For those who are interested in technological innovation, we are living in exciting times. We are witnessing the emergence of an electronic tour de force that will transform commerce. Enabled by the Internet, it will change forever the manner in which wealth is stored and transactions are conducted.
This invention is the blockchain, brainchild of the cryptographic mastermind known by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The mystery surrounding his (or her) identity is reminiscent of the question in the opening of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?”. Nobody knows. But we will discover in time the immense value of their contribution.
My understanding of blockchain is rudimentary, to say the least. However that does not prevent me from glimpsing its potential. While I improve my technical knowledge I will assess its importance to mankind against the fundamental principles on which we build our belief systems. This may sound a bit excessive for an entity considered by many to be a fad or a fraud and by others as a device for facilitating criminal transactions. It is nonetheless important that we do not lose sight of the tenets by which we live.
Rather than simply getting caught up in the cryptocurrency feeding frenzy, we should ask “how can the blockchain improve our lives?” and before that “what is the fundamental nature of the blockchain?”. One answer, based on my very basic level of understanding, would be that it is decentralised, unregulated, secure and (at least potentially) efficient and cost-effective. We can therefore postulate that the blockchain might address the concerns of those who contend that governments, central banks and retail banks have too much control over our money and are debasing the currency through their meddling.
You may believe that cryptocurrencies are based on nothing more substantial than thin air – a notion perhaps reinforced by the name of the entity known as Ether, the fuel for the promising Etherium platform. But that is not necessarily so. The Royal Mint, that venerable British institution that has its origins in the ninth century, has announced the imminent introduction of a new form of digital gold, implemented using blockchain technology, called the “RMG”. This offering combines ownership and deliverability of the physical precious metal with the security of a cryptocurrency.
I wonder what Isaac Newton, who introduced the Gold Standard during his wardenship of The Royal Mint, would have made of this? Given his forward looking nature, creative mind, mathematical prowess and his undoubted interest in cryptology, I think he would have approved.
The direction taken by The Royal Mint should be considered an endorsement for the blockchain. Furthermore, The Knot Garden pays attention when tradition and technology meet in order to collaborate on important themes. And, unless you live in a tent or a monastery and completely reject the material world, few themes are more important than the nature of money.