When we transition to digital currencies and blockchain applications we will need to collectively grow up.
In western culture, we are accustomed to depending on external organizations to take care of our assets. Banks take care of our money, trusts take care of our properties, stock brokers take care of our investments. If we have an issue with any of these areas, there is a backup system in place. These external organizations are responsible for backing up our information because essentially we don’t own the data, they do.
The irony is that there is a sense of freedom that comes when your information is captured (much like there is a sense of freedom for children who don’t have to worry about paying for rent or food because their parents take care of it). As a society, we’re like children. We’re free of the worry of being 100% responsible for our information because centralized organizations take care of it, problem is, they also own it. With blockchain, all of that will change.
A SHIFT OF RESPONSIBILITY
With the move to digital currencies and blockchain applications, the safety of our assets and our sensitive information will become our individual responsibility. Currently, this is not the case. If we lose a valuable document, we can recover it from the organization that is responsible for keeping a record of it. There is often a record of what we own somewhere in the bureaucratic universe.
Because of this backup system, our minds tend to think of digital assets as “copies” of something that exists in the cloud somewhere. With decentralized blockchains, however, the original data exists on individual nodes only. In other words, the original data will often exist only in our phones. That’s what makes blockchain so different from other technologies. It allows for the digital asset to be the “original,” just like cash. But also like cash, if you lose it, you lose it.
TIME TO GROW UP
This may be a difficult transition for some. We all have that friend who seems to misplace their keys every other week or the family member who can’t find their eyeglasses even when the glasses are sitting on top of their head. These are the individuals who may have the hardest time with this new responsibility.
A number of people have lost millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin from being careless with their personal passwords to their Bitcoin accounts. Since the password doesn’t exist on a central database, if the person loses their password, there’s no way to recover it and the Bitcoin sits on the blockchain with no way to access it. As of July, 2018, a total of $44 billion worth of Bitcoin (6M Bitcoin) are left inaccessible and permanently lost on the Bitcoin blockchain. If you don’t want to lose access to your cryptocurrency, do whatever you can to keep your passwords safe.
Andreas Antonopoulos, one of the foremost Bitcoin experts, prints out his passwords and key phrases and puts the paper copies in bank safety deposit boxes. This is ironic given that Antonopoulos thinks banks will go by the wayside when cryptocurrency enters mainstream. I tend to agree with him. I have always said that banks should consider transitioning from monetary banks to information banks. That way they will continue to remain relevant.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK, KNOW WHO/WHAT TO TRUST
With the transition to blockchain, we will need to shift our trust from the banking system and government organizations to trusting the blockchain protocol. Blockchain is a unique technology because it’s able to hold records of people’s assets in a decentralized framework. Blockchain is often referred to as a trust-less system which means, with blockchain, we don’t need to trust people or institutions. The trust resides in the technology itself.
For some, trusting blockchain protocols may be difficult at first. This is often due to their misunderstanding of where to appropriately place their trust. The trust-less aspect of blockchain comes into play when the technology is used as it was intended…as a decentralized consensus platform. Trust should not be placed in centralized databases, even if they say they are using a blockchain. If they are using a centralized blockchain, then they are not using blockchain as it was intended. The user should be mature in their pursuit of knowledge and in their decision making and they should know who to trust.
For example, those that have done their homework know that the Bitcoin protocol has proven its trustworthiness. In the nine years that Bitcoin has been around, there has not been a successful theft from the protocol yet. This does not mean that people don’t try. Hackers are constantly trying to hack into Bitcoin. The reason they’re unsuccessful is because of the decentralized nature of the protocol. To successfully compromise the system, a hacker would need to gain consensus from the community to implement their changes but hackers are never able to gain that consensus. This is why a decentralized blockchain is safer than a centralized one. Regulations and laws do not prevent hackers from hacking into Bitcoin, the decentralized community does.
When data is kept in a centralized exchange, it’s more susceptible to theft and corruption. This is why it’s important to 1) know the difference between a centralized blockchain and a decentralized blockchain and 2) put our trust in the appropriate decentralized blockchains.
For proof of the safety of decentralized frameworks, all you have to do is look at the evidence.
- Amount of Bitcoin stolen from the decentralized Bitcoin protocol — $0
- Amount of Bitcoin stolen from centralized exchanges — $15 Billion
When there is a shift in trust from centralized organizations to decentralized blockchains and we gain an aptitude to know the difference, we will take on a new responsibility for the safety of our assets. That’s when we will collectively grow from blockchain infants to blockchain adolescents and have our big boy / big girl pants on.