To understand the blockchain revolution,
I like to go back in time and try to understand the
different stages of the history of Money. It has three functions: it is an
intermediary of exchange, it is a unit of account,
but also a store of value. At the origins of the history of humanity,
the exchange of goods was done on the basis of barter with units of account:
a goat against 5 chickens or against 50 bananas. However, none of these goods
could serve as a store of value: Then, palaeo-currencies appeared,
for example early shells, infalsifiable and
therefore rare in the mountainous regions,
to serve not only as an intermediary of exchange and unit of account,
but also as store of value. he value of money became guaranteed
by the rarity of its support (gold or electrum coins in Antiquity)
and also by the fact that it was stamped
or minted by a guarantor. And then, over the centuries,
we went from those currencies that had intrinsic value (convertible into gold)
to so-called fiduciary currencies, that is to say without intrinsic value, but based on
our confidence in a state and its central bank. That is the case of our current monetary units
(the euro, the dollar) which have lost their convertibility
to gold, but are solely guaranteed by the confidence in our states.
In addition, the physical money (palpable physical coins and notes) is
gradually disappearing, being replaced by scriptural money,
i.e. literally written on Finally, we arrive to the
third stage of this evolution: money has undergone a last evolution
step with digitization: exchanges
are now in electronic form, with bank cards and online payments,
where a controlling body still exists, but does not intervene directly.
And finally, we get there, the Blockchain is opening up a new revolutionary chapter in this “History of Money”, precisely with
the emergence of Crypto-Currencies: And this is a totally different form of digital money Yet, the blockchain technology preserves the essence of money: an abstract token that is
inherently immutable, infallible, eternal, retains its value and
represents the exchange of value, cannot be seized or frozen, can be
transmitted anywhere in the world, can be independently verified
by anyone who receives it. But it is not controlled by anyone. On a personal level, I confess that
I only got interested in the Blockchain
at a late stage, in 2013 – 2014, while the first Bitcoin transaction
happened four years earlier, in 2009. I was first curious, intrigued,
then very skeptical I confess, and finally …”whao!” I was subjugated by
the complexity of its mathematical model
and its potential applications. I dug into my applied maths
and cryptography courses to try to understand this technology that
is both extremely simple in principle and fascinatingly complex
in its implementation and applications. We must be humble: the blockchain is a
very difficult technology to understand in depth, Trying to trace the first works on the
blockchain, that is cryptographically secured chains of blocks,
we can go back to the “hash trees”, which were invented by Ralph Merkle in 1979.
Then, the first concepts of virtual money were born in 1999, with the b-money
of Wei Dai, then in 2005 with the bitgold of Nick Szabo.
And yet, the genesis of Bitcoin goes back to October 2008:
on an obscure forum of cypherpunks, mathematicians and geeks passionate
about cryptography, an anonymous author having for pseudonym
Satoshi Nakamoto published there a 9-page article, the famous
“Bitcoin White Paper”.
This mythical article accurately described the protocol of operation of Bitcoin,
and it already sketched with a formidable realism what the
implications would be. Bitcoin was born! Three months later, the community
of cypherpunks had already implemented the code of
Satoshi and, on January 3rd, 2009, the first transaction in Bitcoin
(the famous “Bloc Genesis”) was executed. The blockchain is only a fledgeling
technology, today in 2019! And as for the internet 30 years ago, we are in an initial phase of infancy. Beyond the buzz and the media hype, there are in fact currently only very few applications of the blockchain outside the financial field. Most of the alleged applications are for the moment only basic decentralized databases which are backed by a very traditional security process. However, we can mention some very promising areas under development, which really exploit to their full potential the specificities of blockchain technology. The first area that interests me most is Traceability in the supply chain. the blockchain would at any time allow you to know that
a cooked dish served in a community comes from a referenced distributor, who bought it at a referenced factory, who made it from a referenced meat, bought at a referenced
slaughterhouse, from an animal coming from a referenced farm. The manufacturing chain of an agricultural meal, medication, or industrial product, could thus be audited at any time,
and contaminated batches could immediately be identified without
possible falsification. For example, India’s biggest conglomerate,
Reliance Industries, is working on its “Jiocoin” project, projet joslyn qui est une plate forme
logistique à base de blood chaîne which is a blockchain-based logistics platform for
managing its entire supply and production chain. A second area of very promising application is the field of Medical Records.
The blockchain technology would make it possible to date and archive in a secure and tamper-proof manner all the visits of a patient to his doctor and to any other specialist, as well as his prescriptions of drugs.
For the delivery of medication, the patient could give the pharmacist
a partial decryption key that would allow him to read his prescriptions
and deliver the drugs. Due to medical privacy, the pharmacist will
however not have access to the diagnosis from the doctor.
As for the emergency services of the hospitals and the ER services, they would have a complete reading key llowing them to be able to immediately access
the whole medical file of a casualty, thus understanding its antecedents and current medications.