My Journey in the Blockchain – Understanding It, Explaining It, Stretching It

Two years ago, I was a frequent participant of London-based evening meet-ups: bringing people together on a specific topic, some beers, presentations, and networking. The evening meet-ups are still going in London animating various communities. But, I am not a frequent participant anymore. The most important reason for that is that preparing for meet-ups and events takes time. You do not have then a lot of time for researching and understanding new trends and new ideas. But, meet-ups are the perfect places for discovering new ideas. And, in fact, during one of those meet-ups in which I presented, a young woman approached me. My presentation was about securing the IoT. She told me that my presentation was good, but, it had a strong weak point. I did not talk about blockchain. At the time, blockchain for me was a sort of legend said somewhere, in places that I did not know and in which I was not allowed to. She lectured me about blockchain for 5 minutes. I listened to her with attention, but, I did not understand what blockchain was about. But, her enthusiasm was contagious. She continued to say that “blockchain is a revolution”. She claimed that it will be inevitable the encounter between blockchain and the IoT. Other people joined the conversation. We all had a beer together. They all appeared to know what blockchain was about. They conversed on the topic confidently. I looked at them with curiosity without saying much. I did not know what to say! I went back home thinking about it. It was not much the promise for a better world that surprised me, but that enthusiastic relationship between those people and blockchain. Those people were all 10-15 years younger than me. I believe youth is irresponsible and with that irresponsibility comes great ideas. And that irresponsible youth made me curious about blockchain.

From the day after, I started to read about blockchain. I chose a systematic way of learning about blockchain. I run a systematic literature review on the topic starting from academic papers. It was a slow process for two reasons. The first one is that was a parallel exercise to many other activities. The second one is that the topic is not that easy to grasp. My background allowed me to read those papers, but, my knowledge of certain concepts was, perhaps, a bit rusty. The first question I wanted to answer was: what is blockchain? How does it work? And why are we doing it? The systematic literature review gave me some good ideas. I can say that my understanding of blockchain is better than it was during that night at the meet-up. The next step was to come out with an easy narrative to explain what blockchain is. Because, if blockchain is a revolution that will affect all of us, then, we need to explain that revolution to people. I should say that I still struggle to come out with something simple. I have asked for help and I have asked members of the blockchain community that I know. They argued that my explanations were too simplistic. But, they also did not have better ones too. Clearly, there is a communication issue in the blockchain community. But, put aside that, I am now exploring the connection blockchain-IoT. I am running another systematic literature review on the topic. It is not over yet, but, other questions are coming to my mind such as: which is the interaction between blockchain and edge computing, important issue in the IoT? And, then reading on artificial intelligence and IoT, is there a magic triangle between blockchain-edge computing-artificial intelligence?

After almost two years of reading on blockchain, my sentiment waves between moments of joy in which everything seems clear and moments in which I am back to that evening meet-up. Certainly, I understand the theory. I start to understand the applications. I have clues on the IoT and blockchain. But, then, this knowledge brings up new unanswered questions. I wonder when this journey will end, if it will never end! I will share my findings soon. For the moment, I invite you to undertake the same journey. It is not a revolution, but, there is so much for shaping markets and society in the future in a certain way.