At democracy’s heart lies a set of paradoxes: a delicate interplay of identity and anonymity, secrecy and transparency. To be sure you are eligible to vote and that you do so only once, the authorities need to know who you are. But when it comes time for you to mark a ballot, the government must guarantee your privacy and anonymity. After the fact, it also needs to provide some means for a third party to audit the election, while also preventing you from obtaining definitive proof of your choice, which could lead to vote selling or coercion.
Building a system that accomplishes all this at once — and does so securely — is challenging enough in the physical world. It’s even harder online, as the recent revelation that Russian intelligence operatives compromised voting systems in multiple states makes clear.
In the decade since the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto published an infamous white paper outlining the idea behind bitcoin, a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” based on a mathematical “consensus mechanism,” more than 1,500 new cryptocurrencies have come into being.
definition: Nathan Heller in the New Yorker, in which he compares the blockchain to a scarf knit with a single ball of yarn. “It’s impossible to remove part of the fabric, or to substitute a swatch, without leaving some trace,” Heller wrote. Typically, blockchains are created by a set of stakeholders working to achieve consensus at every step, so it might be even more apt to picture a knitting collective creating that single scarf together, moving forward only when a majority agrees that a given knot is acceptable.
Unlike bitcoin, a public blockchain powered by thousands of miners around the world, most voting systems, including Votem’s, employ what’s known as a “permissioned ledger,” in which a handful of approved groups (political parties, election observers, government entities) would be allowed to validate the transactions.
there’s the issue of targeted denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, in which a hacker directs so much traffic at a server that it’s overwhelmed and ceases to function.
Although a distributed ledger itself would likely withstand such an attack, the rest of the system — from voters’ personal devices to the many servers a vote would pass through on its way to the blockchain — would remain vulnerable.
there’s the so-called penetration attack, like the University of Michigan incursion, in which an adversary gains control of a server and deliberately alters the outcome of an election.
While it’s true that information recorded on a blockchain cannot be changed, a determined hacker might well find another way to disrupt the process. Bitcoin itself has never been hacked, for instance, but numerous bitcoin “wallets” have been, resulting in billions of dollars in losses. In early June 2018, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange was penetrated, causing the value of bitcoin to tumble and resulting in a loss of $42 billion in market value. So although recording the vote tally on a blockchain introduces a new obstacle to penetration attacks, it still leaves holes elsewhere in the system — like putting a new lock on your front door but leaving your basement windows open.
A blockchain is only as valuable as the data stored on it. And whereas traditional paper ballots preserve an indelible record of the actual intent of each voter, digital votes “don’t produce an original hard-copy record of any kind,”
In the end, democracy always depends on a certain leap of faith, and faith can never be reduced to a mathematical formula. The Economist Intelligence Unit regularly ranks the world’s most democratic counties. In 2017, the United States came in 21st place, after Uruguay and Malta. Meanwhile, it’s now widely believed that John F. Kennedy owed his 1960 win to election tampering in Chicago. The Supreme Court decision granting the presidency to George W. Bush rather than calling a do-over — despite Al Gore’s popular-vote win — still seems iffy. Significant doubts remain about the 2016 presidential race.
While little doubt remains that Russia favored Trump in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s primary target appears to have been our trust in the system itself. So if the blockchain’s trendy allure can bolster trust in American democracy, maybe that’s a net positive for our national security. If someone manages to hack the system, hopefully they’ll do so quietly. Apologies to George Orwell, but sometimes ignorance really is strength.
when exchanging digital goods, how do you know somebody hasn’t sent the same asset to two people simultaneously?
use a ledger (a record of transactions) to track our trade.put our trust in this third party.we gave a copy of the ledger to every pokemon trader
if I had duplicated my card, sent one copy out earlier then tried to send the second one to you, the history of that trade would already exist, so my second trade to you would conflict and be rejected.
that digital signature that gets put on each block? That is actually generated based on the info in the block, so changing the data (i.e removing my trade) automatically changes the signature.
an open, decentralised, non-reversible, tamper-proof digital network for trading valuable assets.
This is a simplified version of how blockchain technology works, but it’s easy to see how this tech gives Bitcoin its unique and fascinating properties.
PROGRAM FEES $2,300 STARTS ON November 28, 20182 months, online 6-8 hours per week
A Digital Revolution Is Underway.
In a rapidly expanding digital marketplace, legacy companies without a clear digital transformation strategy are being left behind. How can we stay on top of rapid—and sometimes radical—change? How can we position our organizations to take advantage of new technologies? How can we track and combat the security threats facing all of us as we are swept forward into the future?
Who is this Program for?
Professionals in traditional companies poised to implement strategic change, as well as entrepreneurs seeking to harness the opportunities afforded by new technologies, will learn the fundamentals of digital transformation and secure the necessary tools to navigate their enterprise to a digital platform.
Participants come from a wide range of industries and include C-suite executives, business consultants, corporate attorneys, risk officers, marketing, R&D, and innovation enablers.
Your Learning Journey
This online program takes you through the fundamentals of digital technologies transforming our world today. Led by MIT faculty at the forefront of data science, participants will learn the history and application of transformative technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, IoT, and cybersecurity as well as the implications of employing—or ignoring—digitalization.
The main thing distinguishing a blockchain from a normal database is that there are specific rules about how to put data into the database. That is, it cannot conflict with some other data that’s already in the database (consistent), it’s append-only (immutable), and the data itself is locked to an owner (ownable), it’s replicable and available. Finally, everyone agrees on what the state of the things in the database are (canonical) without a central party (decentralized).
It is this last point that really is the holy grail of blockchain. Decentralization is very attractive because it implies there is no single point of failure.
The Cost of Blockchains
Development is stricter and slower
Incentive structures are difficult to design
Maintenance is very costly
Users are sovereign
All upgrades are voluntary
Scaling is really hard
Centralization is a lot easier
Like it or not, the word “blockchain” has taken on a life of its own. Very few people actually understand what it is, but want to appear hip so use these words as a way to sound more intelligent. Just like “cloud” means someone else’s computer and “AI” means a tweaked algorithm, “blockchain” in this context means a slow, expensive database.“blockchain” is really just a way to get rid of the heavy apparatus of government regulation. This is overselling what blockchain can do. Blockchain doesn’t magically take away human conflict.
So what is blockchain good for?
Most industries require new features or upgrades and the freedom to change and expand as necessary. Given that blockchains are hard to upgrade, hard to change and hard to scale, most industries don’t have much use for a blockchain. a lot of companies looking to use the blockchain are not really wanting a blockchain at all, but rather IT upgrades to their particular industry. This is all well and good, but using the word “blockchain” to get there is dishonest and overselling its capability.
As Norwegian Refugee Council research found, 70 percent of Syrian refugees lack basic identification and documents showing ownership of property.
The global passport
Host nations certainly has a share in the damage, as they face problems concerning the accessibility of vital information about the newcomers — dealing with the undocumented refugee, the immigration service can’t gain the information about his/her health status, family ties or criminal record, or verify any other vital data that helps them make a decision. Needless to say, this may lead to the designation of refugee status being exploited by economic migrants, fugitives or even the war criminals that caused the mass displacement to begin with.
Another important issue is data security. Refugees’ personal identities are carefully re-established with the support of clever biometric systems set up by the U.N. Agency for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR registers millions of refugees and maintains those records in a database. But the evidence suggests that centralized systems like this could be prone to attacks. As a report on UNCHR’s site notes, Aadhaar — India’s massive biometric database and the largest national database of people in the world — has suffered serious breaches, and last year, allegations were made that access was for sale on the internet for as little as $8
Finland, a country with a population of 5.5 million, cannot boast huge numbers of refugees. For 2018, it set a quota of 750 people, mainly flying from Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. That’s way less than neighboring Sweden, which promised to take in 3,400. Nevertheless, the country sets a global example of the use of effective technology in immigration policy: It’s using blockchain to help the newcomers get on their feet faster.
The system, developed by the Helsinki-based startup MONI, maintains a full analogue of a bank account for every one of its participants.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018, the billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros revealed that his structures already use a blockchain in immigration policies
In 2017, Accenture and Microsoft Corp. teamed up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a U.N.-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents.
a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with blockchain platform IOTA to explore how the technology could increase efficiency.
Blockchain: Recommendations for the Information Profession
Monday, September 24, 2018 12:00 pm
Central Daylight Time (Chicago, GMT-05:00)
Blockchain technology is being discussed widely, but without clear directions for library applications. The Blockchain National Forum, funded by IMLS and held at San Jose State University’s iSchool in Summer 2018, brought together notable experts in the information professions, business, government, and urban planning to discuss the issues and develop recommendations on the future uses of blockchain technology within the information professions. In this free webinar, Drs. Sandy Hirsh and Sue Alman, co-PIs of the project, will present the recommendations made throughout the year in the Blockchain blog, Library 2.0 Conference,Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession, and the National Forum.
Q/S TO ASK: WHAT KINDS OF DATA AND RECORDS MUST BE STORED AND PRESERVES exactly the way they were created (provenance records, transcripts). what kinds of info are at risk to be altered and compromised by changing circumstances (personally identifiable data)
515 rule: BC can be hacked if attacked by a group of miners controlling more than 50% of the network
Standards Issues: BC systems- open ledger technology for managing metadata. baseline standards will impact future options. can BC make management of metadata worth. Is it worth, or more cautious.
Potential Use cases: archives and special collections where provenance and authenticity are essential for authoritative tracking. digital preservation to track distributed digital assets. BC-based currencies for international financial transactions (to avoid exchange rates ILL and publishing) . potential to improve ownership and first sale record management. credentialing: personal & academic documents (MIT already has transcripts and diplomas of students in BC – personal data management and credentialing electronically).
public libraries: house docs of temporarily displaced or immigrants. but power usage and storage usage became problems.
U.S. retail giant Walmart has applied to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to patent a blockchain system for deliveries, according to an official patent document released August 30.
Walmart has applied for a number of blockchain-related patents in the U.S. in the past year. According to Investopedia, blockchain technology enhancement is mainly being used by the retailed in order to “help Walmart keep pace with its rivals,” such as Amazon.
Recently, Walmart applied for a patent on systems and methods for managing smart appliances via blockchain. The tech would allow users to customize levels of access and control for appliances such as portable computing devices.
In mid-July, the retail giant patented the technology for a blockchain-powered delivery management system that can keep delivered items safe until their purchasers are able to sign for and collect them.
Blockchains, which use advanced cryptography to store information across networks of computers, could eliminate the need for trusted third parties, like banks, in transactions, legal agreements, and other contracts. The most ardent blockchain-heads believe it has the power to reshape the global financial system, and possibly even the internet as we know it.
Now, as the technology expands from a fringe hacker toy to legitimate business applications, opportunists have flooded the field. Some of the seekers are mercenaries pitching shady or fraudulent tokens, others are businesses looking to cash in on a hot trend, and still others are true believers in the revolutionary and disruptive powers of distributed networks.
Mentions of blockchains and digital currencies on corporate earnings calls doubled in 2017 over the year prior, according to Fortune. Last week at Consensus, the country’s largest blockchain conference, 100 sponsors, including top corporate consulting firms and law firms, hawked their wares.
Here is a noncomprehensive list of the ways blockchain promoters say they will change the world. They run the spectrum from industry-specific (a blockchain project designed to increase blockchain adoption) to global ambitions (fixing the global supply chain’s apparent $9 trillion cash flow issue).
Things Blockchain Technology Will Fix
Bots with nefarious intent
People not taking their medicine
Device storage that could be used for bitcoin mining
In a consortium blockchain, the consensus process is controlled by a pre-selected group – a group of corporations, for example. The right to read the blockchain and submit transactions to it may be public or restricted to participants. Consortium blockchains are considered to be “permissioned blockchains” and are best suited for use in business.
Semi-private blockchains are run by a single company that grants access to any user who satisfies pre-established criteria. Although not truly decentralized, this type of permissioned blockchain is appealing for business-to-business use cases and government applications.
Private blockchains are controlled by a single organization that determines who can read it, submit transactions to it, and participate in the consensus process. Since they are 100% centralized, private blockchains are useful as sandbox environments, but not for actual production.
Anyone can read a public blockchain, send transactions to it, or participate in the consensus process. They are considered to be “permissionless.” Every transaction is public, and users can remain anonymous. Bitcoin and Ethereum are prominent examples of public blockchains.