Blockchain Beyond Bitcoin (Live Q&A w/ Ash Bennington & Alex Rass) | The Big Story | Real Vision™
I. Have. A wonderful electronic, invention, I want you to see. Myth. Coin bit coin bit coin aetherium, and light points teller coin ripple bit quite away over, the last few years the, only thing more impressive, than a skyrocketing. Surge in cryptocurrency prices. Is the media attention they've, attracted but, what if in this tsunami, of media coverage of digital, currencies, were missing, the big story. What. If the real revolution isn't the short term surge in the valuation of these coins but in the business applications. Of blockchain, the technology, that powers cryptocurrency. My. Name is Ashe Pennington, I'm. Going to talk to entrepreneurs, consultants. And theorists, to find out what's happening in the world of business blockchain, I'm in midtown Manhattan heading, to Hudson Malone to meet with my old colleague, Forbes, crypto staff writer Mikel del Castillo, to discuss, the issues and to put my conversation, with the other experts, into context, the, words Enterprise, blockchain, what do they mean to you to, me Enterprise blockchain, is the adoption, of this. Distributed, ledger technology, that was first popularized, by Bitcoin. By companies, that are already, generating revenue. Using the old centralized, model Michael, and I met we were both reporters, at coin desk well I was financing, markets lead Michael, was delving into exactly, these issues running corporate, blockchain coverage in a lot of ways the. Distributed, ledger technology behind. Bitcoin was, designed to make middlemen, unnecessary. And when, we talk about enterprise. Adoption of this very same technology, sometimes. It's it's actually those very same middlemen, that some people are imagining no longer need, to exist, so, striking, that balance, between. Staying. On the, cutting edge of what, technology enables, while still, holding, on to a strong revenue stream is really at the core of what makes enterprise, adoption of blockchain so interesting, so. What exactly is, a blockchain blockchain. Is a distributed, database that stores information in, blocks which, you can think of as a kind of virtual container, for data, as new, data gets added additional, blocks are created, the. Blocks are then linked together chronologically. To form a sequence of blocks called a chain as, new information gets added the chains get longer this. Method of data storage is called non-destructive meaning. Old data never gets a race or overwritten because the previous blocks in the chain remain unchanged, each. New block that is written contains something called a cryptographic hash a. Small. Mathematical, fingerprint. Of the blocks that came before in the chain making it extremely difficult to tamper with the data that resides inside, the, blocks we, spoke to some very interesting people in this space we're not consulting, firms people, that sort of hipster Brooklyn startups, across the board this is gonna be really interesting to get your view on what they're thinking about this first. We went downtown to, IBM's, Watson, global, headquarters and spoke to Jason Kelly general. Manager for IBM's blockchain, services. When. You think of core value, it's back to what's the core outcome. And, blockchain. Really. Is as bright. And shiny and exciting, as it is, it's. Really simple it. Reaches, to. Elusive. Objectives. That have been there for years first. We know that businesses, and the, outcome of businesses run on data there's. Been two things we've always tried. To get with data first access shared. And permissioned. Access, the, other is that once you get to that data is that data quality. There. Is it what you think it is are you sure those. Two, things are, now, the, biggest outcomes, that you have with this bright shiny technology. One, of the things that makes blockchain, so powerful, is its distributed, nature distributed. In this case means that data isn't just stored in one centralized, database, controlled, by a single account or administrator, across, a wide-ranging, network of computers, called nodes in fact, the capacity, for global networking itself, is at the very core of how blockchain, works modern. Distributed, computer networks began in the late 1960s, with, ARPANET, a precursor, of the modern Internet which, connected, computers, at research universities, out west, but, peer-to-peer networks.
Which Power blockchains, communication. And are so central, to its functionality, are a much more recent invention, the, first well-known, peer-to-peer, network, was Napster, which arrived in the late 1990s. Napster. As you probably remember allowed, users to share music files between their personal computers, each. Node or, independent. Computer, on the network has, the ability to share data with all of the others without being coordinated by a central computer really, the value, that you get in this, transparency. And Trust in this, this thought that you have, transactions. That are happening across different, stages with people paperwork and process. Well, if you think of that people tend to go supply, chain and it's an it's an easy one because you have these transactions. That go from point A to Z or, in some, cases this, thought of farm-to-fork. There's. Many people who consume, organic food however, there's more, organic. Food consumed, than its produced so, you you you think of that trust. And transparency there's a paradox going, on somewhere here somewhere, I consume food with organic, on the label but the question is do I actually consume organic food, exactly. So it wouldn't be great if you could confirm right. There before you consume where at point of purchase if this is organic, now that's an easy example, that has some levity, in it but. In fact if we start looking at the real numbers. And we think that you. Know in foodborne, illness right now and drives about 700, billion dollars, of. Spent. A year globally if, you could just reduce that you know by one percent look at look at what you're what you're doing at 7 billion you know food. As soon as you say oh there could be an illness that. Food is presumed, guilty until it's proven innocent so. You're gonna throw it away so working, with Walmart who is world-class, world-class. Seven. Days in finding. The point of origin of their food you'd say seven.
Days That's a lot of food to, be throwing away how, can we take IBM food trust and use this blockchain, network and figure this out and in, doing that they went from seven days world class to. 2.2, seconds trust, is going, to be part of each. IBM. It has been far, and away one of the earliest, enterprise, blockchain, adopters, in the world but then something really interesting happened, in November of 2017. Which is that IBM became the first global, enterprise, to publicly, talk about, embracing. Cryptocurrency. In, a, real application slowly. We've seen this shift where. Enterprises. Who. Are in, a lot of ways the definition. Of these middlemen are, experimenting. With the technology, it's almost like as though they've gotten to the point where they decide if someone's going to intermediate, them they might as well under me just intermediate themselves, right well that ties in very nicely to the point that they were making that it's about transparency and Trust how do they do that, yeah it's a great question when, we see enterprises. Looking. At using, blockchain, technology. We're. Not actually talking. About self. Disintermediation, we're, not talking, about a. Sort. Of a Trojan, horse that, makes, the company unnecessary. What we're talking about is increased, efficiency, at the middle in the back office level that, must still be frightening for enterprises to even have that conversation right, I'll tell you I think it's frightening, for the employees, for, now, what. Enterprise a blockchain, adoption, looks like is really reimagining. Midland and back-office operations with, fewer, employees. To help make it happen, then, we went uptown to, Park Avenue to kpmg's, US headquarters and spoke, to aim and McGuire managing, director advisory. At KPMG. How. Is the mortgage industry structured. Today and specifically. If you could touch on some of the pain points yeah, so the mortgage industry is, incredibly. Complex, it's. One of the most diverse, ecosystems.
That I can think of there are multiple providers who are involved in making a mortgage happen, so for a customer, it's a pretty awful process, it takes somewhere between 60, and 90 days in the United States to get a mortgage what is it about this, technology, that's so unique, the. Data aspect, of blockchain, as well as the smart contracts, aspect of blockchain, which, is about executing. Automated. Processes, are the two things that make blockchain, be particularly useful or good for people in the future if, you were to go to a portal, and choose a product, you. Could effectively provide, for digital, power of attorney to the lending institution, to. Go and get all of the information about, you. Without. Having to lift a finger beyond. Providing that led digital power of attorney so. You could authorize the banking institution. To, collect. Information on, your employment on your alimony payments, on. The value of the current asset or essence that you have on your, credit score on so many things that have, historically. Been very very, painful for the borrower to provide, and now, can all happen at the drop of a hat and, there's no doubt that there. Could be situations, where. Some. Of the process, might be lets, say accelerators. Are expedited, like. For example in the title search space that. Many times when a title search is done the. Title search is done not just on the most recent, owner. For, the property, but, you may need to go back in history many, generations, and many owners. Ago, to confirm. The validity of the, provenance, and ownership, for the current property in. A blockchain world, where. There is confidence, in the historical, information that has been collected on the ownership for the property, then. You will only have to go to one generation, and to update the historical, record. When. You take a look at the accounting industry they. Really. Were the, second, adopter, of enterprise, blockchain technology, obviously the first use. Case was, cross-border, payments with, Bitcoin, and, buying. And selling alpaca, socks but. The second, use, case was, really accounting, and. And I remember the first, time that I put the words big for accounting, firm in a headline people. Were freaking, out cuz. The idea, of a big for accounting firm using, this technology, that we had only used to buy alpaca socks before was that it was mind-boggling. But, the. The, connection, from. A, decentralized. Way to send, money to a, decentralized. Way to account, for money is is so. Close. As to be inseparable and I think it was it was really inevitable, that accounting firms were gonna be the next. To experiment, I just actually purchased, my first home and I can't, tell you how, frequently. I wished. That the people, that I was dealing with had access, to they same ledger, it was just time and time and time again. Week. After, ten, months of work a. Week before, closing, we discovered, we were missing a certificate, that the, previous, three, owners hadn't, had and and. This is exactly the case for that ledger that can go back and see what's been in the process yeah by moving certificate, of occupancy to, a distributed, ledger and. And so that every time an. Upgrade, is made to a property, that certificate. Is passed down to the next owner without any extra. Work right is. Incredibly. Incredibly valuable. Next. We went out to Bushwick, Brooklyn to meet with Jesse grew Shaq co-founder. Of gujo, music which, works under the umbrella of the blockchain giant. Consensus. Well. We're doing and what we have been kind of working on for the past few years is. Building. In a music industry a lot of the laws and rules, and regulations were set when we. Were still listening to piano rules and the. World's changed quite a bit since then and. Now you know there's no system built for digital music there's no systems that. Can handle the transfer of files and value transfers and to us that looks like creating, systems that automate rights and royalties that can, automate, and create dynamic licensing. So you're not stuck, in this one license you know I can flexor mold, or shift pricing, based on the usage of it and to start for us was the. Artist. And their. Digital identity and their content now, how do we digitize, those in a way where no, matter where they are on the web we can find out you know what the policies are around usage we can find out you know who wrote the song who's involved in the song and if we buy, that license or you know utilize that content, in some way we, want to make sure everyone who had a part in that song is being paid fairly and you. Know fairly means that they can see who, licensed it or at least what if it was licensed for and they could see you know what percentage was and they, don't see that in a year or two they see that instantly, or you know within 15 seconds let's talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts mechanics. Of the technology, itself it comes down to you know I think three three main things right and that's the ability to have, payments.
To Have data and to have identity all, wrapped, up in a. Transferable. Way. If you're a musician or. Just. Uh you know consumer. It's it's, something, you should be paying attention to. So. The music space was really a natural next, step for the industry to go in a lot of ways another very dysfunctional industry, well also I feel, like if the accounting firm is kind of like the epitome of the big boring buttoned-up, corporation. Then the music industry is rock and roll and, it's it's a really easy way for an. Entirely, different group, of people to get interested in blockchain, and the potential benefits that it can bring right specifically, you Joe is is reimagining. The ways, that, musicians, are compensated, and perhaps, more importantly the way that, appreciators. Of music expressed, that appreciation. By. Removing. The middle businessmen. That separate, the. Appreciation. Of music from, the selling, and the creation, of music the possibilities, here are virtually, endless right, and we're just the very beginning of that process very exciting, space for blockchain, we. Also went to gowanus, brooklyn to. Visit lawrence Orsini CEO. And founder, of lo3 energy. At their, headquarters and workshop, where they designed blockchain, based power meters, for use on an electrical, grid so. What is the smart grid so historically speaking we built from big power plants, that push energy, to the edge of the grid so. Today. People. Are really looking for choice so you see a lot of distributed. Renewables popping up wind, solar. On people's, rooftops, you now have two-way power flow as electricity is being produced at the edge of the grid as, well as the head of the grid and the grids not really built for energy, moving both directions so. Smart grid has to figure out how to balance load, generation. Storage. And how does blockchain, fit into this ecosystem, that you just described, so. What are the challenges is, we're talking about adopting. Millions, of devices that need to be controlled in real time it's. Going to be billions of devices in the next few years so, what we're doing with blockchain, is really sending. Price as a proxy for control, allowing those devices to respond in real-time to. Grid physics so, you're using blockchain, is kind of a transport, or communication. Layer inside, the grid is that right it, really is yeah the blockchain is really just pushing information to the edge of the grid and then picking information, back up so, Lawrence tell me what we're looking at here so these are our transactive. These are the actual meters the, blockchain runs, on so what these things do they sit right next to your utility meter and they. Net the energy that's going, back onto the grid or that's coming off of the grid so, if you're a prosumer, that's somebody who has solar panels on your roof or a battery behind the meter then, when you're producing electricity. Typically, you're over, producing, so you're. Making more energy than the house can use so, that energy actually goes back onto the grid so. That's when you're actually producing something valuable for the grid so we want to count those electrons, so. These meters actually. Count. Those electrons, net what goes back on the grid and incorporate. That into the blockchain so, it's really about how, do we make. The edge of the grid balance itself in a smart way as, we get more and more distributed, resources. At the edge of the grid and particularly. Electric, vehicles, consider this an electric vehicle looks, like two, houses to the utility grid and. They drive around so. Somehow you, know we're going to have hundreds. Of new houses popping up on the electric grid that isn't built for it and are these actually deployed in the field today yeah we've got them deployed here we have them in Australia, we have a few mini of. The UK so right here in Brooklyn right here in Brooklyn. So, I was actually on location. In Brooklyn, the first time they ever did a live demo of this technology and it was thrilling. To see two neighbors, buying, and selling energy from each other right on, one side of the street there was a gentleman, that had good Sun and on the other side of the street there was a gentleman, who was in the shade they, were friends. And they were. Transacting. On the energy grid together in real, time it sounds like an economics, book test case right I mean it's really extraordinary it's it's in, they've, loved it this is another example similar, to Joe where the users, are empowered. In a really meaningful way it's also so interesting to see blockchain, actually, helping.
To Build a new industry rather than supplanting, existing technology, finally, we came back to Manhattan to meet with Alex wrasse before, Alex got involved in blockchain, he worked in traditional, finance, on credit, risk systems, at Goldman Sachs now he runs his own shop that specializes in, blockchain, and smart contract, development, what, was it that you saw in this, space that made, you feel like this was a technology that had promised moving, money we've done this before storing. Data in database that's been done before been, then running, code on distributed, machines although it was done before but, now they secured, it made it solid, and distributed, in a way that has never been done before it's. Very easy to scale one. Tiny database to go to ten users 100 users 10,000. Users been. Done before but you tried to say okay I want the special data to be available to the entire world and that is very tricky and it does not work with, the typical approach has been taken so far to distributing, data so one of the things that I find very interesting about you is that you're involved in this you're a great advocate for the technology but, you're also profoundly. Skeptical. Of some of the things that are happening in the space you tell us a little bit about that yeah, there's been a lot of companies, larger, ones especially who wants to who. See this they understand, the value and they say well we'll make our own version but then you looked into us and. We're not gonna mention to you all the problems we create by doing it in-house so what are some of those problems, the infamous, 51%. Attack the. Way, the nodes synchronize, is they declare, consensus, that as long as majority, agrees the data is right then, that's the data they can maintain so you're saying is if they're more than 51% on, the network, that are bad actors then suddenly the entire security of the system could be compromised, correct which has actually happened with public law chains, let alone with private ones where I. Can, go to that. What's, that distinction, between private, blockchains in public law the private ones are run by a firm, within the firm and they control, the nodes they say there's a knows where allow there's notes we don't allow I think for many people when they hear that they may think while that that, could be less risk because there's actually a corporation. That's doing it so I think the perception might be potentially. At odds with what the reality is it's very common especially with high tech areas, like math and sciences, will that think. Things, seem intuitive, until Stanwood explains to you why they're not so, do you see the potential Alex when you look at these technologies, for a catastrophic, risk, at some point in the future for one of these firms that is using blockchain. Technology, the problem is with the, larger the, popular ones the open source block, chains you. Have entire, world looking for errors so I'm looking to make, it better so I'm looking to steal, money whatever. The case may be there's a ton of people who are looking for problems so what you're saying is when these technologies. Are out there and they're public they're being vetted by hundreds, of thousands, everyone, say all day long because everybody, wants money and. Google. Filing in fact in a lot of other firms Microsoft, even started more recently they, go out and they offer, bounties, to developers, to go find bugs and report, to them so. That only, works to a certain extent, you know the, problem with the smartest guy in the room is that there's always another room and. That's. That's what happens with this kind of projects there's so much code involved it's really easy to miss something so you and I go to a lot of blockchain, conferences, crypto conferences, those kinds of things and and you listen to the speeches that you hear there and sometimes, it sounds like the only thing that's missing is the pom-poms right we're going to arrive at Nirvana two weeks yes Tuesday when you hear that what is your reaction as, a technologist, I'm usually skeptical, because if, it was so amazing, and they could have done this 10 years ago within your regular database.
Okay. So now we know that block chains organize data in blocks, and. We know that block chains can use peer-to-peer networks, to distribute, and store data all over the world. But how does the blockchain know, which nodes have accurate, information in, other words how does blockchain, know what data is authentic, if any node can modify the chain what's, to stop a malicious, node from trying to fool the rest of the network for its own advantage, that's a problem called consensus. Which is really about maintaining, agreement, on a network. Consensus. As it turns out is a very old kind of challenge which mathematicians and, computer scientists. Call the Byzantine, generals problem. What's, an ancient general got to do with blockchain, well. Sending, out messages between multiple, parties and making sure they are valid, is a problem, that people have been struggling with for thousands, of years imagine. You want to send out a message to your army that says attack at dawn but your message is intercepted, and replaced by your enemy with a counterfeit, message that reads retreat. It dawn if that happens you've got a serious, problem on your hands on. The battlefield, and in finance, there are a lot of ways things can go wrong but. Here's the headline blockchain. Claims to solve the Byzantine, generals problem, using unique properties, of high speed computer, networks and massive, number, crunching power there. Are a number of different consensus, mechanisms, that block chains can use to do this but to give you an idea of how consensus, works here are some of the broad-strokes participants. On the blockchain use, their computers, to simultaneously. Solve very, hard math problems, when. One node successfully, solves a math problem a new problem is generated, and all the computers on the network switch, from solving the old problem to solving the new problem, here's. The interesting part, some, consensus, mechanisms, use a hash a cryptographic, fingerprint. Of the answer to the old math problem, when creating the new math problem, chaining, the two problems together solving. Hard math problems, takes time but, because blockchain, keeps, full records of all the changes that have occurred and nothing has ever thrown away the sequence. Of answers combined, with the times the answers were sent out to all the other nodes on the network allows. The entire network to validate, that the data hasn't been tampered with, we've. Simplified this view of blockchain, there's a lot of wonky math going on behind. But, if you followed along so far you've probably got a pretty good idea of the general way blockchain. Creates trust in a distributed, network with no single party in charge. We're. Talking about block chains one of the questions that often comes up is the distinction between a blockchain and a traditional, database, can you explain what exactly those, differences are traditional. BEC database. You. Have typically, you have records, that you store and the record can contain let's say name phone number and address, and, it. Goes in something called the table and there it, resides until, somebody decides to erase it updated, change it so with, a blockchain, the differences, when, you come and you say okay I want my phone number to be one two three four five from now on you, don't erase the old record you just append the new record after all the you know after the latest record so, anybody who reads has to read from, start but the benefit. Is now you don't have to store, all the data you just say you know four numbers being updated, at. The same time you. Can't say or never had that phone number because it's still stored there deep down somewhere and anybody with the copy of the node which should be freely, distributed available can go deep down and find it so why are use cases that look like plain vanilla database, solutions.
Being Sold as blockchain, solutions, because, of all the hype it's become, such, a popular topic lately that everybody, just wants to be part of it everybody wants to be on the bandwagon because the promised a new Internet here it is jump. On it or even a regret like you're great and not jumping on it you know when your grandma's you know. So. I think alex is actually a hundred percent right about the, question. Of whether or not a blockchain, is really just another, word for a distributed, database and especially when you remove the cryptocurrency component. It really, starts to look a whole lot like, a distributed, database or a distributed, database with marketing ups all attached exactly. Exactly and there is actually some value to be said for that I think you know people weren't even talking. About they weren't even looking for use cases of distributed, databases, before. Blockchain, came along it's a traditional, database system, is perhaps. No, better exemplified. Than, Equifax, the crud credit bureau that keeps is a central, repository of, millions. Of people's, credit history, the existing. System, which some. People say, might. Make blockchain, not really as necessary, as it's cracked up to be, was, very recently, powerfully. Hacked yes, in a centralized system you would think that there's actually fewer, points. Of attack and in a distributed system you're you're you're expanding, the points of attack when in fact we're seeing the exact opposite, and by, moving, this, information. To a shared. Distributed, technology. You're. You're actually. Creating. The, disincentive. For attackers. To go after the, the, honeypot as it's called right as we look back over what we watched today what did you find most surprising what. Really catches, me most off-guard, is, the. Diversity. Within the, enterprises, themselves, as far as whether, or not they think there's promise, or it's, just a bunch of hoopla I'm, really, surprised, that after almost ten years there isn't more consensus, on that question, it's really a question of, our. People, are our consumers. Looking. To place to. Spend their money to express, their trust, in. Corporations. And in centralized authorities, and in protectors, or are, they looking to. Express. Their trust in, in in in cryptographically. Protected, systems, and that's probably a very nuanced, question, right and how does that balance out as we move forward, yeah and it's it that's, where. There's gonna be money to be made the, people who answer, different. Parts of that question correctly. First, are going to make immense. Amounts, of money the people who miss. Subtle. Opportunities, are. Going to be left behind and that's what we talk about the, big D word disintermediation, right.
De, Sitter mediation is a lot of fun unless you're the one being disintermediated. Indeed. It's, funny though to see some of these big enterprises, as. You put it earlier, self. Dissenter, mediate and. And in the end i'm not, really sure where that that, takes us but it's gonna be fascinating to watch thank, you for joining us it was a pleasure thank you. After. Speaking to technologists. Entrepreneurs and. Big business consultants, we've learned about the opportunities, challenges. Risks and unknowns, surrounding, business blockchain, as this, big story continues, to unfold what, remains unclear, is who will be the winners the, losers and, how, will businesses, and end consumers, adjust this new decentralized. World for. Real vision I'm ash Pennington. You. You.