From niche technical publications to watercooler conversations to the corporate boardroom, blockchain has become the latest buzz-worthy technology that practically everybody is talking about.
But if you stopped the average Joe on the street to ask, What exactly is blockchain?, chances are you’d get some head-scratching and a few vague references to Bitcoin as a response.
Consider: Blockchain is being touted as the most disruptive invention since the internet itself; isn’t it worth learning the basics about what it is and how it works?
RMIT is the first Australian university to offer a dedicated blockchain course online, Developing Blockchain Strategy, and it’s a great place to start expanding your knowledge set. The eight-week course gives students the skills they need to apply blockchain to a 21st century workforce, regardless of their expertise or industry.
Below is a brief cheat-sheet on blockchain, as well as some guidance on how you can become an expert on this game-changing technology.
One of the biggest misconceptions about blockchain is that it is synonymous with cryptocurrency. The truth is that blockchain is more of a foundation for crypto — it is the technology that underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions, kind of like a digital ledger — and it has wide-ranging implications for a variety of modern business practices.
“Blockchain tends be thrown around as a catch-all term, referring to everything from Bitcoin to Dogecoin,” explains Alan Tsen, the general manager of Melbourne-based Stone & Chalk, an independent fintech hub and one of the organisations that alongside Accenture and the Blockchain Innovation Hub, have partnered with RMIT on the course.
Blockchain will likely become a commonplace element of smart contracts, everyday retail transactions — even the way we vote.
Perhaps the best way to think about blockchain is as a “general purpose” technology — kind of like a backend database. It’s useful for more than just monetary transactions, too: It can be used to track and support a variety of sensitive data streams, such as identity records or contractual agreements. It will inevitably pervade industries such as government, law, energy, and health care, in addition to the obvious (finance and banking). In the not-too-distant future, blockchain will likely be a commonplace element of smart contracts, everyday retail transactions — even the way we vote.
The technology’s primary benefits — and why it is so exciting — is that it is highly transparent (every transaction conducted via the blockchain is open to public record), virtually incorruptible (due to its distributed nature), and extremely versatile (as mentioned, crypto transactions only scratch the surface of potential use-cases for blockchain).
All that said, perhaps the second biggest myth about blockchain is that it will irreversibly disrupt every industry.
“Most [people] talk about blockchain like it’s a magical technology that can transform any business model it touches,” says Tsen. “Although it’s a hugely exciting technology, it needs to be understood for what it is — a database structure that has some really useful characteristics that are well-suited to a number of industry problems.”
In other words, blockchain — in and of itself — is not the end all, be all, “magic bullet” to every modern societal and business issue. Though, it may have a major impact upon what solutionsto those problems look like.
How (and why) to become a blockchain authority
This year, it’s likely that blockchain will quickly evolve from exciting, theoretical buzzword to concrete tool —so, why should you care?
For one, blockchain development is already the second-hottest skill in the job market. Blockchain is quickly going to become an integral part of many — and perhaps some surprising — business models. No matter your field, there’s a strong chance that blockchain will one day have an impact on how your organisation conducts its day-to-day processes.
Thus, being one of the first people in your company to truly grasp the technology may provide a leg up the corporate ladder. More generally, the skill of brainstorming how an emerging technology of this scale will impact your company is hugely beneficial to your critical-thinking skill set — and can be applied to other disruptive concepts such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality/augmented reality.
In addition to keeping abreast of the latest blockchain developments via blogs, newsletters, podcasts, and the latest watercooler banter (although, take the last resource with a grain or six of salt), investing your time in a comprehensive course will help you truly master this exciting new platform — and become the “go-to” person on the topic within your organisation.
Learn more about how to turn blockchain and cryptoeconomics into real-world strategy for your respective industry by enrolling in RMIT’s blockchain course today.