Block Chain

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Full Title or Meme

Block Chain will solve all trust problems, provided you have the energy of a small sun available to power it.


The technology for Block Chain itself has been around for at least 20 years. These simple chains allowed non-revocable commitments by creating a series of blocks that included a collection of all of the block hashes received since the last update plus the hash of that last update. The has of the current block update is calculated and published in a public place plus being added to the next update in sequence. Thus each entry onto the block chain cannot be changed as so is immutable. This feature is required to block repudiation of an action. For example if the block records the transfer of coins from one entity to another, the chain will prevent the original owner of the coin from transferring that same coin later to another entity. Thus the problem of double spending of the same coin is blocked.

Simple Chains

Block chains were first commercialized by Bellcore which published the hash of each day's update in the New York Times.[1] Surety. LLC is a continuation of that service that was still available in 2018. In this instantiation, block chain got its non-repudiation from the immutability of the hash published in the New York Times which became available the next day in nearly every library in the United States.

Proof of Work

The point of proof of work is to randomize the choice for the source node for the next block in the chain. This will allow trust to be established for the case where less that 50% of the node are colluding to subvert the chain. Thus is created the trust, or non-repudiation of contents of the block chain.

  • The first successful block chain with distributed ledger was created by the pseudonymous S. Nakamoto[2] which resulted in the highly popular anonymous money know as Bitcoin.
  • Mark Russinovich did an interesting calculation that showed that this pow scheme was, in May of 2018, consuming as much power as the entire country of Denmark.[3]
  • Other estimates put the energy requirements at the level of all electricity generated today will be needed for bitcoin in a few years.[4]

Proof of Stake

In the attempt to overcome the cost of the "Proof of Work" source of trust, new methods are proposed to select the source of the next approved block of the chain. Some sort of randomization is required to ensure that a minority of the participant cannot overcome the trust, or non-reputability of the chain.


  • The current problem that many architects are trying to solve with block chaining relate to the concentration of user information in a small number of very large companies.
  • There are some efforts to reduce the power consumption. If those work, it looks like the solution will just be some other trust framework, but with a different name. For example the proposal of Hardjono et al.[5] goes to a resilient system like the internet, which is, of necessity, single rooted even though nearly all components can work independantly for a time, just as the internet itself functions today.
  • There has been no significant uptake of block chaining with distributed ledger in real world businesses other than money laundering.[6]
  • Consider the once-soaring value of Bitcoin: the ideological enclave of cryptocurrency evangelists. In Forbes, Jason Bloomberg wrote that “most of the noise around both blockchain and crypto is little more than the community talking to itself - a massive ‘echo chamber.’ ” We like to imagine ourselves as cannily seeing through such echo chambers - the self-reinforcing intellectual snow globes of people who get all their information from one another, who imagine that all the world works like their particular corner of it.[7] A similar "echo chamber" is building the case for Decentralized IDs where dissident options are shouted down. Only the communicant members of their religion have a voice. This was made clear on 2019-02-10 when the W3C called their uses cases "out of touch with reality".


Most of the solutions rely either on permissions for participants in the block chain process, which implies some source of trust to select the participants, or some less costly source of randomness in selecting the next node to "win" in the contest to submit the next block.[8] Most of these solutions derive from the Byzantine Generals' Problem which is a cryptographic solution to making decisions when there is a lack of trust among the deciders.[9]


  2. S. Nakamoto. Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash. The proponents of bitcoin had a radical agenda, which was to disintermediate incumbents and remove those entities that have responsibility for creating trust, such as financial services firms and central banks. system., 2008.
  3. Mark Russinovich Microsoft Build (2018-05-06)
  4. Adam Rodgers, The Hard Math Behind Bitcoin's Global Warming Problem. (2017-12-17) Wired
  5. Thos Hardjono, +2 Towards a Design Philosophy for Inter-operable Blockchain Systems MIT May 16, 2018 [1]
  6. Andrew Orlowski, Blockchain study finds 0.00% success rate and vendors don't call back when asked for evidence. (2018-11-30) The Register
  7. Sasha Chapin, Small Worlds (2018-12-16) New York Times Magazine p. 13-15
  8. Zubin Koticha, Proof of Stake and the History of Distributed Consensus: Part 1, Nakamoto Consensus, Byzantine Fault Tolerance, Hybrid Consensus, Thunderella. (2018-09-04) Thunder
  9. Lamport, L.; Shostak, R.; Pease, M., The Byzantine Generals Problem. (1982) ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems. 4 (3): 387-389. doi:10.1145/357172.357176