Relevance: Talking Blockchain at a Party

Blockchain comprehension helps us stay relevant.  This technology is starting to be used to capture and secure personal health information in Health Care, beyond its proven enablement with Bitcoin.

1. WHO cares about blockchain?

People who want to feel relevant when your sisters kids start talking about it at a party AND people who actually are interested in how technology affects humanity.

People who are interested in learning ways to leverage blockchain to manage their health or personal information.

2. WHAT is blockchain?

Blockchain is technology allows two people to conduct a transaction, without a third party entity.

Time for some real life metaphors.

Let’s pretend that you walk up to someone you don’t know, and introduce yourself  “my name is Joe.  I am from Chicago”.

Now that person will respond “my name is Jane, I am from New York”.

This is an exchange of language.  This introduction is a type of protocol where we verbally trade messages. Often we formalize this exchange with a physical handshake where two humans touch each other.

A lot of technology works on these two ideas of protocol: handshake and a message.

Most of the time, technology is shaking hands between Joe and Jane, and exchanging messages, like envelopes between Juliet and Romeo in the night.

Blockchain is about what happens after Joe and Jane meet, handshake, and message.

Now, Joe and Jane decide they would like to make a deal with each other. Jane will pay Joe $100 for Joe’s painting.  Once they agree to terms, it is as if Joe and Jane exchange cash, write down on 1 piece of paper (the ledger) the terms and conditions, and then joe and jane each keep a copy of the ledger for their records.

This allows us to exchange currency without a central hub.  They don’t need a third person to witness the deal.  This independent ledger allows freedom from who needs to be involved in any exchange.   Each person keeps a record / ledger of what happened.  Blockchain enables electronic transactions that are like.

  • Joe and Jane making a deal and exchanging payment,
  • >writing it down once on a ledger, and
  • each keeping a copy of the ledger.
  • The copy of the ledger is secure, and the official truth of the transaction.  Jane and Joe keep it with them each.

If you buy all that, now you understand the ledger.  The ledger could be any information, like my credit report that I keep in my phone.  People trust the ledger as accurate and secure.  This is new; in the old days you had to always store a copy of the ledger in the metaphorical “clerk and recorders office” for it to be trusted.  Now its like we can all be our own notary public.

3. WHERE is blockchain ?

Internet information plumbing behind the scenes

Things you could say about blockchain at that cocktail party are:

  • Its fascinating from a technology perspective and I’m really interested in how it will evolve.  I know it will be slow but Bitcoin is interesting to watch.
  • Blockchain is super transformative and Bitcoin is where it is at (be sure you can actually talk bitcoin at that point)
  • What kind of blockchain companies are you interested in that you think are really implementing the technology well?  (Great question for your sister’s kids, they LOVE that you are interested in what it MEANS)
  • I think it will be cool for health care, or my legal rights, or my privacy, or my kids academic records
  • I am curious what the best use of the ledger will be for us as humans

Things you should not say, unless you think you can pull it off as a joke, are:

  • I used blockchain this morning to mow my lawn
  • I’m picking up some blockchain at the store
  • Sometimes I have to tie the dog up with blockchain.
  • Have you heard about that new drag queen BLOCK CHAIN I hear she has some hard core independent ledger realness?

4. WHEN are people talking about blockchain?

Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, Amazon (AWS), Financial services, Health Care

Often, you will hear people talk about blockchain and bitcoin together.  This is because bitcoin uses blockchain technology. Bitcoin is a new currency system and inked in pop culture because of the Winklevoss Twins.  You may remember them as both played by Armie Hammer in the Facebook movie.  They did bitcoin after they “left” Facebook.  Rising from the ashes, more disruption challenges how the internet plumbing is connected, as well as slides into a monitization scene.  So Silicon Valley Horatio Alger.  Enabling Bitcoin as a new currency system, it can be used outside our paper money/banking, credit system.

For AWS, they use blockchain technology to change how information flows across the servers, or physical infrastructure of information.  Think about converting from all handshakes and envelopes to being able to share ledgers of information between central systems and processes.  Then, the information network starts to shift from server to server (point to point) to something way more like how your facebook network map would look if it was server plumbing: system to ledger to system.

5. WHY do I care about blockchain?

Because it enables new types of exchanges: financial, information, or human connection.  It also changes how we connect to each other, and that will have human network wide implications long term.

This idea means you can keep a version of truth about a transaction with you at all times, and don’t need to go to the bank or central repository to get the info.  This changes the security landscape because the hackers can’t get a big payload from one infoheist in one location at the CENTRAL UNIT COMPUTER; they have to mug people directly to get their information. Privacy and management of information is fundamentally shifted.


Companies will have to grapple with architectural decisions around when and how to use blockchain, to best deliver their desired functionality in the balance of risk.

Blockchain could be a metaphor for human social evolution.  The Harvard Business Review wrote an excellent piece that really gets into the guts of this.

  • They discuss the protocol evolution from TCP/IP to Blockchain to evidence how the internet started from point to point connections, think two dots and one line. And then there can be many many sets of those everywhere.  This is lots of handshakes and messages!
  • Blockchain evolves us from a point to point network into to an information network.  NETWORK literally means here multiple points scattered in space, and then lots of lines connecting them every direction. Facebook metaphor, but internet plumbing application.  This is wide reaching and big. This is why we care.

This Medium article has a good list of Blockchain application outside of this evolution of information network.

For the tools and platforms it specifically enables, we think about changing how the information moves.  For health care, we are interested in blockchain as it could allow you to have a personal complete and trusted health record that you have that no matter what hospital you go to.  It could allow you to have your DNR record with you no matter what.

RoboMed Network is connecting patients and healthcare providers with smart contracts.  They are calling the ledger a smart contract, specifically noting that they use Tokens to ensure security of those contracts, implying that is what makes them smart contracts.  This is the biggest ‘patient’ focused use of blockchain I can find.

Projects like Mediledger which is focused on ‘building an open network for the pharmaceutical supply chain’ is leveraging blockchain, but for pharma. This is provider focused but it could still could improve our continuity of information around drugs.

Simply Vital Health is a tool for health care providers: private providers and hospitals and health care systems.  They are promising better health data management for patients and providers.  This proves that just having one record that people can share and trust is a huge incremental jump in information quality in this arena.  This is also provider focused.

Deloitte sees more opportunity here for Health Care.  We are going to keep hearing about Blockchain and Health Care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.