28 November 2015

The Blockchain

I suddenly realized that the Bitcoin network (which folks are trusting to store billions of dollars of current value) operates essentially on the principal of "security through obscurity".  The address-space is a 160-bit number.  That's on the magnitude of quindecillions.

So, for one thing, this -> http://youtu.be/THt99IzFFRE.  There are simply so many addresses available, it's impossible to guess the addresses that are being used.

It's a bit mind-boggling -- like -> http://youtu.be/SLIvwtIuC3Y

Anyways ... all transactions on this network are stored in a public ledger called the Blockchain.  Blocks of transactions are bundled-up and added to this Blockchain every 10 minutes orso (it's now over 50GB) and every miner has a copy.  This guy does a pretty good job summing up mining -> http://youtu.be/UrrBcaXuaq8

This distributed, blockchain way of doing things (not necessarily the Bitcoin blockchain in particular) .. it's a new paradigm.  And it's being applied in a variety of interesting ways (solving some of the toughest problems inherent in our existing approaches).  Problems of scale, trust, reliability -- they are not problems in the context of this new architecture.  And all because of big hairy numbers.

Now -- this all depends on having a *really good* random number generator.  And once the desktop quantum computer is invented -- and some snot-nosed gamer in his Mom's basement cracks the math -- well, then all bets are probably off  ;-)

If you want to go down the rabbit-hole, I recommend this lecture to a bunch of E.E. students at Stanford.  It's about a next-gen protocol framework for the web (based on this more distributed / decentralized way of thinking) -- a little over an hour long, but worth it IMHO -- (a bit like a peek into the future)

Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS)
Stanford Seminar - Juan Benet of Protocol Labs