In last week’s post we looked at the planetary conquest of our species, and the influence that abstract concepts and imagined orders had on it. Today we will analyse the common factors between the blockchain and these abstract environments of trust that 70,000 years ago marked a substantial difference between Homo Sapiens and the rest of the species; the first of these two events relegated biology to second place in terms of importance in the course of events, and gave the pen of history to the wide range of cultures that emerged from that time onwards.
The hard disks of the imagined orders
Where are ideologies stored, and in what environment were the abstract ideas that enabled thousands of Sapiens to cooperate in the pursuit of global conquest recorded for thousands of years? Before writing was invented back in 3500 BC by Sumerian accountants, who sought to record stocks and transactions of goods, the only hard drives on which ideas were stored were the Sapiens’ own brains.
Trade networks were a consequence of the human capacity to imagine and believe in imagined orders; they were also the cause of the invention of writing.
Blockchain and trust
One of the objectives of the blockchain is precisely the generation of an environment of trust between strangers in which transactions of all kinds can be carried out. Let’s look at the similarities between these systems and those that allowed Homo sapiens to dominate the planet. The imagined order of Sapiens has 5 fundamental qualities:
- It exists only in the imagination of humans: The concepts handled by the imagined orders do not exist in nature.
- It is intersubjective: concepts change according to the consciousness and beliefs of each individual.
- It is decentralised: the imagined order is not stored in any particular place, but there is a network of distributed copies of that order (each of the human brains that imagines it).
- It is resilient: if an external agent tries to change the imagined order, it has to convince millions of outsiders to cooperate with it, replacing the existing order with a new one. Even if one of the individuals or a group of individuals disappears, the system remains.
- It cannot be erased, it can only be replaced: In order for an individual to change his imagined order, he has to replace it with another one.
The blockchain works in a similar way: It exists only in a public network of computational units (nodes) that store a copy of all transactions, and it is objective. Each node in the network contains an identical copy of the entire blockchain, and for this copy to be altered it requires the joint validation of an independent group of nodes.
The blockchain is even more resilient than the order imagined by homo Sapiens because it is not decentralised, but distributed. This means that the nodes are even more independent than those of the Sapiens, making the network more robust. Moreover, blocks of information cannot be modified or deleted, only transactions can be added, and every change is instantly updated at every node in the system.
There is no doubt about the potential of this new technology, which can change our conception of transaction systems, trading of goods, trust and transparency, as well as our business and governmental systems. I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting to think that the technology that can change everything has so much in common with what led us 70,000 years ago to genuinely assert ourselves over the rest of nature’s organisms.