Weiming Chen

Nov 8, 2021

3 min read

Blockchain Understanding

After several technical, non-technical books, occasional random blog posts, videos about blockchain in the past, I still found blockchain misleading, confusing, unintuitive. It is not about cryptography, not about the distributed network, not about the database design, not about software architect, etc.

Literally, chains of blocks of data.

Today, HBR’s (Harvard business review)’s “Blockchain” first chapter gave me a precise “A-Ha” moment realization.

It states blockchain as a foundational technology, given a trajectory comparison of TCP/IP adoption — that made sense.

Before the TCP/IP protocol network, the connection between every two parties by wiring connects from the switchboard. (Remind me, Angelina Jolie, the Changeling (film 2008), her job (switchboard supervisor): answer the phone, click the switchboard routes as requested)

Then TCP/IP was firstly adopted in private sectors: Universities, U.S Defense.

Every node (peers) using TCP/IP protocols forms a public network, data transmitted by sockets encoded and decoded. It is a foundational technology. They were firstly trying and benefiting inside sectors. All public gradually adopted it. Then boom. We now cannot imagine a world without the internet (on top of TCP/IP)

And the four grid frameworks, from single-use to transformative use.

Single-use and private sector (organization internal) use are immediately approachable at this stage. And there are already off-the-shelf solutions.

Smart Contract kind of use is fascinating, but it is more under transformative type require all sorts of institutions working together to approach. So it still could be decade(s) to go. But it is ultimately the foundational transformation of society, business, day-to-day living.

Another book, “Mastering Blockchain,” has differentiated:

  • Centralized

Distributed and Decentralized are blurring interchangeably in software architecture. However, it is precisely a decentralized, peer-to-peer network formed with interested nodes in the blockchain field.

(Distributed is somehow still mean by a centrally planned interest. For example, a distributed system may still require a leader node to know how nodes are distributed. ).

Blocks distributed and blocks chained are not the same thing. What is meant by ‘chained’ is more as sequential appended-only, timestamped-only chained. (So, what confused/misled me before were lots of illustrations showing data grids that link together, but instead should be chaining together. Since the linking together can only explain on the half part: the form of such peer-to-peer network but not the core idea behind ‘chains’. I believe you saw tons of such misleading graphics.)

Bitcoin is a type of blockchain application. A single-use type. As an alternative virtual payment.

The analogy of obtaining such money:

In the physical world, you need to proof-of-work to get money, e.g., spending your effort or knowledge to finish some tasks to earn money as pay. (Proof of work). In Bitcoin applying, the proof of work is somewhat the consuming computing resources/powers. (Mining).

The bottom line is that Bitcoin is an adoption / application of blockchain (Single-Purpose type), already phenomenal. Bitcoin is backed with blockchain.

Blockchain would be fun to explore the possibilities of real impact to bring in.

‘Plumbing’ services:

hardware, software, services that connect to use the network, and built on top of the network.

(Before, is the internet. Next, guess the blockchain.)