My overall comment on the course:
It’s not a technical lesson, so don’t expect to learn about how blockchain works technically or how to build a blockchain app. However, it captures the “big pictures” very well in analyzing the benefits and applications of blockchain technology. It’s helpful for non-technical job functions (marketing professionals, product managers, investors, etc.) to get a sense of working with blockchain technology now and how this technology will evolve in the future.
Below are my notes:
A quick way to summarize what the blockchain is: a cheaper, faster, easier way to verify data.
The use of blockchain is particularly valuable to solve the current issues that the internet brings: 1) hard to tell the real from the fake, 2) loss of data control once personal data is published, and 3) no code for checks and balances ( and the high costs of using intermediaries).
The blockchain achieves the above by creating a set of shared and decentralized blockchain ledgers governed by all participants.
Blockchain transforms supply chain by ensuring safe collaborations with various partners and distinguishing the real from the fake, and by ensuring the radical transparency of elements, sources and processes of products, and ensuring the ethics of the industry and making it easier to communicate with customers. This helps businesses build brand trusts.
When does blockchain make sense and when does it not?
- It’s useful when a business need to both collaborate with an ecosystem to get things done, and when the checks and balances used to make that ecosystem run are expensive.
- It’s NOT useful when 1) you work with a trusted partner, and a traditional database would suffice for a faster and cheaper checks and balances, or 2) you work with an inexpensive intermediary that’s already doing a great job in a cheap way.
Blockchain helps businesses distinguish real from fake because they could give a unique identifier for any digital or physical assets, which could offer privacy protection. Also thanks to the nature of shared, decentralized ledgers, it’s hard to tamper with the identity.
Blockchain provides agency and ownership for personal data. It basically provides a personal locker or vault to their own data. Owners of data could decide how much data they provide, when they provide or revoke data, and who sees and uses the data. Cryptography that works with blockchain technology enables people to encrypt their data and share data without really revealing the actual underlying data.
Smart contracts concept that is brought by blockchain doesn’t mean a digital contract, but an automated execution of transactions based on preset constructions. Businesses can program ahead of time how an asset moves and how it behaves, which offers efficiency and automation (this is valuable for finance industry). This opens a new door for new business models because lots of decisions could be executed automatically without human supervision and with minimum time lag. This concept is still in development.
Digital tokens is another field where blockchain could be applied. Digital tokens are of various types and are very complicated. One type of digital token: imagine digital tokens in the sense of airline points. Instead of being a privately issued asset whose rules are decided by one corporation, digital tokens can be programmed with terms and conditions available to all, and can be transacted in an ecosystem to engage with customers and reward certain behaviors, such loyalty to products, or environmentally friendly projects. One also need to remember that tokens don’t have long lasting effects simply after being issued. To use tokens, a mini economy needs to be established around it.
The tip from the lecturer on how to forecast changes brought by blockchain: don’t limit yourself to only looking at your industry to understand how blockchains could impact your business. “By staying ahead of how your customer’s experience is changing across industries, you’re going to be better able to forecast change before it happens.”