Philip Sheldrake

Menu Close

Tag: bitcoin

Lightning – cryptocurrency and the Internet of Things

lightning

Bitcoin is an experiment. That's granted. The fact that it's trusted and actually useful is nothing short of phenomenal. Last week for example, the trade volume amounted to US$229m.

Nevertheless, Bitcoin has some fundamental constraints that keep it from going mainstream: it has a ballpark limit of 7 transactions per second, and having confidence that a transaction has 'gone through' – non-recourse transactions – takes roughly 20 to 60 minutes depending on the level of confidence you're looking for. (The user experience sucks too, but that's not for this post.)

While 229 million dollars is no small chunk of change, Visa processes many thousands of transactions per second, peaking at tens of thousands, and will have processed around US$130 billion last week.

State channel – more exciting than it sounds

The crypto awesome sauce underpinning Bitcoin is known as the blockchain, perhaps the No.1 tech buzzword of recent times. It's at the heart of the currency's success – preventing users spending the same money twice – but is also the nub of its relatively slothful nature. It's with a fair degree of excitement then that I've been tracking the progress of Lightning, a protocol first mooted to my knowledge in 2013.

The jargon here is state channel – blockchain interactions that could occur on the blockchain but get conducted off-chain without impairing the trust parties have in the interaction. Lightning facilitates state channel to speed things up and attenuate the costs needed to prove transactions (and offers a little more spark in terms of brand appeal!) Read more

The blockchain is coming your way

Bitcoin index 21 July 2014

Bitcoin is the most famous cryptocurrency with the highest capitalization. As you can see from this screenshot from the "block reader" blockr, the capitalization at the time of writing is over eight billion dollars. According to citations of an IMF report on Wikipedia, that places it just above Moldova's GDP.

This post isn't about bitcoin but the cryptographic foundation of Bitcoin. (The community prefers to capitalize the word when referring to the system, and lower case when referring to the currency.) This post doesn't explain Bitcoin or the blockchain in detail – I recommend this series of presentations courtesy of the Khan Academy for those who want to learn more – but rather it's about the technology's wider application and its emergence and growth beyond the early adopters.

Get this into your block

So why am I interested in Bitcoin specifically, and its blockchain foundation more broadly? What does this have to do with social business?

We are contemplating blockchain platforms to enable decentralized consensus in the not too distant future, allowing us to codify, decentralize, secure and trade many things that historically have demanded some centralized facility. This is akin to the bitcoin currency functioning without the need for a central bank, and the vista includes voting, domain names, financial exchanges, crowd funding, organizational governance, intellectual property, contracts and agreements of most kinds. The landscape even extends to so-called smart property with appropriate hardware integration.

Sometimes I wish I was more of a wordsmith, but this word will have to suffice – wowzers! Read more

Organization and personal reputation – from first principles to distributed autonomy

Singapore harbour at night
I'm no etymologist but it seems the verb organize appeared in the 15th Century a few decades before the noun organization. Sometimes we forget that the organization, in terms of the institution or firm, is merely a means to an end, and putting legal entities to one side for the moment, an organization is simply a group of people organized around a common purpose.

Reminding ourselves of such first principles is useful when considering how we might create and nurture new forms of organization and how we might improve the current dominant ones.

Jumping forward over 500 years, let's get bang up to date on so-called social business, aka Enterprise 2.0, aka Responsive Organization, aka Future of Work. The question that concludes Attenzi - a social business story exemplifies the new vista:

Do you help all the individuals associated with your organization (employees, customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders, etc.) build worthwhile relationships with each other and others, coalescing by need and desire, knowledge and capability and shared values, to create shared value?

The verb coalesce conveys the facility to combine, and so the facility to recombine, and re-recombine. The coalescence remains for just as long as shared value is created, and created faster than a new combination might afford. Such process appeals to free marketers for whom efficiency and utilisation are front of mind – after all why should resources be tied up in one combination when they can add greater value faster deployed in another? And there's equal appeal to those on the left of the political spectrum who champion self-management and occupational autonomy.

Relationships

Sometimes I define social business as relationships at scale, and not just in the CRM 1.0 way:

Good business is about cooperative and interdependent relationships, always has been, yet the humanity was lost when organizations scaled way up during the 20th Century. We want to make those relationships more human again, but the answer can’t be to scale it all back down. We have to scale something else up. Read more