The following is from an interview between myself (Sarah Mancinho) and Sohelia Yalpani, Editor of Thinkstr.com, published on February, 1, 2017. It has been published here with permission.
The technology that may have the greatest power to transform our world is not social media or big data, but technology arguably still in the infancy of its development - Blockchain. Blockchain is known as the technology that underpins digital currencies like Bitcoin. However, the capabilities of blockchain go far beyond the trade of online currency.
I spoke with Sarah Mancinho, a Washington, DC-based cybersecurity researcher who was named one of LinkedIn's 2016 Top 10 Voices in Technology, to understand why blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the world; disrupting everything from healthcare to the financial industry and government itself.
This is an exciting realm to explore, as Sarah explains, "We don't fully know what problems or processes blockchain is capable of addressing yet. We are still trying to understand what the limitations and uses of this technology are."
The cost of the middlemen.
Currently, we rely on intermediaries to perform transactions on our behalf. These intermediaries are necessary because they establish trust in the transaction. The middle men include banks, credit card companies, government, and social media. The list goes on. They perform functions like establishing identity between two parties in a transaction, performing record keeping, and more.
There is a cost to performing transactions with a middleman, however. These intermediaries slow things down (a simple transaction such as buying a coffee with your credit card can take weeks to settle), they take commissions on the movement of money between parties, capture personal data, undermine privacy, and exclude billions of people from the global economy. Not only that, these intermediaries are centralized, making them susceptible to hacking - as companies like Morgan Stanley recently found out when millions of customer records were compromised.
In this environment, says Sarah, "There is a huge opportunity for blockchain to revolutionize these institutions and the way we process transactions."
How Blockchain works
Blockchain is a new digital medium for value. As explained by Don and Alex Tapscott in
their book, Blockchain Revolution, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of
economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions
but virtually everything of value.”
What does this mean? It means that the blockchain database is not stored in any single
centralized location. Information on a blockchain is duplicated countless times across
a network of computers. While everyone has access to it, it runs on trust protocols-
meaning it cannot be hacked or forged.
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The Transformative Promise of Blockchain
Blockchain technology offers the intriguing possibility of eliminating the middle man by
enabling peer to peer transactions. This is possible because blockchain has the ability
to record transactions, establish identity and establish contracts. Trust is established
through mass consensus using a network. Through blockchain, anything of value-
money, stocks, digital properly, land titles, music, and even identities and votes- can be
transferred and managed securely.
Enabling people with the power to manage their own transactions has huge implications across industries, government, and society. And, Sarah says, "has huge potential to do good and create a society that is more open and just."
Here are a few ways Sarah believes blockchain can transform some of the key institutions in our society:
Healthcare: Blockchain may give us a means of improving our beleaguered healthcare system.
Provide encrypted transaction history in ledger form to prevent discrepancies or
questions from patients about covered services or payments made by insurance
Streamline interactions between health care providers and insurance companies
by eliminating back and forth "haggling" for coverage of services.
Secure electronic health records (EHRs) sharing and access.
Store/develop patient reported outcomes via Internet of Things IoT devices (i.e. wearables).
Government: Inefficiency and lack of transparency and accountability are endemic to government operations. Sarah believes blockchain can enable a more free, fair and accountable governance.
Provide transparency and accountability in an effort to eliminate waste, fraud, or
misappropriation of funding.
Facilitate in providing aid to programs, states, or other nations and ensure said
funds reach the intended recipient(s).
Enable a more streamlined and accurate auditing process.
Provide a digital ledger system for things such as property, taxes, public services,
Supply chain management and auditing for the military.
Enable open and fair elections, by ensuring the integrity of the system and its
Financial Industry: The financial industry is essentially a complex tool to facilitate a simple act- that is, the movement and safekeeping of money. With blockchain’s ability to securely take on those functions, it has the potential to bring great disruption to the industry
Bring greater accountability to the financial services industry.
Enable real-time international remittances while reducing operational costs,
human error and fraud.
With the ability to establish a secure identity, banks will have the opportunity to
service the billions of people in poverty who currently don’t have access to
In addition, Sarah points out, "In all instances, blockchain offers continuous, real-time availability without the limitations of a typically 9-to-5 work day, like for instance where you have to call customer service the next day to find out why your doctor visit wasn't paid for. Blockchain data is accessible 24/7/365.”
Author Bio: I am a mom, consultant, writer, and investor who loves to learn. I have over 320,000+ followers on LinkedIn, and over 75,000 subscribers to my newsletter, “Emerging Technology”. In 2016, LinkedIn.com named me in their annual “Top Voices” list as one of the “10 must-know writers in technology”.
I started this website in 2015, after years of jumping from blogging platform to blogging platform. Ever since my first blog in 2003, I have enjoyed sharing knowledge, providing resources, and voicing my opinions.
I hold an AS in Social Sciences, a BS in Human Services and Community Health, and a MS in Corporate & Organizational Communication. Additionally, I have held various designations and licenses over the years such as Licensed Real Estate Agent. My professional work spans several industries with jobs ranging from Trust Fund Associate to Golf Course General Manager to Strategic IT Communications Specialist.
These days, I work as a Senior IT Consultant helping organizations expand and grow, mitigate risk, identify gaps, find efficiencies, and improve processes. Outside of work, you can find me hanging out with my kids, cuddling with the dog, gardening, working out, reading, watching movies, golfing, cooking, or napping.