The attention span of an internet user is notoriously short. Some writers put it at around a max of 600-800 words, before it becomes another TL;DR article. And yes, that term was created by the internet users, for internet users. It's just the way content creation and consumption has developed over the past decade.
So what about concepts that warrant a lengthy description to properly understand it? Unfortunately, our world is getting more complex, and ideas and products cannot be succinctly explained in a "listicle *shudder*" or a "meme *shudders more*".
What happens then is that concepts get misunderstood, abused in a wrong context, celebrated for no reason, and no one admits that they don't know jack.
Let me get started with a few annoying ones.
Blockchain is going to save the world. It can help "transform the world". It's a "brilliant approach to cybersecurity". We're gonna use it in all sorts of industries - like journalism, furniture, online gambling, and um... e-voting?
What exactly is this amazing technology that just emerged from the shadow labs (FYI - no one knows you developed blockchain yet) of the internet? For the TL;DR crowd, I'll try my best to fit it in here: Bitcoins started as an alternate form of cryptocurrency, a digital way to pay through the internet. This is heavily influenced by a crypto-anarchy movement on the internet, who also happened to be early pioneers on a lot of internet technology you see today. So these guys were adamant to let governments and regulators control their new world - and that included tracking their payments, moving money across physical borders, and they didn't really care much about Big Brother and stupid concepts like authority.
The problem with early crypto-currencies is that:
1. Users need to agree it has value. Without everyone agreeing that one US dollar is worth, well, one US dollar and not just a piece of paper, the value of paper money becomes worthless. There's a whole economic theory to this, but let this concept sink in first.
2. Digital media is comparably easier to counterfeit and create. Digital piracy is still going strong, despite the strong efforts from media companies and software developers over the past decade. In the real life, we know this creates inflation and a currency is gradually worth less (and eventually, worthless).
3. Adoption. Both sender and receiver of a crypto-currency have to trust the system to transact. This means having a bulletproof encryption algorithm, and trust isn't exactly built by secretive anarchists living behind multiple VPNs, port forwarders, IP-maskers and firewalls. Too few users using a currency, and it becomes as useful as exchanging bottle caps in international trade.
In 2009, a programmer (or possibly a group of programmers) under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto created a peer-to-peer currency, Bitcoin, and basically told their online friends about it. The breakthrough idea then was having a public encrypted ledger that tracked the movements of the limited number of Bitcoins unleashed into the world - the Blockchain.
So this blockchain made sure everyone knew who owned each unit of Bitcoin, and every transaction was added on to the ledger, making sure there was no room for fraud or counterfeiting new Bitcoins. Of course, new Bitcoins could be created by a process called mining, but that's another TL;DR article for the future.
Now if you're wondering why this blockchain thing sounds familiar... you probably have seen it in one form or another. Ledgers are familiar stuff - corporate accounting uses it to track profits and expenses, and eventually it gets reported publicly as quarterly or annual financial reports. In IT systems, audit logs record every single activity performed, so fraudulent actions can be discovered (sometimes even alerted in real-time).
So here we are. The world is going gaga over a technology that, in its simplest form, dates back 3 millenia ago in the Sumerian civilisation, as a way to track movement of goods in and out of stores and farms.
Is this going to really revolutionise journalism, furniture, gambling, e-voting etc?
About this blog
Mostly startup and tech stuff. An occasional rant or two. Travel-related articles are published on my other blog.