Blockchain Ledger

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Description

David Bollier:

"The Blockchain ledger – a software innovation that lies at the heart of Bitcoin – is a breakthrough that could be of enormous importance to the future of commoning on open network platforms. Although Bitcoin itself has been designed to serve familiar capitalist functions (tax avoidance, private accumulation through speculation), the blockchain ledger is significant because it can enable highly reliable, versatile forms of collective action on open networks. It does this by validating the authenticity of a digital object (for now, a bitcoin) without the need for a third-party guarantor such as a bank or government body. The blockchain ledger solves a particularly difficult collective-action problem in an open network context: How do you know that a given digital object -- a bitcoin, a legal document, digital certificate, dataset, a vote or digital identity asserted by an individual – is the “real thing” and not a forgery? Blockchain technology can help solve this problem by using a searchable online “ledger” that keeps track of all transactions (i.e., bitcoins). The ledger is updated about six times an hour, each time incorporating details of the latest transactions (the “block”) into the ledger – a record that is shared by everyone on the network using the Bitcoin software. The ledger acts as a kind of permanent record maintained by a vast distributed peer network, which makes it far more secure than data kept at a centralized location. The authenticity of a given bitcoin is assured because it’s virtually impossible to corrupt a ledger that is spread across so many nodes in the network."


Examples

A recently released report suggests that blockchain technology could provide a critical infrastructure for building what are called “Distributed Collaborative Organizations” (sometimes “Distributed Autonomous Organizations”). These are essentially self-organized online commons. A DCO could use blockchain technology to give its members specified rights within the organization, which could be managed and guaranteed by the blockchain. This set of rights, in turn, can be linked to the conventional legal system to make those rights legally cognizable.


One rudimentary example of how the blockchain might be used to facilitate a commons: former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt in the US has proposed using blockchain technology to create Distributed Networks of Solar Power on Residential Houses Coordinated as Commons. The ledger would keep track of how much energy a given homeowner generates and shares with others, and consumes. In effect the system would enable the efficient organization of decentralized solar grids and a “green currency” that could serve as a medium of exchange within Solar Microgrids or networks, helping to propel adoption of solar panels. The blockchain amounts to a network-based architecture for enabling commons-based governance.

More Information

    • Morgen E. Peck, “The Future of the Web Looks a Lot Like Bitcoin,” [4] IEEE Spectrum, July 1, 2015.