TECH | Nov 23, 2017

Name of the medicine: Blockchain

If Blockchain were a medicine: read the instructions for use and warnings carefully

WHAT IT IS

A Blockchain, according to Wikipedia, is “a distributed database, introduced by the currency Bitcoin, which continuously maintains a growing list of  records, which refer to previous records present in the list itself, and is resistant to tampering.

For someone reading this definition for the first time, it may seem a lot like gibberish, but according to many this is an unprecedented revolution: Blockchain could be for transactions what the Internet is for data.

Blockchain is a communication protocol created in 2008 by an unknown developer (or group) known by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto who, being the first user of the medicine in its most famous iteration, “bitcoin”, is now an unknown billionaire (although some believe he has been identified by the US NSA).

Beyond the thousands of uses it can be put to, the medicine’s active substance is based on the concept of a distributed database, i.e. a database in which data is stored not on an individual computer but on several interconnected machines which are constantly updated. The database is formed by blocks of transactions linked to one another (through a hash) to form a chain which grows stronger with an increase in the number of blocks: it is effective because of the fact that each transaction – which is a block in the chain – is reproduced on clients which develop the entire database (i.e. the entire chain), which is thus unmodifiable.

Blockchain is thus a Distributed Ledger Technology based on a completely decentralized, peer-to-peer system, replacing the central “master book” with a completely distributed master book which gains its strength from the fact that, as there is no central entity to determine its validity, it is guaranteed by the fact that all users have a copy of it and can verify it, examine it and—only if the majority of users accept the transaction—modify it (thus adding a link to the shared chain).  The mechanism is founded on the presence of a time mark which determines the moment in which the transaction takes place through a process called “timestamping” and on the concept of distributed consensus which is substantiated in the fact that a transaction’s validation takes place through a verification and approval stage based on calculation resources made available to the Blockchain’s participants.

The medicine guarantees: reliability, transparency, convenience, solidity and irrevocability.

WHY IT IS USED

Blockchain is a multipurpose and multifunctional medicine. Born as an instrument for the realization of a crypto-currency (bitcoin was the first, but today there are dozens based on the same active principle), today sees equivalent medicines which can be used for the widest variety of purposes. It is used in all cases where there is a need to share data in a secure and certifiable way while avoiding intermediaries or a central certifying entity.

Blockchain can be used, in addition to the banking and insurance sector, wherever there is a need for traceability and transparency (in agro-food, for example, to guarantee products’ provenance); where data must be retained along with its security (e.g. in the production chain or distribution process or in the Internet of Things); in cases where one wishes to take advantage of the decentralized structure characteristic of this technology (in Industry 4.0 for the production, logistics and supply chain management stages); in contexts where one must share information in a fast and secure way (e.g. in healthcare to allow for consultation of updated patient files between doctors or between structures); when one must sign registered contracts without the need for a central registry; when one wishes to adopt a distributed system for crowdfunding or management of ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings); when one chooses to develop true sharing economy models which are not based on those which are nothing more than new middlemen; when one wants a true digital identity, shared and implemented in this system, in Government Administration for example as a supplementary tool, or better yet an alternative, to other medicines widely tested but with little proven effectiveness which, over time, are shown to be symptomatic or placebos.

WHEN NOT TO BE USED

The use of Blockchain is not recommended for those who do not wish to innovate and reform procedures, to those who present an intolerance for transparency and peer-to-peer processes, for those who wish to maintain a level of service inadequate for security and efficiency, for those who wish to maintain old methods for digital identification. Furthermore it is strongly contraindicated for those who want to continue to use centralized structures aimed at maintaining a vertical control over processes and data which could instead be managed through distributed validation. In particular, its adoption is not advised for useless entities which may be replaced by peer-to-peer systems based on Blockchain. Thus carefully avoid use of Blockchain in cases in which you do not wish to simplify administrative and business procedures.

WHAT CAN CHANGE THE MEDICINE’S EFFECT

The presence of a support community for the development of tools based on Blockchain could increase its effects, ultimately leading to the construction of systems based on databases shared between various members of the community, which can guarantee against processes being blocked or information being censored.

HOW TO USE THIS MEDICINE 

How much

Blockchain should initially be taken in small doses, useful for monitoring the effects on the patient and caregivers in order to not cause a rejection crises.

When and for how long

Blockchain should be taken regularly according to a medium-long term treatment plan chosen by the organizational structure. If taken correctly, it creates dependency. As with many other psychoactive substances, one must pay careful attention to the fact that treatment cannot be abruptly interrupted.

How

Blockchain can be easily administered in the startup stage of a new service or business process. Administration to a launched process (whose methods of implementation are well rooted) becomes more complex and requires psychological support aimed at lowering resistance to change. In many contexts, there is an attempt to view Blockchain as equivalent to an alternative medicine, but its efficacy is proven by the official medical community and the difficulties in accepting its use stem from the fact that its adoption often requires a radical change in paradigm.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE TAKEN AN OVERDOSE OF THE MEDICINE

In case of ingestion of excessive doses of Blockchain, immediately stop taking the medicine and return to a traditional, analogue or old-fashioned digital active substance.

INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER MEDICINES

No significant interactions were found with other active substances. Blockchain will potentially render the active substances currently used by Certification Entities and Authorities obsolete, replacing them or forcing them to change radically. The increasingly widespread diffusion of medicines based on this active substance and on the logic of the Internet of Things will make potential recourse to Blockchain ever more prevalent and significant

UNDESIRABLE SIDE-EFFECTS

Panic attacks in subjects resistant to innovative technology that may change the process routine. Palpitations, sweating, anxiety in cases in which one does not use data protection instruments which allow only specific, authorized individuals to view, manage and validate transactions in progress. Rapid tissue atrophy of useless entities, which may lose their purpose due to the existence of technology which renders them obsolete.

Sonia Montegiove – Stefano Epifani