When most people think of bitcoin, they imagine it being used either by people who are extremely tech-savvy, or by criminals.
Because bitcoin allows purchases to be made anonymously, it’s easy to picture the currency being used for shadowy transactions across country lines. But while there’s no question that bitcoin has played a role in enabling online grey or black markets, the technology behind it – the blockchain – could transform the way we handle everyday transactions, from finance to medicine to voting.
At its heart, the blockchain is a way of ensuring that everyone agrees about events taking place. Rather than relying on a central bank to watch while digital money changes hands, blockchain code records each bitcoin transaction that takes place and enters it in a virtual ledger. Different computers, scattered around the globe and with no special relationship to one another, run a mathematical operation to ensure that the transactions are done correctly. If they all agree, that transaction is recorded in the current block in the virtual ledger.
To falsify a bitcoin transaction, someone would have to break blockchain cryptography in such a way that more than half the computers arrive at the same incorrect