“Blockchain”: Data security for some, independence for others

The technology was born in the 1990s to ensure the security of transactions. It is of interest to both the financial world and utopians who dream of a society free from institutions.

The history of a concept. How to avoid theft, tampering, destruction of documents proving payment execution, commercial exchange, transfer of ownership? If the problem is as old as civilization, it is because its resolution is critical to maintaining confidence in social and economic relations. The seal of the king, currency issued by the central bank, notary deeds accepted by banks, stock exchanges and merchants, registration of bills of exchange and banknotes, and prosecution of counterfeiters by the police and courts have historically allowed responses to this concern. Every era invents solutions by resorting to cryptography, the art of securing data access through (in principle) inviolable technologies.

Will the contemporary answer be blockchain? In the early 1990s, two American cryptographers, Stuart Haber and Scott Stornetta, envisioned a system they considered unstoppable: instead of being controlled in one place by a single entity (individual, institution, “trusted third party”), every The encoding of each file must be distributed to the maximum number of copies. They argue that while it is feasible to crack the code kept in one location, it is more difficult to access all the distributed copies. To strengthen the security of the system, each modification to the document is the subject of an additional code, added to the previous code, so that the lengthened entire document is dated and republished.

Code published in The New York Times
Moving from theory to action, the two researchers began to publish the code for the files they propose to protect by this method in the New York Times’ “Ads and Found” section: “Digital blocks” will soon appear each week with more and more longer sequences. Incomprehensible to ordinary people, they are reproduced in proportion to the newspaper’s circulation (600,000 copies!), with the date of publication. “Blockchain” was born.

By connecting millions of computers, the growth of the Internet is rapidly providing an alternative to this paper-based medium. Simultaneous, real-time replication of code and its addition to millions of copies should provide perfect protection for contracts, deeds and payments. But since every computer holder must voluntarily make it available to the network by downloading an application, Satoshi Nakamoto – we don’t know if the name refers to an individual or a group – proposed in 2008 to encourage geeks to “pay for” ” way to participate in an electronic currency, Bitcoin. Other currencies (such as ether) were subsequently created based on the same principles.

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