Crypto, like railways, is among the world’s top innovations of the millennium


You are about to read a witty half-fiction story based on Stuart Hylton’s review of “the making of modern Britain” and my take on the impact of blockchain on today’s world. I found it fascinating how the description of pioneering technology from the industrial age resembled the awe and fear of blockchain in modern times. Some quotes are so relevant that changing “railroad company” to “blockchain protocol” would give the same shilling.

After several “bubbles” (actually eight so far) and some big announcements, remember Libra and TON? — I thought it was a good time to coin (pun intended) the story of the emerging technology that could be the greatest innovation in the last 500 years.

An intriguing comparison

Why bother? At a distance of two centuries, it is difficult to understand or even believe the impact that the development of the railway in the early nineteenth century must have had. Similarly, the common observer finds himself caught between a Bitcoin (BTC) evangelist preaching doomsday for the dollar and a big bank crypto skeptic. In fact, there is no clear trend of what to expect from distributed ledger technology in the coming decades.

The physical impact of the railways was dramatic: “great mechanical horses, breathing fire and smoke and pulling incredibly heavy trains at unimaginable speeds, through a landscape transformed by the embankments and cuttings, viaducts and tunnels that their passage demanded.” Stuart Hylton describes the powerful role that the often frightening and speculative emerging industry has played in Britain, a case selected for comprehensive review.

The author engaged me in an informative and entertaining narrative, which seemed almost like a parallel retrospective to the blockchain industry. The railways “transformed the way war was conducted and peace was kept,” so blockchain can disrupt authoritarian regimes and propaganda machines. The first trains proved to be one of the key drivers of the “dramatic industrial growth of the 19th century”, so blockchain can revolutionize finance, which is the main artery that pumps blood to today’s economy. The railways forced the “state to think again about the laissez-faire policy that was its default position”, while blockchain has yet to become the main force to free people around the world and return their assets.

Below is a summary of what crypto did for us using the railroad analogy (and the structure for my future articles on this topic).

The scare and the first crypto

Electronic currency and triple entry accounting have preceded Bitcoin. Blockchain ownership of a recent block hashing to the previous one dates back to at least 1995. So academics Stuart Haber and Scott Stornetta figured out a way to time stamp digital documents to resolve rights. of intellectual property. They invented a chronological chain of hashed data to verify its authenticity in 1991, used in editions of The New York Times four years later.

Related: Going back to the original purpose of the blockchain: Timestamping

Although cryptographers did not intend to create an ambitious project, a series of discoveries inspired Satoshi Nakamoto to launch the Bitcoin protocol as a response to unfair and non-transparent global banking. As Burniske and Tatar point out in their book Crypto assetscrypto gradually captured the minds of various people, from cyberpunks to distributors and traders, until a journalist posed an interesting question: What is this proof of work (PoW) anyway?

Ironically, Satoshi never mentioned “blockchain” in his 2008 white paper. It was the Bank of England that argued in 2014 that a “distributed ledger” was the “[t]The key innovation of digital currencies”. The following year, two popular financial magazines raised awareness of the concept when Bloomberg Markets published an article titled “Blythe Masters Tells Banks Blockchain Changes Everything” and The Economist published “The Trust Machine.”

“What could be more palpably absurd than the prospect offered of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” wrote The Conservative magazine, The Quarterly Review, 1825.

Similarly, people did not understand the point of blockchain at first. Some hailed it as the premise of Bitcoin, further emphasizing the cryptocurrency aspect of this technology. Others found reasons why it will not succeed. Interestingly, the banks themselves had been neglecting and later actively opposed the idea of ​​sharing their ledgers with other parties. Not long before they fully embraced the idea and started joining numerous consortiums like We.Trade and R3.

“We see, in this magnificent creation, the source of intellectual, moral and political benefits beyond measure and price,” said The Quarterly Review, now taking the opposite side of the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830.

The first railways existed long before George Stephenson and were mainly used for freight, such as transporting coal from the mines. When the steam engine unlocked the new powers, even then, people saw the railway as a bulky, incomplete, or even dangerous “seamless solution” since there was already a well-established network of canals. Steam locomotion had to pave its way to the future through the Rainhill trials of 1829. It reminds me of blockchain advocates fighting to convince VISA and SWIFT that their days are coming to an end or Andreas Antonopoulos winning a common ground before the Canadian Senate. .

“No one will pay good money to go from Berlin to Potsdam in an hour when he can ride his horse in a day for free,” said King William I of Prussia in 1864.
“High-speed train travel is not possible because the passengers, if they cannot breathe, will die of asphyxiation,” said Dionysius Lardner in The Steam Engine Familiarly Explained and Illustrated, 1824.

Despite great skepticism, the railroads continued to improve, as few bold could foresee tremendous potential and risk their money and careers to take advantage of new technology. Suddenly, the railways defied time and space: people who were limited in territory by the speed of horses could potentially be exposed to a much larger continent. Today, in the midst of the Third Industrial Revolution, blockchain promises to confront the whole idea of ​​value exchange and human nature by offering a brave new world. It is unavoidable. So what will happen next?

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should do their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

katya shabanova is the founder of Forward PR Studio, which brings more than 20 years of experience implementing programs for IT companies ranging from Fortune 1000 corporations and venture funds to pre-IPO start-ups. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and German studies from Santa Clara University in California and a master’s degree in philology from the University of Göttingen in Germany. He has published in Benzinga, Investing, iTWire, Hackernoon, Macwelt, Embedded Computing Design, CRN, CIO, Security Magazine, and others.