Blockchain and bitcoin: beyond the hype
Bitcoins and blockchain are the magic words these days. But what are they exactly? And will they really change the world? Students Hans Xiang and Martin Wubben, together with lecturer Jordi Jansen, revealed what lies behind these magic words during a seminar.
Bitcoin madness, unfortunately, is obscuring the view of the underlying blockchain technology. Just like the internet turned the world upside down in the 90s, blockchain will have the same effect in coming decades. After all, this technology makes the middleman, such as a notary public, lawyer or bank, superfluous to some degree.
At The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Jordi Jansen, a lecturer of Finance & Control, is a pioneer in this area. He holds lectures on blockchain and students Hans Xiang and Mart Wubben became so enthusiastic during such lectures that they decided to organise networking meetings at THUAS for blockchain enthusiasts. With the help of Jordi Jansen and Eveline Kapteijn, External Stakeholders Coordinator, they organised a very well-attended seminar on 25 January, which was intended as the kick-off to a series of networking meetings.
Jansen opened the seminar by explaining what blockchain is. “There are three things you need to know,” he said. “Firstly, a blockchain is simply a way to register transactions. Public accounting, in other words. Anyone can take a look and check whether the accounts are being administered properly. Secondly, every transaction is processed by accounting miners in a decentralised manner, i.e. stored on the computers of all blockchain users.”
“Thirdly, it’s all about a chain of transactions compiled in a block, with every block having a unique fingerprint, hence the name blockchain. The transactions are encoded. If you tamper with that code, you change the entire chain. This makes clear to everyone that something is wrong with that particular transaction and the network will refuse to include the transaction in the blockchain.”
The result is a safe and reliable chain that is a transparent method for conducting transactions. There are still a few teething troubles, such as how time-consuming it is to pay with a bitcoin, but these will be overcome and change the world. How? A notary public will soon be unnecessary in the process of buying a house or land. And there is already an app with blockchain technology that can be used to buy tickets to concerts and performances and to resell them for a fixed price, thereby preventing scalpers from earning a profit by buying and reselling the tickets at a higher price.
With 300 visitors – and little publicity – the seminar can be called a success. The number of visitors was probably due to the bitcoin madness of late. Mart comments, “We were asked several times what to invest in, but that was not the theme of the seminar, the emphasis of which was on blockchain. This cryptocurrency is a bit of a Wild West thing right now. We had no interest in giving investment advice. What we did aim to do was to generate awareness, so that people have a better understanding of what they are in fact investing in.”
Wubben and Xiang had never stood in front of such a large group of speakers before. Jansen comments, “I think it’s quite impressive that these students have acquired such knowledge about this topic in only six month’s time and now dare to stand on a stage and talk about it. That takes confidence in your own abilities.” Wubben adds, “It’s very nerve-racking at first to stand in front of such a large group of people, but, at the end of the day, it was a really cool experience.”
For Xiang, speaking at the seminar and organising the networking meetings was not only exciting, but also very worthwhile. “As far as facts, I learned a great deal about blockchain, but also got to expand my network. I’ve gotten to know business people, new lecturers and students. And I learned how to hold a presentation. You need to not only be good with figures, but also be able to convey them understandably. There are still a few areas I could improve.”