Why You Should Give That Falling Piano Another Look
Last week I took part
in a BIMA Breakfast Briefing about the blockchain – an exciting technology
lauded as the ‘invention of a new web’.
So, what is it?
Let’s start with a little recent history. In November 2008, a mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto published an academic paper that detailed a revolutionary peer-to-peer crypto currency, which you’ll know as Bitcoin. In January 2009, Satoshi mined the first Bitcoins to form the Genesis Block. The details of these crypto transactions were stored in a distributed public ledger record, called the blockchain.
While Bitcoin’s fortune has seen plenty of highs and lows, the core ledger technology behind it has proven to be shockingly uncontroversial. Nearly everyone with form in this area agrees that its most fundamental innovation has worked flawlessly. The blockchain allows total strangers to hold and exchange digital money in a completely transparent way — without having to trust each other or any central authority.
This is revolutionary thinking, so let’s break it down with an analogy.
You’re in a crowded street and a piano falls from the sky. Tens of people see it crash down with an almighty bang. Then, almost immediately, everyone who witnessed it is strapped to a lie detector and asked to recount to the exact same letter, exactly what they saw.
Did the piano fall from the sky? Of course. J
More importantly, falsifying events in this blockchain would require getting more than half of the people to all lie in the exact same way, at the exact same time, without any ability to coordinate beforehand. Which is pretty much impossible.
Think of the blockchain as identical testimonies of an event or transaction that cannot be falsified, each added to a chain, that is replicated out on to the Internet many times over, meaning an irrefutable record that cannot not erased.
A doyen of Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists, Marc Andreessen, recently listed the blockchain’s distributed consensus model as the most important invention since the internet itself.
Pretty cool hey, but what can we do with this?
As you might expect the finance community is experimenting with its use, for it represents a major shift in how they’ll handle transactions, and how cross border transactions can be massively improved. The Estonians, the trailblazers of digital, are already using it to secure much of their banking infrastructure, which now boasts the lowest rate of credit card fraud in the Euro zone.
It would be a big mistake to see blockchain as a purely FinTech-related invention.
It’s easy for the creative industries to dismiss such technologies and abstract thinking as niche, geeky or just boring, for inspiration and innovation can be found in lots of unlikely places. Attempting to understand a genuinely new concept is akin to moving from a flat to spherical earth view. Once you see it that way it’s hard to go back, with the old world feeling exactly that - old.
This is what digital pioneers like the musician Imogen Heap and the visionaries behind the comprehension engine One Click License (OCL) are doing. Both are looking at ways in which blockchain technology can be applied to music and the wider creative content world, to connect those creating new pieces, and ensuring these can be successfully and fairly monetised. Such thinking is fundamental to ensuring content creators are properly paid, either as the originator, or the remixer, or the collaborator.
These pioneers have embraced blockchain-powered ideas to “allow creativity to flow, connect and facilitate collaboration on so many levels, many of which just haven’t been possible.” This is a noble, inspiring and necessary vision to help empower creators by hopefully turning and landing the [creative] industry finally on its feet.
This irrefutable, distributed ledger model should also help stimulate new kinds of brand, agency, content creator collaborations, where all parties are properly recognized and compensated. Anyone with experience of creating influencer-led video content for a brand on platforms like YouTube and Snapchat will recognise the increasingly complex world of content marketing, and then need to think radically about how we move it forward.
This falling piano is a timely reminder for us to seek out new inspirations and radical new ideas, to challenge existing ways of thinking, to embrace these at a conceptual level and attempt to make them your updated viewpoint for all new challenges. But most of all let your minds run free - go dream of how you might use it.
Simon Gill is Chief Creative Officer, UK and MENA, DigitasLBi