Bitcoin and the Emergence of Blockchain

Bitcoin and the Emergence of Blockchain

The constant media coverage and office talks of this fascinating form of currency seems to have piqued everyone’s interest. Many are still unsure of what exactly cryptocurrency is, others are subject matter experts – the latter are most likely proud investors in the infamous digital currency.

In the last few years, the price of bitcoins has gone through various cycles of appreciation and depreciation. This year however, the prices have surged with an all-time high of $19,783.06, when last year a single bitcoin stood at less than $1,000. With this rapidly fluctuating rate comes countless warnings and threats that the ‘risky bitcoin bubble’ will burst, resulting in devastating consequences for those who paid extortionate amounts for theirs.

However, aside from the wider world becoming increasingly interested in this new concept of cryptocurrency, bitcoin has introduced something possibly even more valuable: blockchain. Initially developed as a core component of bitcoin, blockchain is now an inspiration for other applications. As it is inherently resistant to modification, and has the ability to ensure each block is unique, there are countless ways in which this technology can be utilised. An illustrative example is using blockchains to run voting systems, which has recently been proposed in Australia.

Another increasingly popular example of using blockchain technology is for ‘Crypto Collectables’ such as CryptoKitties. This game centred around adorable online creatures, uses blockchain to produce one-of-a-kind ‘kitties’ for each paying user. The rapidly increasing popularity of this game has led to an increase in alternative Crypto Collectable games being created, raising the question – could this be the new Pokemon?

With all new technological trends, there are always cyber security concerns. For blockchain, ethereum’s history provides a cautious tale. Ethereum is one of the oldest cryptocurrencies (second to bitcoin) which features a smart contract. In June it was hacked by an anonymous coder who tricked a smart contract into executing multiple times. They managed to extract more than £60 million worth of ‘ether’. As a result, the ether’s value dropped by about 25%. Due to the nature of the blockchain technology, Ethereum’s controllers were able to edit the ledgers history and delete the fact that there was ever an attack. This type of intervention goes against the whole point of the blockchain’s ‘trustlessness’ ethics.

After these events, the future of Ethereum and smart contracts is indefinite. But what about the future of blockchain? Is this new technology going to be a new tool adopted by countless organisations and governments, changing the technological world as we know it?

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