Blockchain: what's all the fuss about?

Saturday 22 October, 14.00 - 15.30 , Frobisher Auditorium 1 The Future Now: Science and Technology


If you thought Blockchain was an obscure computer technology that lets nerds buy beer with Bitcoin, think again. In October 2014, the first couple registered their marriage via Blockchain, before the eyes (or the screens) of many friends who followed it via Skype. The NASDAQ Private Market has experimented with using the Blockchain to conduct and register trading. International banks are scrambling to get on top of Blockchain before it leaves them behind. The Estonian state uses Blockchain technology for all its citizens’ records. No wonder some are hailing it as the future of the internet.

Blockchain is a peer-to-peer system providing durable, verifiable, time-stamped records of information transfer. Originally developed by Cypher Punks with an eye to sidestepping state authority, it is a distributed record system, a virtual shared ledger that is easy to verify and almost impossible to alter. It holds out the impossible promise of combining transparency with security. Legal documents, medical records and financial transactions could all be using it in the near future.

But can Blockchain really render the state obsolete? Will it usher in a new era of trust between strangers? Or could it become the perfect tool for ubiquitous surveillance, with no right to redress, privacy, or to have your past forgotten? And who will decide the future of Blockchain: those who write the code, those who make laws, or those of us who choose how to use new technologies?