But a popular pattern in the crypto/token/blockchain world is that someone will come along and be like “finally, through tokenization, we have invented a way to slice _________ into bits and let people trade the bits.” I always find this a bit confusing. Whatever _________ is, it is safe to say that before the invention of tokenization there was already a way to slice it into bits and let people trade the bits. Slicing things into tradeable bits has been a very hot area of finance for a very long time, and people got pretty good at it. Real estate is a popular target for tokenization, for instance, and I am confused because real estate securitization—not so much mortgage-backed securities but real estate investment trusts—is a thing that has existed for a long time.
In this post I articulate what a peer-to-peer transaction is, why Bitcoin transactions are not peer-to-peer, and why it is important to understand the differences clearly. I describe the benefits of peer-to-peer transactions and discuss that Corda is the closest architecture to take advantage of those benefits.
Yesterday I did an recording where the interviewer asked me a simple question – what is blockchain? This got me thinking – I had no go-to answer for this. People use this word to cover a wide range of networks and platforms, and some platforms such as R3’s Corda (Note: I work at R3) are categorised as “blockchain” platforms, when they don’t even bundle transactions into blocks!
The best description I could come up with was:
Blockchain is a word used to describe a bundle of technologies that allow digital assets to be created and passed from party to party with guarantees that the assets are authentic and haven’t been copied or counterfeited all without needing to trust a third party to open and maintain accounts for customers.
Another day, another catastrophic data breach. This time it’s medical records in Singapore, where I live. At this stage we’re almost immune to this kind of headline:
Cyberattack on Singapore health database steals details of 1.5 million, including Prime Minister (Reuters)
But this is quite bad. Eileen Yu noted in her piece for ZDNet (my emphasis):
Singapore has suffered its “most serious” data breach, compromising personal data of 1.5 million healthcare patients including that of its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The affected users are patients of SingHealth, which is the country’s largest group of healthcare institutions comprising 42 clinical specialties, four public hospitals, five speciality centres, nine polyclinics, as well as three community hospitals.
Non-medical personal details of 1.5 million patients who visited SingHealth’s specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics between May 1, 2015, and July 4, 2018, had been accessed and copied. The stolen data included patients’ name, national identification number, address, gender, race, and date of birth.
In addition, outpatient medical data of some 160,000 patients were compromised, though, the records were not modified or deleted, said the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), in a joint statement late-Friday.
Last December I was approached by a publisher, Mango, who asked me if I would write a book about blockchain technology. A little nervously, I agreed, and I’m excited to announce the result of six months of effort:
The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains is an essential guide for anyone who needs to learn about cryptocurrencies, ICOs, and business blockchains. Written in plain English, it provides a balanced and hype-free grounding in the essential concepts behind the revolutionary technology.
I wrote The Basics for an audience of business people, students, practitioners, and those who are simply interested in this technology. I tried to make it entertaining even for those who are already working in the cryptocurrency or blockchain industry. For example, did you know:
I was reading Matt Levine’s Money stuff today and was struck by a thought. He writes:
“A national customs agency, for instance, might be happier approving shipments on an auditable open blockchain than in the proprietary database of a particular shipping company.”
This is interesting, but I want to take it one step further. Blockchain or not, a record of events that have been cryptographically digitally signed, with references to previous transactions could be very useful.
If you are a company, and a regulator or agency asks you for your view on what happened, and you give the regulator an Excel spreadsheet or a normal database extract saying “Here’s what happened, I promise”, this is very weak evidence and can be tampered easily by deleting rows, or removing key words like the names of sanctioned countries, etc.