by Ricardo Santana, MERL Practitioner
I had the opportunity during MERL Tech London 2018 to attend a very interesting session to discuss blockchains and how can they be applied in the MERL space. This session was led by Valentine Gandhi, Founder of The Development CAFÉ, Zara Rahman, Research and Team Lead at the The Engine Room, and Wayan Vota, Co-founder of Kurante.
The first part of the session was an introduction to blockchain, which is basically an distributed ledger system. Why is it an interesting solution? Because the geographically distributed traces left in multiple devices make for a very robust and secure system. It is not possible to take a unilateral decision to scrap or eliminate data because it would be reflected in the distributed constitution of the data chain. Is it possible to corrupt the system? Well, yes, but what makes it robust and secure is that for that to happen, every single person participating in the blockchain system must agree to do so.
That is the powerful innovation of the technology. It remains somehow to the torrents of technology to share files: it is very hard to control this when your file storage is not in a single server but rather in an enormous number of end-user terminals.
What I want to share from this session, however, is not how the technology works! That information is readily available on the Internet and other sources.
What I really found interesting was the part of the session where professionals interested in blockchain shared our doubts and the questions that we would need to clarify in order to decide whether blockchain technology would be required or not.
Some of the most interesting shared doubts and concerns around this technology were:
What sources of training and other useful resources are available if you want to implement blockchain?
- Say the organization or leadership team decides that a blockchain is required for the solution. I am pretty sure it is not hard to find information about blockchain on the Internet, but we all face the same problem — the enormous amount of information available makes it tricky to reach the holy grail that provides just enough information without losing hours to desktop research. It would be incredibly beneficial to have a suggested place where this info can be find, even more if it were a specialized guide aimed at the MERL space.
What are the data space constraints?
- I found this question very important. It is a key aspect of the design and scalability of the solution. I assume that it will not be an important amount of data but I really don’t know. And maybe it is not a significant amount of information for a desktop or a laptop, but what if we are using cell phones as end terminals too? This need to be addressed so the design is based on facts and not assumptions.
- Again, there are probably a lot of them to be found all over the Internet, but they are hardly going to be insightful for a specific MERL approach. Is it possible to have a repository of relevant cases for the MERL space?
When is blockchain really required?
- It would be really helpful to have a simple guide that helps any professional clarify whether the volume or importance of the information is worth the implementation of a Blockchain system or not.
Is there a right to be forgotten in Blockchain?
- Recent events give a special relevance to this question. Blockchains are very powerful to achieve traceability, but what if I want my information to be eliminated because it is simply my right? This is an important aspect in technologies that have a distributed logic. How to use the powerful advantages of blockchain while allocating the individual rights of every single person to take unilateral decisions on their private or personal information?
I am not an expert in the matter but I do recognize the importance of these questions and the hope is that the people able to address them can pick them up and provide useful answers and guidance to clarify some or all of them.
If you have answers to these questions, or more questions about blockchain and MERL, please add them in the comments!
If you’d like to be a part of discussions like this one, register to attend the next MERL Tech conference! MERL Tech Jozi is happening August 1-2, 2018 and we just opened up registration today! MERL Tech DC is coming up September 6-7. Today’s the last day to submit your session ideas, so hurry up and fill out the form if you have an idea to present or share!