Blockchain. Remember the word and what it means. Whether you’re transacting with Bitcoin, own or plan to own property, or see yourself investing in AI tech in the future, it seems the blockchain could get hardwired into everyday life.

Blockchain promises to simplify the world we live in and make it more honest. Contracts, agreements, tasks, processes, and transactions will be stored in decentralised databases, promising protection against deletion or tampering. Every entry will be validated, stored, and shared; the obscurity and anonymity that often accompany illicit dealings will no longer be an option. That, at least, seems to be the general gist.

What is a blockchain?

A blockchain is a distributed ledger in which transactions between any two or more parties are verified and permanently stored with the aid of cryptographic algorithms. Think of it as a complete database stored on every individual system connected to a peer-to-peer network. Contained within this database, in the context of digital currencies like Bitcoin, is a record of how much of the currency each connected address or system has, as well as the transactions associated with that address or system. The distributed nature of the blockchain makes it impossible for any one entity to alter a record, or to submit falsified information; all transactions are automatically verified by other entities in the peer-to-peer network. As such, the blockchain system remains immune from outside (e.g. political) interference. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of blockchain technology for its users is that it eliminates the uncertainty that often accompanies transactions; no longer is trust necessary between two entities entering into a transaction, since the conditions of a transaction (e.g. payment and record keeping) are automated. In other words, once you decide to enter into a transaction with someone, that transaction will be completed automatically by the system.

Beyond the digital currency

At present the blockchain is mostly associated with cryptocoins, notably Bitcoin, Ripple, Dash & Ethereum. But given its success within the realm of cryptocurrency, it’s already being considered for use in formal sectors. Some private institutions are already test-driving private blockchain technology, predictably those in the finance industry. But perhaps more surprising is the Swedish government’s endeavours to see how blockchain technology can be applied to solve problems associated with land titling, the most prominent of which are forgeries and clerical errors.

Since last June, Sweden’s land registry authority, called the Lantmäteriet, has been trialling the use of blockchain technology. If implemented, it could save Swedish taxpayers over $106 million per year by doing away with the associated paperwork, speeding up transactions, and eliminating fraud.

Unlike Bitcoin, the Swedish system is operated on a private blockchain, which simply means the information contained therein is inaccessible to anyone who has not been assigned access. In years to come, private blockchains are likely to become the norm.

Solving the AI threat

If you’re still wondering why we’re so confident that blockchain will become a staple of daily life, then all you need to do is consider the true universality of the potential it offers. Elon Musk recently made headlines with this comment about artificial intelligence: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.

So we need to be very careful. I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. ”Some believe blockchain may be the answer to the concerns voiced by Musk. The tamper-proof nature of the blockchain can ensure that AI units are more easily controlled; protocols defined by the blockchain can limit which commands are written to a block by an AI unit, thereby removing some of its autonomy, or which commands can be issued to it.

While it is likely that we’re still a few years away from blockchain being implemented in the systems of the institutions we rely on daily, or a few decades where everyday AI is concerned, the very simple reality is that blockchain is already an indelible part of the background infrastructure that determines how we conduct our daily lives.