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31 May 2018

Lumos! Why Blockchain Is A Trust (and Harry Potter) Thing

Written by: Jack Stanley, Senior Social Strategist at Edelman

Digital Trends

Blockchain is going to change the world. Apparently. This is what I keep hearing, but what makes blockchain different to the current system? How is it going to change the world? I’ve heard it’s a trust thing, but why? To try and find answers to these questions, I went along to Blockchain, Digital Marketing Disruption with David Lockie at brightonSEO.

Here’s what I learned (warning: spoilers ahead)…

Consider the Harry Potter series. Everyone knows it inside out. But would anyone notice if the publisher started making the odd small change here and there to the original stories? Over time these could amount to significant narrative changes and there’d be a whole lot of confusion over what the story really should be. This is currently the situation that institutions such as banks are in. They’re the boss and can choose the reality of what’s in their historical financial records and ledgers. And if they wish, they can change their contents (despite it being fraudulent) at a stroke.

However, if Harry Potter had been published and distributed using a shared ledger, the fundamental principal of Blockchain technology, this wouldn’t be possible. Every change the publisher made would be reflected on the shared ledger and distributed to readers around the world to verify. The only way to then alter the book is for at least 51% of everyone owning it to agree to the changes.

So, taking the Harry Potter analogy to its natural conclusion, if I started publishing a version of Harry Potter where Dumbledore lives or Hermione turns out to be Voldemort’s daughter, this would be entirely possible, albeit nowhere near as narratively sound! But in the Blockchain world, it would be impossible as it would conflict with the contents of all other owners and would be immediately rejected.

But why does this matter for digital marketing? Well, aside from going some way to eliminating fraud, using Blockchain and crytpocurrencies lets people purchase content directly from the creator in its authentic form. This means no unilateral changes or risk of corruptions as it passes through multiple platforms.

One cool example of this in action is Po.et, which allows a content creator to generate timestamped licensed content and then sell it using Bitcoin. This has the knock-on effect of showing when and where a piece of content was published, which, in turn, allows it to be licensed. You can also see who acquired it and when. And that means no more arguments over who stole whose IP while cutting the need for a publisher to take their fee.

So, going back to where we started, I guess, yes, this is a trust thing. Management by algorithm means we don’t need to place our faith in individuals; we only need to trust maths.

Just as you wouldn’t trust me or anyone other than your closest friends or family with your prized possession (be it financial, personal data, ideas, Quidditch broomstick or anything else), in an ideal world you probably wouldn’t trust individual institutions with that stuff either – something they have relied upon, and sadly in many cases abused, for centuries.

What I learnt from David is that now, thanks to Blockchain, you don’t have to.

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