The Next Step For Global Interaction: Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology enhances society similar to the Internet. Its effects are broad, disruptive, and will boost global productivity.

Blockchain will be as fundamentally important and globally ubiquitous as the Internet.  The blockchain technology removes distrust between people, introduces fail proof robustness, and eases trade between people and companies.

Blockchain disrupts current companies and current ways of transacting between people.  This disruption will be a huge leap in national and global productivity. The productivity gains the world has seen with the Internet in the last two decades have tremendously added to the GDP for each developed nation. Blockchain will provide another step up for companies, people, and the global economy. Economies will be disrupted and will become much more productive and profitable. 

Patient-centric medical records will be a paramount application for blockchain. President Obama's My Blue Button initiative requires healthcare providers to let patients download their data. However, a growing problem is that senior parents are being cared for by their adult children in different locations, causing their medical records to be fragmented. So although My Blue Button allows adult children who are taking care of their sick senior parent to download their senior parent's medical records, each hospital's system is different. 

This puts the burden directly on the patient or the caregiver to reconcile, compile, and timeline the medical record on their own computer. It also requires that each adult child that cares for the senior parent shares those reconciled set of files with other family caretakers involved. Most families don't and can't do this. So blockchain solves this by being the central ledger where each medical provider for that senior parent will collectively store their records. 

For example, eighty-year-old Mr Thomas has kidney failure. His wife treats him at the local New York Hospital. He is there for two weeks. The medical records are automatically appended to the blockchain. Then he goes to dialysis for several months. 

Mrs Thomas is getting drained and needs support, so Mr Thomas' child in Princeton, New Jersey takes her father in. Mr Thomas now goes to a dialysis centre in Princeton. The dialysis centre in Princeton has instant access to the blockchain which contains the medical records from the New York dialysis centre, and the New York hospital. Mr Thomas is in Princeton for six months. The Princeton dialysis centre, the Princeton hospital, and the Princeton rehabilitation centre all append their medical records to the blockchain. 

Then, Mr Thomas' second adult child takes care of him in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia dialysis centre has instant access to the blockchain, where they can obtain Mr Thomas' medical records from the Princeton dialysis centre, Princeton rehab centre, New York dialysis centre, and the New York rehab centre. Therefore, the Philadelphia medical providers have a holistic view of Mr Thomas' medical records, allowing them to continue where the other medical providers left off. The blockchain removes from the patient or caretaker, the burden of medical record-keeping reconciliation, compilation, and chronology. 

Walmart and IBM are pioneering food safety in China, as the testing ground. The problem they're trying to solve is that there are many middle-men from where meat is farmed, to the consumer's table. Often there are diseases in between, and it's difficult to find where the disease was introduced. The blockchain records each stop along the supply chain between the farmer and the consumer. No one has to know each other between the farmer, the middle-men, and the consumer, but they all trust that the blockchain will carry the correct secure, encoded information for them. 

Distrust among humans allows blockchain to be the trustworthy ledger. How and why?  Blockchain uses mathematics, organized structure, and a repeatable process for people to trust.  Data is duplicated on numerous computers, of which at least fifty percent have to agree on a piece of information before it is stored in the blockchain. 

This democratic process is fail-proof and has global applications. The more people that use it, the more people will trust it, creating a positive feedback loop. The biggest component of trust is that important parts of the ledger are visible by anyone at any time. Of course, it’s obscured and encrypted, so that only those who know that transaction is happening can really audit that transaction. 

Tesla’s, Waymo’s, and other autonomous cars will intersect with the Internet and blockchain. This intersection will be called “trust”. Humans will trust autonomous cars. Autonomous cars will trust the internet and software. The blockchain will be the ledger for that trust. The software for autonomous vehicles requires regular updates and modifications with new driving patterns and habits. Blockchain can ensure security and reliability of the update transactions. People will learn to trust the automated driving technology, even if they don't understand how it works. The same goes for blockchain. 

Amazon packages an order and gives it to UPS. UPS then give that package to the United States Postal Service, who finally deliver that package to the consumer. Each of these has their own tracking number, meaning the consumer has to go through all three websites to find the status of their shipment. Instead of three tracking numbers, blockchain provides a single tracking number, regardless of the carrier, for the entire supply chain. 

Digital cash currency and banking, of course, is currently the leading use of blockchain technology. The big news this month is that JP Morgan and Vanguard have launched their own blockchain technologies. These launches by two huge financial institutions announce to the world that they believe in the power of blockchain technology. This sets a global example and standard, leading others to trust blockchain too, and therefore to follow suit. 

Mystical optimism must be balanced by rational realism.  Optimism has a huge gravitational pull for new technologies, like blockchain, which lets the imagination run wild to the point of being magical and mystical. As fun as that is, let's be realistic. 

In the first couple of years following the burst of the Internet, people's imagination went wild with magical and overly-optimistic thoughts of where the Internet would be within a year or two. There were projections of all retail stores being closed out by the end of the nineties, with of all shopping being done on the internet. Two decades later, we know we are not even close to this. Some countries are still not fully connected. Rural areas in our own country still have trouble connecting to the internet. In the same way, history will repeat itself for blockchain. The current burst in blockchain applications will be subdued by economic, political, social, and technological realities. 

Global economies are in a historic synchrony right now, where European, Chinese, Indian, U.S., Brazil, and many others are experiencing higher GDP. Why is this? Perhaps because the efficiencies, productivity, and standards are all improving due to the Internet, Smartphones, Cheaper Computers (available to almost everybody), and of course the biggest- huge advances in Software Engineering. Blockchain adds to these improvements like gasoline to a bonfire.

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