Bitcoin is evidently one of the most sensational inventions of our times. The most popular cryptocurrency till date, with a large user database , considerable media attention and a high market valuation that has created many crypto millionaires and the technology behind it is minting millionaires every day with the tools to print their own currency.
It was a first of its kind invention that made its way into our collective consciousness gradually, despite skepticism by many naysayers, attempts to thwart by many powerful entities, and a collective gasp of dismay by regulators around the world. Bitcoin’s eventful ride has definitely taken it past the point of no return as far its acceptability and fungibility as an independent currency go. That it has defied the collective rational thinking minds of reluctant hordes of economists, statisticians, policy makers, bankers and drawn them gradually into their fold with its buoyancy.
Among the sceptics was also Vitalik Buterin, a teen who studied it but had dismissed it as a passing fad before returning to its siren call. Inescapably in its clutches the second time, Vitalik went on to invent the open source protocol that would make the technology behind bitcoin applicable to myriad uses beyond the limited scope as token of value or digital currency!
Everyone was so swept away by the innovation that they built features and functions on top of the bitcoin – like bitcoin wallets , bitcoin exchanges etc but it took the genius of a teen to reimagine where the bitcoin’s protocol can be applied to the real world – not just as a currency.
When vitalik first penned his thoughts down in a white paper on ethereum, and shared it with his cryptographer coterie that he built while traveling around the world purposely to attend bitcoin meetups around the world, half expecting them to dig holes into his thesis, he was pleasantly shocked that none refuted the soundness of his construct nor the applications he imagined.
Since the coterie consisted of the intellectual who’s who, he was reassured of his hypothesis and went on to build it in a super mysterious organisation.
It belongs to the realm of the truly marvellous – how a young mind extrapolated the concept of distributed ledgers that would operate on a consensus mecha nism to the idea of executing any transaction on a trustless, verifiable, time- stamped system with immutability and decentralised decision making, self-executing smart contracts and DAOs for example.
Thus began the fabled rise of a phenomenon called Ethereum replete with twists, turns , drama of rogue hacks, hard forks, and harsher folks. Vitalik or his trusted troupes (there are several genius founder contributors to ethereum and other hundreds of blockchain companies now in existence) didn’t have an easy ride, as they are still learning from the DAO hack or the relentless Geth attack, well into their second year of founding ethereum. But well, the second crop of inventions that Satoshi Nakamoto inspired, have had to fight off the technological glitches without the benefit of the impenetrable mind of Satoshi that built an impervious system – bitcoin.
Do not be beguiled by Vitalik’s age though, as the teen wonder is proving mature enough to oversee morally heavy decisions such as whether to allow a hard fork post the DAO hack. Once again to save Ethereum network from the recent relentless DDOS attacks, he has displayed inclination to hard fork – this time for security reasons.
That leads us to the first ever Blockchain India Summit in New Delhi bring together the Blockchain forces to reckon with, many of whom are visiting India for the first time such as Vitalik Buterin and dozens of Founders of Blockchain firms Factom, Consensys, Coinsilium, Interledger etc.
Industries expected to benefit from Blockchain in India include real estate, banking, healthcare, transportation, urban planning, smart energy, digital commerce, tourism, elections, governance, public goods distribution.
The author Ms Arifa Khan is an engineer from IIT Madras, an MBA in Finance from Wharton School of Business, and a former investment banker with Credit Suisse and UBS