By Jane Lo, Singapore Correspondent
On January 3rd 2019, it would have been 10 years since Satoshi Nakamoto created the genesis block with the first block reward of 50 bitcoins.
Impressive statistics point to the steady and at times dramatic growth (witness the explosive growth in 2017 when Bitcoin hit the all-time high of $20,000) of the network in the last decade: 17 million bitcoins in circulation, 30 million wallet users, 200+ thousand transactions daily, 42 terra hashes generated per second.
What also gets many excited is the potential of Blockchain technology underpinning bitcoin.
Malikkhan Kotadia (Co-founder & CEO, Finnovation Labs, Singapore Head, International Business, Singapore Blockchain Industry Association – ACCESS) gave a refreshing take on Blockchain at the 4th ASEAN EXEC-IT 2018 (15th – 16th Nov 2018, Hotel Fort Canning).
“Our understanding of Blockchain is not unlike an elephant and a group of blind men, who having never come across an elephant before, arrived at an understanding of the animal only through his own feeling of one part of the elephant”, according to Malik.
“Our understanding of Blockchain is also limited to what we hear, and so each of us may not have the same understanding” he added.
“One basic Blockchain fact is that it is a means of transfer of value, which does not change though ownership may change.” Handing a $50 Singapore note to a participant, he noted his net worth was down as much as the increase to the recipient; the situation was reversed when the note was re-exchanged.
“Many aspects of Blockchain are in fact not new -cryptography, ledgers of record – but it’s how these elements come about that make it exciting,” he said.
These elements enable Blockchain’s characteristics: identity, provenance and single source of truth, which found many use cases, including cross-border remittances, with the potential to become as common as cross border messaging.
In fact, just like today’s essentials such as email were not foreseen in the 1990s, tomorrow’s Blockchain use cases could well easily surpass our imagination. One potential scenario is applying Blockchain to disrupt corruption.
“At the session, ‘When Machines Fight Machines: Cyber Battles & the New Frontier of Artificial Intelligence’ by Mishaal Ismeer (Director of Sales, South Asia and Southeast Asia, Darktrace), the inevitable question of how crypto-currencies like Bitcoin have an impact on cyber security arose. Darktrace has observed an abrupt increase of crypto-currency related attacks due to the ease of maintaining anonymity and the attackers’ ability to monetise crypto-currencies”.
Indeed, “return on investment”, Malikkhan also stressed, is critical – Blockchain whilst exciting, should be clearly demonstrated to add- value to address an issue.
Other challenges that he pointed out included: environmental impact (massive and unviable energy requirement), scalability and costs (10-15 mins to validate a transaction), governance, regulations and public policy (what are the dispute mechanisms? Who regulates and controls a Fork?)
But perhaps the biggest quest of all, 10 years on, is uncovering the identity of the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto. Enthusiasts have proposed candidates, ranging from Japanese mathematicians to Irish graduate students, cryptographist, computer scientist or a group of people.
This quest remains part romance, part challenge and perhaps part desire to reach a conclusive and ultimate answer to the question: was Satoshi Nakamoto chasing an elusive dream for bitcoin when he envisioned it as “an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party?”