The DXC Blogs – The point of Blockchain

02Jun17

Originally posted internally 28 Nov 2016:

Background

This is another one of those blog posts where the same question has come up multiple times in the past few weeks, so there’s probably a broader audience for the discussion.

Where do I anchor my trust?

The point of a blockchain is to anchor trust against proof of work (Bitcoin style) or proof of stake (Etherium style) – if you already have a trust anchor then you don’t really need a blockchain. Examples of trust anchors that we frequently do have are TPMs, HSMs and CAs[1] (including Active Directory) – in fact anywhere that there’s an existing identity ecosystem there will be existing trust anchors for that identity ecosystem.

So why all the fuss about Blockchain?

Blockchains seem to be driving a wedge into places where it’s been difficult to federate trust/identity, but I’d suggest that Santander and Goldman Sachs walking away from R3 might at least in part be because they’ve figured out that fancy crypto doesn’t solve political problems.

But I still want a secure audit trail..

Signed audit trails are of course still a good idea, and aren’t anywhere near widely used. The question here is whether the root for that signing needs to be a distributed trust mechanism, or a simple key store.

Note

[1] The public CAs (as trusted by popular web browsers) are right now a total mess. There are far too many examples of negligence and malfeasance. This is in fact one area where Blockchain could be really useful (e.g. for authenticity validation and certificate revocation).

Retrospective

I think people are starting to get the whole trust anchor point here, and the fact that there’s generally little need to establish fresh trust. The conversation seems to be moving on to ‘distributed transaction ledger’, which to be fair to R3 is exactly the language used for the Corda launch.

Tim Bray recently wrote ‘I Don’t Believe in Blockchain‘, which provides further food for thought around the (lack of) geek ecosystem emerging around the technology. That said, some of the smartest people I know are presently beavering away at R3…

Original Comments

MW

You’ve probably seen this CS, interesting insight into government thinking for leveraging distributed ledger technology for delivery of government services, potentially significantly disruptive…..as well as proof of work and proof of stake, they’re arguably harder to compromise versus centralised systems and currency of shared data is assured..

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492972/gs-16-1-distributed-ledger-technology.pdf

Estonia are leading the way.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36276673



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