What blockchain is, and why you should care, especially if you’re in university

I am, by nature, an inquisitive person. Living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world means you need to adapt to survive – especially if you’re expected to be a future leader of the fourth Industrial Revolution.

To quote Assoc Prof Tan Joo Seng from the Nanyang Business School: “Whether you are a student choosing a university or subject area to specialise in, or someone building a career and trying to improve the world, remember one thing: Being curious will put you on the path to success.”

It was curiosity that first set me down the rabbit hole that is blockchain. Beyond Bitcoin, blockchain has far-reaching applications that every university student – or the future workforce – should know about.

The basics of blockchain
The media was obsessed with Bitcoin – and similar sounding cryptocurrencies in 2018 – after the former hit a value of US$19,783.21 on December 2017, its highest on record. Then there were talks of regulations and ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings, where start-ups raise funds by offering public shares in the form of cryptocurrency).

At the base of all the exciting talk, is blockchain. So what exactly is this heavy sounding technology?

Source: https://blockchain.wtf/what-the-faq/what-is-blockchain/

In a nutshell: A blockchain is a decentralised database that keeps bits of information on a (public or private) peer-to-peer network. It offers transaction without the need for a middle-man.

What that means is information (“the block”) is encrypted and shared across a network (“chain”) so thieves can’t steal that information without “accessing” the hundreds of thousands or even millions of nodes on the network. But, if you have the key, you can unlock that information without a middle-man, like a bank, for instance.

So why should you be interested in blockchain?
For one thing, your job may depend on it. All industries – from computer science, engineering, management, economics, philosophy and arts to biology – could suffer disruptions with the introduction of blockchain and its subsidiary technologies.

According to a 2017 video by Future Thinkers Podcast, 19 traditional industries such as banking and payments, cybersecurity, research and forecasting, healthcare, private transport and ride-sharing services will be affected.

And that list is only growing.

There is much business and social potential in this technology. If we can understand it, we can use it to solve problems. Society benefits, your future company benefits, you benefit.

Blockchain in the future
Larger and longer-run blockchain projects that are being explored now venture into the areas of government in the form of record systems, identity, and international travel security applications. Possibilities of a blockchain-infused future tickle the imaginations of business people, politicians and humanitarians. In countries such as the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Singapore, technologists are recognising its potential to reduce costs, create new financial instruments, and keep cleaner records of transactions of all sorts.

Even as you’re reading this, financial institutions are evolving active investments and initiatives with multiple stakeholders.

One example would be DBS Bank, which became the first bank in Singapore to enable an end-to-end cross-border blockchain trade platform for a commodity supply chain network, comprising farmers, exporters, traders and end-customers last November. The Managing Director and Group Head of Digital, Institutional Banking Group for DBS Bank, Raof Latiff said: “Cash flow and working capital are the lifeblood of companies and blockchain opens the doors to new business opportunities with trusted partners. The blockchain platform solution provides not only transparency, but also greater speed with which the business and its vendors can transact and finance their cross-border trades. The traceability that blockchain provides also offers much needed security when dealing with a new counterparty.”

“Trust” is a key component of blockchain. Because blockchain databases are considered to be secure and impossible to forge or hack into, they remove the need for trust. Where “trust” was a priority, for example in banking, it has been drastically reduced with blockchain.

You can’t escape the blockchain effect
In a world of fake news, high-profile hackings and identity frauds, trust is a highly prized commodity. The value proposition offered by blockchain is trust, which explains why the financial industry is one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. In the near future, we may see corporations using blockchain to protect themselves from cybercriminals. Governments may use it to safeguard citizens and political factions may use it to stop voting fraud. Whatever its use, you can be sure blockchain technology will be a part of our future.

More on blockchain
I’ve touched on blockchain briefly in this blog but if you’d like to know more – to stoke your own curiosity – I’ve included more links on the subject. So keep your inquiring minds sharp!

Blockshow Asia 2018
“Is blockchain stagnated?”, “How does blockchain influence the gaming industry?”, and “How macro level developments are moving blockchain towards institutionalisation” are just some of the topics discussed on the live stream of BlockShow Asia 2018, held in Singapore. Skip ahead to 15:21 to start the clip.

Blockchain Records under Singapore Law
The legal ramifications of archiving using blockchain as explained by Deputy Commissioner of Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission, Yeong Zee Kin.

Why Blockchain is Hard
Removing the pixie dust off blockchain and telling it like it is is Bitcoin educator, developer and entrepreneur Jimmy Song.

Reinforcing the Links of the Blockchain
How will blockchain affect industries in the future? A white paper by the IEEE forecasts the future direction of the technology.