Video: “History of Blockchain”

I am delighted to publish a 15-video series dedicated to my book, “Blockchain + Antitrust: The Decentralization formula”. You can access all the chapters over here, and all the transcripts over here.



In this video, I’d like to address how blockchain came to life and show that it embodies the technical representation of a self-conscious philosophy.

Blockchain started in a van. I mean, not really, but the idea came out of it. The van’s owner is Stewart Brand. He lives in California, he’s young and handsome, and he decides to tour the USA with a van full of books he wants to sell. These books explain how to build a cabin in the woods, hunt, make fire, etc. That’s right, Stewart Brand is initiating the DIY movement. He wants to enable people by providing them with the right tools. His endeavor is quite a success, and in fact, he has no choice but to print a list of all the books he is selling. The list gets longer and longer, and eventually, Stewart decides to make a magazine out of it: the Whole Earth Catalogue. He prints over 1 million copies in just a few months.

A few years later, in 1989, Stewart created The Electronic Whole Earth Catalog. This time around, the tool enabling people is a computer. He coins the term personal computer, contributes to Web 2.0, and advocate for encryption.

The cypherpunks hear him well. They want to enable individuals by freeing them from the state. They make cryptographic methods accessible to civilians, publish manifestos, and declare their independence. In short, they want to create an ecosystem of their own in which, I quote, the State is not welcomed. They succeed in part, although states and international bodies are very much active and empowered in the cyberspace. And they’re big corporations who have captured a chunk of the value created.

Comes Satoshi Nakamoto. He dislikes the existing financial systems, and, in fact, most centralized institutions. His idea is elegant and straightforward: he wants to create an ecosystem with no “centralized authority”. Citing the cypherpunk’s work, he published the Bitcoin white paper in October 2008. The 9-page long paper introduces the concept of Bitcoin and blockchain simultaneously, although the word blockchain does not appear. Satoshi is building on Steward’s DIY idea that the cypherpunks have transposed to online activities: in the absence of centralized power, no state, no big corporation will be able to take over. Individuals will be free forever.

As we will see together, things are a bit more complex. Let me take a first example. It also starts in a van. It’s September 17, 2018. A blockchain developer who sleeps in California, facing the ocean, discovers a bug in Bitcoin. If exploited, users could double-spend their tokens, meaning, they could send the same bitcoin repeatedly. Should the bug become public, the value of Bitcoin would crash in just a few minutes. The blockchain developer decides to let Bitcoin core developers know about it, so they can fix the bug and ask Bitcoin users to update their software without telling them the real reason why. It works. It shows that such a crisis uncovers where actual power lies. So, are blockchain users free from control? What is control in a blockchain? Where is it? Who is exercising it? To find an answer to these questions, be sure to check upcoming videos.

Thibault Schrepel

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