Blockchain: Hope or Hype? – John Domingue & Sajida Zouarhi

[FUTURISTIC SOUND EFFECTS] So I’m John Domingue. Thank you very much for
all of you coming here. Thanks a lot for the invitation. I’m the director of the
Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University, which
acts like a corporate R&D centre. The OU has 175,000
students, and my job is to create new technologies
which may be useful to them. My role here tonight is the
warm-up act for the main event. So I’m going to try
and explain what blockchains are in 30 minutes. I assume that you
know nothing, OK? So I’ll start from
the very beginning. And I must say I’m an
enthusiast, so I’m going to have a very positive spin. So I’ll talk about the impact
of blockchains as I see them. I’ll talk about the
Ethereum platform. And before that, I’ll talk about
some elements of blockchains. I’ll talk about some of
the more stranger things that people claim you can
make with blockchains, and I’ll have a few
concluding thoughts. So there’s the
impact of blockchain. So as I said earlier, if people
have heard of blockchain, it’s through the bitcoin and
the various elements of that. There are various claims
that have been made. So the World Economic
Forum said there’ll be a tipping point for this
technology in a few years. Santander say that they’ll
save $20 billion very soon. I go to a lot of
blockchain events where there are often
1,000 people there. And you get two types of people. You usually get skinny teenagers
who have their own startup, and have some software,
and are becoming rich, and who are building software. And then you get 10% are
people in blue pinstripe suits from the banks
hoping to make money. So in terms of applications
that I see out there, there’s been for a while
blockchain platform trading on the New York Stock
Exchange in the shorts market. But we see a lot of
applications which are not in the financial area. So I’ll say what blockchains
can do in a moment. There’s a company that
has 10 million diamonds on the blockchain. So one the things that
blockchains are good for is recording provenance. Now, the claim from this
company is the only reason why anybody pays any
money for a luxury good is because you know
its provenance. You know its history. You know the diamond wasn’t made
yesterday in someone’s garage. The painting wasn’t painted
by somebody in some cellar. You know the complete history. And they’re using
this for diamonds to make sure they’re
not from war-torn areas. There’s a big connection
between blockchains and what’s called the
internet of things. Putting physical
objects on the internet. There was a demo from– these are in DocuSign
for car leasing. And to caricature what they
did, is the car key and the car are on the blockchain. There are no forms to fill in. You simply walk in, they
throw your car key to you, and as long as you keep paying
funds from your bank account, your car key will work. And when you stop, your
car key will not work. So that’s a different way
of thinking of things. One thing one can
do with blockchain is that you can disintermediate. I may say more about that later. So any context where
there’s a middle player, you can take out
the middle player and replace the trust that had. Another application
of blockchains is in the energy sphere. So there were
citizens in New York, in Brooklyn, who have
solar panels on their roof. And they’re generating
electricity. And they’re selling
that electricity to other citizens in New
York with no energy company and no bank in between. So a trusted mechanism
for peer-to-peer selling of electricity between citizens. At the Open University, I have
a movie that’s showing now. We’re using blockchains, or
beginning to use blockchains for storing your accreditation. So I may ask one of you, do
you have any qualifications? And you say, yes,
I have a degree from the University of Oxford. And if I say, I don’t
believe you, what can you do? You have to run home,
hopefully find the certificate. In the context of lifelong
learning, this may not work. So what we’re doing is we’re
putting micro-accreditation, so a very fine-grained account
of student accreditation onto the blockchain. Then we’re matching that
to jobs which are online. So I had another
project where we have 5 million jobs in a
particular computing area online. So as you sleep,
your qualification’s automatically matching your
skills to the skills for jobs. And then they’re
presented to you. The other thing we do is we
find you jobs that you’re nearly qualified for. And then we find
you courses which will fill those skills gap. So again, another
ecosystem with a blockchain running where we’re removing
the need for an intermediary. OK. So that’s a very lightning
overview of some applications. I’ll know talk about some of
the elements of the blockchain now I’ve increased your
interest, hopefully. So a blockchain is
simply a public ledger. It’s a public record
of transactions. And the reason why banks get
interested– well, have become interested in the blockchain–
is because all the bank is, to caricature them, is a ledger. They have databases, lots
and lots of databases, to contain the ledger. And they spend a
lot of resources overnight reconciling all
their internal ledgers with the ledgers of others. And you need a complete record,
because, of course, your bank balance unfortunately
isn’t dependent on just your last transaction. It’s dependent on all
of your transactions. So that’s why you need a ledger. Now, the reason
why Santander think they’ll save a lot of money
is, rather than spending a lot of effort in
reconciling literally hundreds or thousands of databases
of ledgers internally and with the other
banks, there’ll be one global source
of truth that everyone can point to and
say, yes, that is the public record
of our transactions, and we all trust it. This talk is not
very technical, but I want to introduce the
definitions of some elements, just so you know if
you read about them. So one is the cryptographic
hash function, which you’ll hear about
hashes if people tell you about blockchains. It’s a very easy
thing to define. So a hash function is, you
take a file of any size– they can be very small, they can
be the size of a whole movie– and you hash it. It generates a file
which is always small. A string of a fixed length
which is not very big at all. If you change any element
of the input file– just one pixel in the movie,
or one element of data– the hash completely changes. So the hash acts like a
thumbprint of the document. Take a document of every
size, create its thumbprint, the hash, and then you put that
hash on the blockchain, which is very small. Then people can sign on it. And when you take
out whatever it is, your document you’re
interested in, you can say, my big document
matches the thumbprint. And the thumbprint
must sign the hash. So that’s what hashes do. So a blockchain is
simply a linked list. It’s a list of blocks
where every block points to the previous
blocks through a hash. So one thing that gives you
trust is the hash function. If I go back to some part of
that history as the blocks, and I make a change, the hash
function will no longer work. The linked list will be broken. So then you can trust
the whole blockchain because every block is
pointed to the hash function. So that’s one thing
that gives you trust. There are other elements
that give you trust as well, which I’ll talk about. Another thing is that
it’s peer to peer. So if you pull out your
smartphone now, or a tablet, or a laptop, and you
run something online, the chances are
you’re connecting to a central database,
a central server. Usually something like
Google or Facebook. With a blockchain,
it’s peer to peer, which means if you’re a
main player in this space, everybody gets a complete
record of the entire blockchain. So everybody can check
what everybody else is doing to make sure
that nobody else is behaving in a bad fashion. If you do have a
peer-to-peer system, there’s the problem
of, who’s going to produce the next block? So we could imagine a
scenario where all of us are on the blockchain. All of us have one node, and
we all have a complete record. But somebody needs to
produce the next block. How are they going
to choose them? And there’s what’s called
consensus mechanisms. So a way of choosing the
next person, but making it somehow fair. Another term that
you’ll hear about is something called a
consensus mechanism, and the main one that’s used
on platforms such as Bitcoin is proof of work. Proof of work is a way
of getting entities that don’t know each other
to collaborate and trust each other what’s
happening, because it’s very hard to cheat. In many of the blockchains
such as Bitcoin, they’re what’s
called public, which means anyone with a
computer can join. So what they do is they
have a cryptographic puzzle. So there’s some puzzle
that you have to solve. And the way they designed
the puzzle is the only way to solve it is to guess. So there’s some seed called
the nonce with a function, and you guess the x such
that the function magically produces a small number. And then to make
the puzzle harder, you just make the number
smaller and smaller. So what happens is you
have all these computers around the globe trying
to solve the puzzle. And they keep guessing, and
the numbers that come out are too big. And then at one point,
somebody guesses right, and then they win the prize
of producing the next block. So that’s another
element of trust. So to cheat, you would
have to go back, recreate all the hashes, and resolve
all the proof of work puzzles. And because they’re
hard to solve, you would have to
solve them faster– if it was the room–
everyone else in the room. And that’s another element
that creates trust, because you cannot
out-compute everybody else. OK. So it’s basically,
proof of work is a way of stopping the one bad
person or bad players doing nasty things. And it’s been
mathematically proven, as long as less than 50% of your
colleagues, if less than 50% of them are bad, you’re OK. Once more than 50% of them
are bad, then you’re not OK. But it’s a pretty good
way of ensuring trust. One negative side effect
of this is something that’s called bitcoin mining. So imagine all these machines
trying to solve these puzzles, and everybody wants
to create a new block. If you create a new block,
you actually get a reward. On Bitcoin, you get a coin. So this is the largest bitcoin
mine– or it was time ago– in the US. And you can see they have
this big farm of machines. So they have all
these machines doing these cryptographic puzzles. And it was computed
at some point that Bitcoin is maybe using
more electricity than Ireland. And it’s growing, so
you see that’s an issue. So people work on different
consensus mechanisms that don’t use electricity. I won’t spend too
much time on this. I’ll go through this quickly. But proof of work
is the most common. So who has the most
computing power? Who can solve the puzzles? There are others. Who has the most capacity? The more disc storage
you give, the bigger your chance of
winning the prize. Proof of stake. You take some of your coins. You lock them away and
say, I will never use them. The more coins you
lock away, the greater your chance of producing
the next block. Proof of burn. I take some coins and I
actually set fire to them. Literally. And then that gives me a stake. So this is all about, if you
want to play in the game, prove that you’re engaged. And that should make
the bad people shy away, because they won’t be as
engaged as the others. There is one of elapsed time. Who’s been waiting the longest? And then there are proof of
authority networks where– these are not open
anymore, but you only let certain machines go in. So certain banks, if
they want to collaborate, may only let other banks go in. So these are called
permissioned blockchains. As opposed to completely
open blockchains, anyone can join the party. Everything is
controlled by accounts. So there are public
and private keys. I won’t labour this, but
everyone has two keys. Your public key, you
share with anyone. And that can be used to
encrypt secret messages. You keep your private
key in a secret place, and that’s the key for unlocking
anything that was unencrypted. So anything that happens
on the blockchain is always signed with somebody
using their private key. So you know, in principle, who’s
carried out any transaction of any sort. And that’s another
element of trust. The most popular blockchain
platform after Bitcoin is Ethereum. Ethereum has a couple of
interesting extra things. So I said that the blockchain
is only a public ledger. Ethereum adds another element. So it has two types of accounts. These normal accounts
for transferring funds. And then it has something
called a smart contract. So the interesting
about smart contract, it is a piece of code. So instead of putting
data on the blockchain, they put a piece of code. And in principle, this code can
embody any legal or financial contract. So then I have my
blockchain running, and it can be running financial
and legal contracts for me in the trusted fashion,
transferring funds across the globe. And again, there are
many interesting things that we can do with that. So some of the applications
that I mentioned previously– so for example, the one with
the car and the car keys– was running with
smart contracts. On top of that, people
build applications as combinations of
smart contracts. Instead of calling
these apps, they’re called dapps, for
decentralised applications. And then there are
special browsers. So in the way that one can
have a browser for browsing all your movies, or browsing
your applications, you can browse your dapps in
a special blockchain browser. OK. There’s a great
website called “How to Avoid Pointless Blockchain
Projects” for the sceptical. And this talks about
the various things that you need for a blockchain. So as with anything,
you do get some hype, and then people
will try to apply a blockchain to everything. So the main
characteristics you need for when a blockchain
will be useful, you should need to share data. If you don’t want to
share data, forget it. You should have
multiple writers. So multiple people want
to write that data. There should be an
absence of trust. It’s not the case that
everybody trusts everybody else completely. And your transactions
should interact, ideally. As I said, with
your bank balance, it’s the combination
of transactions that give you your
bank balance, not just your last spend or last income. And then there should
be a set of rules. You should not be
completely anarchic. Some people should care about
the rules and the assets that you’re transferring,
be that coins, or diamonds, et cetera. And something should
back the assets where there is a
community, or whoever. So a couple of the more
outlandish elements that we have that people are
working on with blockchains. Two of them I’ll talk
about are DAOs and ICOs. So a DAO is a distributed
autonomous organisation. So I have this blockchain,
which everyone trusts. I have smart contracts. And these are running with
no humans in the loop. And they’re transferring assets. So some people are thinking, OK. I can create a company. A company that trades
with no humans. Why do we need humans anymore? They’re not always trustworthy. And this will run,
and we can look at the record of what
happens on the blockchain. So there was something
called The DAO, I guess over a
year ago, which was acting like a venture capitalist
running on the Ethereum blockchain. This had, at one point, $160
million worth of investment. Crowd-funded. And it was parcelling that
money out to various projects with no humans using small
contracts on the blockchain. There’s an interesting
element where you can think about
combining any physical object with a blockchain platform. So then one can think about
turning any physical thing– maybe this theatre,
maybe a screen– into a company that trades. And it rents itself out. So you can think about
a car leasing company with no humans on the loop. IBM, they had a washing machine
that would order its own powder when it run out. And when it thought that
it was going to break down, it would contact an engineer,
pay the engineer for the work, and carry on. Again, with no
humans in the loop. So again, different
things one can think of. ICOs are something
in contrast to what you see on the stock exchange. So when somebody wants
to set up a company, they have an initial
public offering. So I say, I have
a fantastic idea. I have a company. Why don’t you invest? Please invest in me. People invest in certain
funds, and for that, they get shares in the future
profit of the company. So you can think about the
shareholders investing. And then, some point
later, you actually build your product,
whatever it is. And then you start selling. Users pay you for
those services. Now, in that context, you
have two types of stakeholders to caricature it. You have the users
paying for services, and you have stakeholders, which
are somehow– in one aspect, you say, well, they’re
syphoning off the money for the initial
funds they put in. With a blockchain,
there’s something called an initial coin offering. So one interesting
thing one can do with a blockchain
is you can basically invent your own currency. So I can invent
the John currency for my fantastic product. And I can say, you can
buy the John currency. It only costs you 5 pounds
for every John coin. You buy that, but it’s
really an investment, because I don’t
have the service. But you trust me,
and my services will come in the future. So when my services come,
users will pay for them. And then all of the
John coins you bought will be worth something. So then we have an ecosystem
with users– and somehow– stakeholders and shareholders. But there aren’t really
any shareholders. So you can take out
the middle player. It all runs on the blockchain. And there is no
shareholder syphoning off. There are just different
elements using the John coin. And the John coin stays
in the whole ecosystem. OK. So let me just have
some closing remarks. So of course, some of what
I said maybe intentionally is a bit provocative,
a bit outlandish. But think about
the current world that you live in now, where
every time you take out your device, you’re connecting
to some central server that you’ve never seen. Some database somewhere
that you don’t control. And there are some big companies
now, big tech companies, that have a lot of data on you. Tim Berners-Lee, the
Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the web,
he had an article in Vanity Fair in August
where he postulated that the web is now
anti-human because of this over centralization of data. And he’s in fact working on
technologies to alleviate this, and we’re connecting
to his software to connect it to our blockchain
at the Open University. There was a journalist
in The Guardian who asked Google, please send me
all the data you have about me. So Google had 5.5 gigabytes’
worth of data on him. Now, of course, you can
change your settings in different ways. I assume that his settings
were the least restricted. But Google knew
everywhere he had been. They knew about his searches,
including those deleted. They knew his
activity on YouTube. Now, with a blockchain
and other technologies, we can think about creating
a different type of internet or web where the data is
shared in a more equal fashion. There’s also another
case where you can think about
people suffering not for the over-centralization
of data, but because there’s a
lack of data on them. I read a statistic recently
that 30% of citizens in the US cannot get credit because they
have no work history and no credit history. In the UK, we can think
about the Windrush scandal that people were deported. And one can view that problem
as a problem with data. They didn’t have
the data to prove that they had been in the UK
for every year for the last 50 years. The government actually
burned some of the data. It didn’t help. So you can think
about alleviating some of the social
justice issues around data which
may be exacerbated by data through technology
such as the blockchain. OK, thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, John. We now have Sajida Zouarhi,
blockchain engineer at Consensus. [APPLAUSE] Hello, everyone. My name is Sajida Zouarhi. I’m going to introduce
myself briefly, and then we’ll go to
the core of the subject. So I’m a blockchain architect. I work at Consensus, one
of the biggest companies in the blockchain ecosystem. Consensus is actually
a flat company. We’ve no hierarchy. And it’s aiming at bringing
blockchain solution to the world, as well as
innovating as a company itself. I am also a engineer and a
computer science PhD student. I work on critical data
management and transmission over complex systems. And I have numerous side
projects, one of which Kidner, and I’m going to
talk about it after. I’m also very involved in
association and community. I organise hackathons. If you don’t know
what a hackathon is, feel free to ask at the end. And my goal is to explain what
blockchain is in the simplest terms possible. And also, since I’m here
at the Royal Institution and I’m thankful for the invite,
I want to help create a bridge between academia and the
developer world, which is– in blockchain and
bitcoin community– sort of filled with cypherpunk,
and libertarian, and people with alternative mindsets. So one of the subjects
we’re going to talk about, blockchain has been explained
in a brilliant way by John. And I’m going to give you
just a simple example that summarise this. And maybe you can use that
example to explain blockchain to, I don’t know, your children,
your parents, your friends, those who are allergic
to math but interesting into Bitcoin and blockchain. So we’re going to take an
example about a family. So you have a family with
parents and four children. There is a very simple
rule in that family. Everyone has to wash the
dishes at least once a week. Parents, they have some
sort of attributes. First, they have authority
over the children. They can supervise their work. They can ask them
questions, and children, they have to answer
their parents. But also, they can use some
sort of pressure system, like rewards,
punishments, ice creams. Things like that. OK. So we have, still, a problem. Trust in this family. What if the sister says
that she has done her duty, but actually, it’s her
brother that did it? How can we tell– how
can the parents tell– who is lying and who is not? So at the end of
the day, they still have to play police and
actually monitor the children. And this is very tiring. So the question is
how to help parents. Well, actually,
blockchain is the answer. [AUDIENCE CHUCKLING] I know. So they go to the supermarket. They buy a blockchain. Yes, you can find it everywhere. So it is basically just
a transparent tube, and you put it in
your kitchen floor with some cement around it. I’m giving you the
recipe of blockchain. You give some tokens
to your children. Each colour for one child. And you give them a
padlock and a key. So why is that? If you think about
everything you just heard about
blockchain, actually, this is a metaphor of
what blockchain is. The transparency of
the tube is important, because in the
public blockchains, everything is transparent. You can actually read
every transaction on that ledger is
replicated on every node of the peer-to-peer network. This is one of the greatest
attribute of blockchain. The second series is the cement. We’ve been talking
about hashes earlier. Hash function. The thing that actually links
every block in the blockchain and make it not corruptible. This is the cement. You cannot take the
tube and shake it, or remove some of the
tokens of the children. Each token is like a transaction
or a block, if you want. And then the padlock and the key
is the cryptographic elements. Cryptography is one of the
core element of blockchain. You cannot interact on a
blockchain if you cannot sign your transaction, so you need
your public and private key to do so to express yourself. And no one else can do it,
because no one else has your private key, which is
why every time you will hear about blockchain,
the first advice is, don’t lose your private key. Because if you lose
your private key, you lose everything,
especially your bitcoins. And it happens a lot of time. I don’t know if you
heard about that man that went into a garbage trying
to look for the hard drive, and he had some private key. Because now he’s a millionaire,
but actually, he’s not. So. So this tube was
actually built, and it was shown at a hackathon
I organised in 2016. Designers worked on it. They have no
technical background, but they were able to
build this metaphor, which is that the sister and
brother are actually society. We have millions of
sister and brother that are trying to
collaborate, to work together. But they cannot always
trust each other. So what do we do? We add third parties. We add middlemen. We add authorities. And after that, they
take everything. They take the value. Think about Uber. I don’t know if you had
the same issue in the UK as we had in France, but
it was almost a revolution. People were burning
tyres in the subway– in the outer roads
and highway, actually. They were actually
throwing things at people, customer
from the Uber. So it went very bad. Why? Because they felt like
they’ve been losing their job. And why is that? Because Uber basically
took over the market. But at the same
time, the drivers, they could have organised an
Uber in the form of the DAO, for example, and say, OK. We have the cars. We have the expertise. We have the network. We have the clients. Why do we need someone else? But they didn’t do that. They kept doing the same way. And Uber added an added value
with a better algorithm. And now they control– they own the driver. They own the margin. They calculate everything,
and nobody can say nothing. So every time you don’t take,
let’s say, your own fate into your hands, then you’re
letting room for someone else to do it. OK. So why is blockchain
interesting? Because blockchain, it
is not just a new tech. It is not a software. It’s nothing like that. It’s a social and
technical paradigm shift. It’s a new way of
building things. And it’s not just about finance. It’s not just about bitcoin,
and darknet, and speculation, and greed, and
everything we like to read about in the newspaper. It’s just like the internet. When the internet was born,
it started quite slowly. People didn’t even understand
what was the internet. I recommend you to
watch some old video about people talking about what
is the internet on TV shows and things like that. It’s super funny. They don’t even know what
they’re talking about. This is us right now
talking about blockchain. And we have to be patient,
because it takes years for us to have a concrete application
of what is internet, and what it brings to us. So it’s going to happen in
the same way with blockchain. And the good news is that
it’s happening way faster. So now I’m going to focus on
one aspect, which is actually a good transition
with what we’ve seen at the end of
the last presentation about centralization of
data and the question of self-sovereignty on data. So do you really own
the data you produce? I did a presentation at
a technical conference a few months ago, and the
title was, “Who Owns You?” So I ask this question. Nobody told me anything. So the answer is, no one. That’s the answer. Nobody owns you. But in the reality,
some big players of the digital
ecosystem owns you, because they own your data. They know everything about you. People, they are
afraid of hackers. I don’t know, like
some kind of myth of– it’s not a myth, but it’s
like a minority of the threats that we’re living in,
like Russian hackers. Like East European hackers
entering everywhere. But this is not
the biggest threat. The biggest threat is the data
that you’re actually giving. Like, you are giving it. Nobody is actually forcing you
or breaking into your computer to make you give it. And this is when you use
WhatsApp, when you use Instagram, when you use Google. When you use all these
friendly application. But actually, these
are toxic friends, because they are sucking
everything from you, and they are not giving
you anything back. You’re completely out
of the value chain here. So let’s take a
look at this text. This is a piece of terms and
condition from Instagram. And just the second paragraph
is like the translation in human language,
because, you know. So what Instagram is
telling you is that, OK. So you own your original
pictures and video. But we are allowed
to use them, and we can let others use them as
well anywhere around the world. And also, people might
pay us to use them, and we will not
pay you for that. Awesome, right? [AUDIENCE CHUCKLING] Great. And what do we do every
time we download an app? We press Yes. Why? Because we need the service. So we are in a paradigm
that is very simple– and I don’t know why we believe
it’s how things should be– where, when we
need to service, we are ready to sacrifice
our data to have it. And sometimes, we pay. This is like a
double punishment. So let me introduce you to
some of my research work. I’ve been asking
myself two questions. How to give back to the
user control over its data, and how to reconcile
transparency and confidentiality in a
decentralised environment. You have now understand
the hope that is in blockchain, the promise. But I believe that if we don’t
solve the confidentiality situation, it’s going to be not
as spectacular of a revolution as we want. One case study that
I’m going to talk about is my project, Kidner, which
is a decentralised matching platform for kidney transplant. So first, critical data. What are they? So we can found them everywhere. It’s personal data,
medical data, crisis data, business data, bank data. And I don’t know if you know
that, but take a look at this. The data that are the most
expensive and the most searched for by malicious
person are medical data. Don’t know if you knew that. That’s scary. So Kidner is about
using blockchain in a health care
environment, which is kind of the worst
thing if you’re building a startup or an
entrepreneurship project to start with because of
all the legal complication and ethical complication. But I believe if you can solve
this, we can solve everything. So I’m going to introduce you
to the concept of Kidner, which is across the nation. So we have Bob and
Alice, like always. So Bob needs a kidney. He’s a recipient. Alice wants to give
Bob her kidney. She’s a donor. Unfortunately, Bob and
Alice are not compatible. What that mean is that this
transfer cannot happen. This might be the end
of the story for them. OK. Then we have Carol and
Dave on the other side, maybe in another country. Same situation there. What they don’t know– because
it doesn’t exist today– what they don’t know is that,
actually, Alice and Carol are compatible, and Dave
and Bob are compatible. And you will only
know that if we have a pool of pairs
of incompatible donor and recipients on a connected
network with algorithm that can run to find matches. Right? So how do we create that? To create that,
you need a network of hospitals that are
willing to collaborate. But they don’t want to, because
medical data is sensitive. And also, data in general
is sort of precious. So people, they don’t
want to share that. So blockchain here, I’m using
it to solve a governance issue, meaning that there is
not one hospital that is the authority on
the other hospital. There is not one place
where data are stored, like for example, in the US. What about patients in
France, or Europe, or? So if you don’t remove
this from the blocks, nothing is going to happen
just on a political level. So with blockchain,
there’s nothing such as this, because
every hospital is going to run its own node
and store its own data. Second thing,
matching algorithm. We need to do computation
in a decentralised fashion. We can do that with blockchain. We’ve seen it with Ethereum. It is the perfect platform to
run decentralised application. We also call them
unstoppable application, because no one can
actually kill the process. Now, the third aspect of
this project is cryptography. So I’m working on a cryptosystem
such as homomorphic encryption, or a multi-party computation. And basically, what it does,
it enables you to compute and perform calculation on
data that you cannot see. On encrypted data. It’s also blind computation. With my team, we are building
a platform called HellHound. And it is a decentralised
platform for blind computation. Any startup, any company,
anyone can use HellHound, send some encrypted data,
send an algorithm, and we’re able to
send back the result. We don’t know what
the result is. We don’t know what
the inputs are. But we’re able to
send back the results so that it is decrypted
by the end user. If you think about
that, that means that we don’t have anymore
to do the sacrifice I was talking about earlier. Now, we can use, for example,
23andMe for the genetics. The DNA testing. You can use that,
but you don’t have to give your DNA
information to 23andMe that is going to build
the biggest DNA database– which is something
very scary, I think– of the world. And you have actually to pay
for that just to know who is your third-degree cousin. So if you use that, that
means that you can go and do your own DNA test. You can encrypt your file, own
it, send it to such platform, and get back the result, and you
never disclosed any information about yourself. This is self-sovereignty. This is what blockchain
can bring to our IT system and services right now. Yeah. If we have time,
I’m going to show you this video about
the Kidner Project. So this video was
done for a hackathon that we actually won in May. And it was the Blockchain
for Social Impact hackathon. So here, you see two person. One is the donor,
one is the recipient. [LIGHT MUSIC] So thank you for watching. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So I’m just going to
look at this, but. So basically, what
we’re trying to achieve with Kidner is prove that
technology can actually help save lives and have an impact. We already have a
prototype that is working. You can see it here. This is not the best
front-end you’ve ever seen, but this is proof
that it can work. And we’ve been in contact
with doctors and chief of nephrology services. They are very interested
in the project, as well as the WHO, who contacted
me personally to work on how
blockchain can help prevent kidney trafficking. Let’s say kidney
transferability if we turn it in a positive way. But I can tell you that organ
trafficking and organ tourism is massive. So if you want to learn
more about Kidner, we have a website. And we have been featured in
the Telemedicine and e-Health Society Journal. So moving on. We’ve been true to hope. Now let’s talk about the hype. So now that we’re
saying about blockchain, it is a great
technology that can help us achieve many things. But we cannot put
blockchain everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s what
people have been doing. And this is why people are
distrusting this technology, because they’re seeing too much
announced newspaper article talking about what
blockchain can solve. You know that company just added
“blockchain” in their product title, and their
valuation increased 100%. So I can understand how
this can send bad signals. But let’s just
take a look at how we can find a good use case. So for that, you
need a methodology. So I’m just going to let you
take a look at this, but yeah. You laugh, but that’s what’s
going on in companies. I’ve been to meetings
pretty much like that. So OK. So if we take a look at
the hype curve of Gartner, we are pretty much at the peak. But it has been
going on for years, so now I don’t even
know if we are just going to be in hype for years
and years, or if it’s just, I don’t know, normal
for blockchains. What we do know is that
they’re here to last. It is not just a
short-term thing. It is going to impact
your life in the future, so no one can not take
a look at this now. I wrote an article– very easy to read– called “Blockchain
Is the Answer, but What Was the Question?” So few tips I’m giving you. You start from your use case. You all have
expertise in a field. You all have pain points
you want to solve. So just take a look
at that, and see how we can leverage the value
proposition of the blockchain that now we know to
solve these pain points. You have to know
the possibilities and the limits of a technology. Blockchain’s not going
to solve everything. Not at all. But it can solve some things. But if you are aware
of that, now you can propose relevant use
cases to your company, or to your own startup. You can download a tool. It’s free. I’ve done it after compiling
knowledge and questions from hackathons
I’ve been mentoring. It’s called The
Blockchain Canvas. Looks like this. It’s pretty intuitive. It’s like the
business model canvas but for a blockchain use case. Remember the slide
that John showed you about the question you
need to ask yourself? That’s pretty much
the same idea. If you’re able to
fill all these spaces, it means that you are probably
on a very good use case. And then you can use this to
brainstorm more, and maybe specify your use case. So it is really a
tool that you can use on your own review team. This is an example of
the Kidner Project. Just with this canvas,
I can explain everything about the Kidner Project
I’ve just showed you. Just in one slide. So as a conclusion,
hope and hype. That’s my answer for you. Why? Because actually, it’s
not about blockchain. It’s about humans. Blockchain is neutral. It’s a technology. It’s humans who put
expectation in blockchain. It’s humans who
can use blockchain for good or bad things. So we’ll see what
we do with that. Also, blockchain won’t
solve all our problems. And certainly not alone. What it means is that
you can use blockchain to create a solution,
but you will for sure have to use other tools. If you take a look at the
blockchain Kidner Project, you’ve seen that I’ve
used cryptography, because blockchain
on its own could not be viable for this use case
because of the confidentiality issue. Blockchain is also
a scalability issue. It has many issues. But the good thing is,
we have to be patient because the paint
is still fresh. I don’t know if we
say that in English, but we do say it in France. So it means that
we have to wait, because people are
working on this. Our researcher are on it. Developers are on it. Ethereum Foundation,
for example, is working on removing some
roadblocks on the Ethereum blockchain. And mistakes. Mistakes were made, and
they are going to be made. The DAO– I don’t think we
have time to dive into this, but yes, that was
a good example. Money was stolen. They did a rollback
on the blockchain, basically, breaking some of the
promises of this technology, but also saving the
credibility of the technology so that it can have a future. So again, a trade-off. And mistakes will always
be made, because people, they have to learn how to
handle blockchain solutions. You, I think, have the habit,
if you lose your password, to click on I
forgot my password. We sometimes do that. We don’t do that
with blockchain. If you’ve lost your private
key, it’s lost forever. All your millions
are lost forever. There’s no one you can call. There’s no support
service that can help you. This is very
disturbing for people who are not used to this. So it’s not like it’s going
to go mainstream in the year. But people are
developing some platform, developing some
solution, and you should be looking at it right now. I could talk forever
about the use cases that are actually running. I’m not talking about things
that are going to be released, but things are actually
existing right now. And it’s happening. So it’s better not
to miss the train, like we say in France too. [AUDIENCE CHUCKLING] Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

49 thoughts on “Blockchain: Hope or Hype? – John Domingue & Sajida Zouarhi”

  1. Money laundering. It’s good for money laundering.

    Using diamonds as an example is hilarious — the very definition of artificial scarcity — used to conceal and transfer wealth without paying taxes or evading law enforcement.


  2. She's confusing a public blockchain with a transparent blockchain. Not the same thing and full transparency is definitely not always desired.

  3. We not going to act as if we didn't need something like a block chain technology, but how do we get it in every household, how do we make it affordable.

  4. One of these Royal Institute videos is not like the others…
    EDIT: Blockchain "is not a new tech, is not a software, is nothing like that…" but "it's just like the internet"
    I'd argue the internet is the combination of both new tech, software and infrastructure which is why it was so revolutionary. You can't just say it's like the internet because no one understands it and then have people believe it'll propagate just as quickly.

  5. Hype… until the creators of one are truly altruistic and not after money, but instead actually drink the cool-aid of a decentralized non fiat based financial system.

  6. I'm strongly against any system that uses proof of work, for ecological reasons. It just wastes too much energy. Do we really need that? Wouldn't something like git with commit signing be enough for most uses? And there are very big players (states) that could in theory spin up enough nodes to control more than 50% of the nodes in the network. So I'm not convinced.

  7. Meet the world of scam artists. Replaces a flawed system with another more flawed system that is more complicated and easier to swindle people when they don't understand it.

  8. it makes no sense to put diamonds or ur carkeys on a permission blockchain. they just could use a database for that and save the hassle.
    in said cases there wont be one global source of truth and not everyone will trust it. because you need human interaction to put that thing on the blockchain in the first place and if that interaction is fraudulent than you have recorded that on the blockchain as well.

  9. blockchain is not much more than a glorified log file.
    And as for the kidner thing, there is a much simpler solution, remove money incentives. Socialized national healthcare is a lot simpler and cheaper than this Rube Goldberg contraption.
    And for medical data theft, who wants to buy it ? private insurers and lenders.
    capitalism does not work anymore (being generous and assuming it ever actually did), let's add more …

  10. LOL a load of gobbledegook designed to hide the fact that the central banks already own it and it is yet another move towards a one world banking system creating more debt slaves.

  11. John Domingue looks like my software security prof. speaks just with the same quiet non enthusiastic tone as well.

  12. Bill Gates invests in "Ethereum". To make vast amounts of money you need vast computing power, which means the normal person has no real chance. Who does have a chance are huge corporations, Google, Microsoft, even the NSA and in the UK GCHQ. Why do you think they want you to add your data to "The Cloud". The girl is telling you their intention… a huge con trick. Conventional currencies are failing and known to be false… this is simply an updated version. The reason the banks have robbed us all is because we did not understand "Fractional Reserve Banking", now that is more widely known about and we know who to blame some other "Plausible" con had to be invented. You can be sure that the same elite will once again end up with all the profits.

  13. A shame those themes are presented in our times behind this famous desk where science history has been made.

  14. Not great, she could have at least explained the difference between Bitcoin and Ethereum, I bet the audience left more confused than they were before the lecture began

  15. I am open minded and trying my hardest to be convinced but I am only seeing snake oil. I watched the whole thing as I thought that the Royal Institution had credibility that might enable me to see this blockchain piffle in a positive light. I am just more irked than before by how many foolish evangelists there are trying to solve other people's problems with promised wonder solutions. It is bullshit. None of these people work at the sharp end of real world problems, even simple real world things like retail. None come from a software engineering background, which is about solving real world problems for real customers for real businesses, not some farmer in Africa who needs to get one over the IMF. Charlatans. I mean that, I have tried to think otherwise and this is the final straw. If the RI can't present a case then it is bullshit. Back to SQL for me!!!

  16. The "problem" with ALL this – is that it is COMPLEX. This means that it is or can get complicated. When things get complicated, the BEST course of action is to get back to BASICS. The more complex a "System" is – the more can go wrong with IT. So beware.

  17. A quick comment about Windrush, which he mentioned. One scenario went like this (I forget the numbers)
    – you need to prove that you've been resident for 10 years
    – easy, I registered for tax 15 years ago, you have all my records since
    – no good, we delete tax records after 6 years

    This isn't evidence of a need for block chain, it's evidence of an inhumane and unreasonable government.

  18. I like Sajida's presentation but I'm totally flummoxed by the mention of blind computation. I send your computer xj45 and y3n6 and ask it to add them. If it doesn't decrypt how would it get the answer 2 plus 3 equals 5?

  19. Like she has said in the video, the value of it depends on where you apply this technology and how. There are a lot of scams out there which could be prevented with blockchain technology, or improve justice. Think of people paying for things they haven't done or people victims of digital crimes. People paying for identity suplantation (credits, etc…). I think it can be applied to improve/save the life of much people. Unfortunately some companies can use the name or use the technology wrongly. Isn't it happening with AI?

  20. I want everyone to completely own their own data. Imagine owning your birth certificate, licenses, medical records, etc. I'm afraid that we are not ready for that responsibility.

  21. @SAJZ I`d like to hear your thoughts about blockchain performance. We've developed a few prototypes with blockchain platforms but it was just… crap. Long delays between calls mad our app too inefficient to show to the public.

  22. I started watching this video to learn a little about blockchain technology, but was instead treated to some fo the best sleep I’ve experienced in 2018. Nice coma inducing work.

  23. Ha! 'Without a central Authority' that's the tagline what they don't tell you is what happens when blockchain becomes mandatory to be a citizen of planet Earth

  24. 13:50 wrong. You do not use your public key to encrypt the message. You use your private key for that. Someone's public key is used to decrypt their previously encrypted message.

    And sorry to both speakers. If I didn't know what blockchain was I'd be very confused by their description. Btw, if you want to understand it, watch this video, this is by far the best explanation of blockchain you can find:

    Lastly, I want to say what seems to have been missed is that the best application of blockchain could be enabling us to establish a secure digital voting system that allows proof of votes and anonymity at the same time.

  25. Language is also important here. “Ledger” and” transaction” can be confusing for some people – especially because it has a financial connection (e.g general ledger) It should rather just be referred to as a record. From a pure academic point of view the terms ledger and transaction can be used, but it’s not practically interpreted that way.

  26. Blockchains are (in a way) trying to technologically emulate a trust model – ie digitized trust. Things like ownership and contracts are represented through cryptographic means. The philosophy is sound, but we are far from creating an end-to-end ecosystem which allows all participants to engage in this model.

  27. Huge problems with scalability and the impossibility to restore or change your private key are what make me very skeptical of this technology. Plus the kind of utopian libertarians this technology attracts.
    Middle men that are acting for pure profit are bad, but that's why we should have maximum competition, open markets, and laws and governments to regulate their greed.

  28. Interesting discussion. Here's a blockchain expert in Australia giving her take on where it's at right now

  29. I'm still not convinced the block chain is completely trustworthy. For example, how can we be sure the hash file is severed if something is changed, and what are the ramifications if all of the linked lists are dependent upon a singular source being correct? What about altering memory locations, or even computer malfunctions? I'm still very skeptical.

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