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Why I’m Interested in Blockchain



Neuroscientists have stumbled on many new and quite fascinating features of the human brain which gives all of us hope. Remember when you were told that the brain could not “grow” past the age of 25 or that your brain actually loses some incredible amount of brain cell for every alcoholic drink you have? This and many other scientific myths are now being soundly debunked thanks to breakthroughs in neuroscience. Real breakthroughs, not the stuff the TV news tells you are breakthroughs, but solid informational changes in the human brain.

Much of what you see on TV involves research with mice and then you hear “but it will takes years for this to be used in medicine.” Not something I want to hear. Years? Decades? Why give us that information now? Oh, right, you have to run a med/science piece in the segment.

We are learning every minute we are alive and our brains have the potential, thanks to cells in the brain which are “in reserve” and waiting to be called to action. Mostly they are in the hippocampus, but there may be other, as yet undiscovered regions, where we have a storehouse of potential. Just within the past few years, we learned that the brain has another system which directly connects to our immune system. We didn’t know about this until someone made this astounding discovery without even looking for it.

All of this was exciting for me because, like you, I want to know that I can help my brain stay healthy and keep learning. The thought of creeping dementia wasn’t in my plan and I’ve begun to give myself the pleasure of learning exploration. What is something I found recently which is really exciting? A simple word: blockchain.

If you don’t know anything about it now, you need to begin to get up to speed because, if I were to put it into a simpler way to understand it, I’d say “new super internet.” But it has two features the internet doesn’t; freedom from ownership and trust. Both of these are incredibly important in our wish to democratize our world and to distribute wealth fairly and to have faith in any transactions we may make via the internet.

Simply put, by the people who are developing this technology which will be used in every conceivable areas of our lives, it is a database that resides on millions of computers all over the world. Each computer certifies the item in the blockchain and validates that we can trust it. There is no main frame, no set of servers and no central authority to run the blockchain system. Sounds like the wild west of the future, doesn’t it? In many ways it is and the potential is enormous. In fact, experts admit that there will be spectacular failures and incredible successes on this cutting-edge technological advancement.

I recall saying to someone in the 90s that the internet was the future and we needed to get a better understanding and use of it. I stumbled through ftp and black screens with bright words prior to the introduction of the browser and recall when the Netscape browser came into being.

The first time I got the twirling globe to appear, I thought I was a genius–I wasn’t I just got it right. On most nights, I’d login to a computer out at Indiana University, look at their listings of offerings and see what I could do. It was incredibly exciting just to get a “hello” from someone in Brazil or Germany or anywhere in the world. Perhaps the word should be surreal because that’s what it was. I was exploring in a new world.

Now, we’ve turned a corner and that corner is blockchain which, from what they’re saying, will be used for everything from banking (major potential here) to medicine, personal data safety, contracts and payments and the list goes on. One thing about payments, especially for anyone who creates anything (music, art, literature) is that the system handles everything.

The contract on the blockchain verifies the details and insures payment directly to the creator without any middleman taking a cut. And there’s no potential for being duped out of your royalties. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it may be the way it works and that’s where Wall Street and PayPal and all the others come in. No one else takes a piece of the pie because the brokers, banks and agents are out of the equation. Wouldn’t that be nice?

With every advance comes the potential for abuse and blockchain has tried to cut the culprits off at the pass, as it were. High degrees of crypto encryption will insure safety but humans are creative and those brain cells are firing all the time to come up with work-arounds.

However, if you don’t know anything about blockchain or you find it intriguing, watch some TED talks or Youtube tutorials on it. Not all of them are good, but you’ll find a few that will help you gain a deeper understanding of it and where it might go. Who knows, you might find yourself involved in it in some way in the future and you will be prepared.


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DR. PATRICIA A. FARRELL