchain, donor countries can measure how each cent is spent – if the money lands up in somebody’s back pocket, that person can be held accountable.

The book even goes on to detail how voting in elections can be measured on the blockchain to ensure total transparency.

What about hackers targeting the blockchain?

Because of Satoshi Nakamoto’s mathematical genius in developing blockchain’s distributed nature, in which it taps thousands of decentralised servers across the globe, it would take harnessing the world’s computing power to effectively hack it – an almost impossible task.

Blockchain technology is potentially the next big revolution after the rise of the internet.

However, owing to its huge disruptive nature, questions remain about whether there is the political and business will for it to ever really see the light of day. We can only live in hope.”

Gareth told all of his colleagues that if there is one book we now need to read this is it. I’m sure another of my Davos contacts, Jeff Schumacher, will agree. He told me in January that blockchain is where the internet was in 1996. The efforts of the Tapscotts are sure to hurry that along.