This year a friend who teaches in primary school calls me worried:
“The children take a coding course, they are passionate and try to follow all the news about IT. Yesterday they asked me: 'What is BLOCKCHAIN?'. Help me please, I have the basics for some coding, but otherwise I use the pc as a normal user. I tried to read something but I didn't understand anything!”
Me: "Mmm ... I guess if I tell you it's a distributed database, powered by exploiting the computing power of a client network, this won't help you much ..."
Friend: "Actually, you've already told me a lot, because you remind me of the software I installed a few years ago to help the SETI project, the one that used a small part of my pc's power to perform calculations and send results to their server.”
Me: “Yes, let's say you made a fairly fitting comparison.”
Friend: "But how do I explain it to the children?"
Me: “Let me think about it. Forget terms like block, chain, ledger. Let's try to use, for your very young students, a more understandable image. Let's say that the blockchain is like a train on a railway, a train with many, many, many wagons.
Mr. Max designs his railroad, puts up the first rails and wagons, and then invites as many people as possible to build parts of the railroad, add wagons and become his partners.
At the same time, Max&Co begin to offer space on the train carriages to transport anything. Here we are?"
Friend: "I would say yes."
Me: “So, Tony, Nic and John go to talk to Max:
- Tony wants to carry the concert tickets he sells through his website;
- Nic wants to carry collectible cards depicting kittens;
- John wants to carry games.
So Max rents them a wagon (token), and keeps a ledger in which he notes each ticket, kitten or toy that is carried on the train along the railroad.
Plus, it does one more thing: to ensure that the tickets, kittens and toys that travel are the original ones, it sends a copy of the diary to all its members.
Finally, Max&Co guarantee the sale through their own currency, in order to make purchases easier and faster.
When Mr. Peter buys a concert ticket from Tony's store, he will first have to convert some money into Max&Co's railroad currency, then send the amount due to Tony. He will put the ticket on the train in a locked box and send the key to Peter.
When the train arrives at Peter's he can open the box with his key and get hold of his ticket.
This is the blockchain in a very simplified way. But if you think about the fact that we are talking about digital, you will agree that there are no physical limits that exist in actually building a railway."
Friend: "And what does this mean?"
Me: “That there can be as many blockchains as we want, a computer network is enough. There are generalists, the best known is Ethereum, and let's say (again to simplify) that it is made up of wagons that can carry anything.
But there are also specific ones, for example the idea behind the VeChain project is to provide proof of authenticity in the producer-supplier-end user chain for material goods such as clothes or wine, but at the same time the same project is used to distribute a digital object such as the Green Pass for the Republic of San Marino.
Chiliz, on the other hand, is a project dedicated to the world of sport and entertainment.
In addition, there are also those who take care of making the different railways communicate with each other such as the Pantos project. Or there is Chainlink, which is in charge of making the Internet communicate with the blockchain.
The fun is finding valid digital objects to be transported in the train carriages: you can transport services, social and commercial data, certificates of authenticity, but also works of art or ideas. The lowest common denominator is in the total, or almost total, disintermediation between those who offer and those who benefit.”
Friend: “Brake, brake! You are becoming incomprehensible.”
Me: “Mmm ... sorry. Tell me, do you always make your own craft beer?"
Me: "So let's talk about this next time I come to you."
PS: Thanks to Linda, Cristiano and Manu for help in translation