Blockchain explained: It builds trust when you need it most

CNET | 2/12/2018 | Stephen Shankland
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This is part of "Blockchain Decoded," a series looking at the impact of blockchain, bitcoin and cryptocurrency on our lives.

These days, we're having a harder and harder time trusting each other.

Trust - Part - Living - Mechanics - Yelp

Trust is an essential part of ordinary living, whether it's picking mechanics based on Yelp reviews, sliding credit cards into gas station fuel pumps or heeding our doctor's advice. But our trust has been eroding for years. In the US, only 33 percent of us felt we could trust our government in 2017 -- a decline of 14 percentage points from 2016, according to Edelman's annual trust barometer study. Trust in businesses dropped from 58 percent to 48 percent, too, while media (fake news!) and social networks also took a hit.

That's a problem. The less trust you have, the harder everything becomes. Did that job candidate really graduate from college? Did your brother-in-law really repay that loan?

Solution - Faith - Strangers - Lives - Bit

But there's an unlikely solution that might help restore enough faith in strangers to make our lives a bit easier: an encryption technology called blockchain.

Blockchain is best known as the technology behind the cryptocurrency bitcoin -- a digital currency whose value soared above $19,000 over the last year before slumping to half that when the frenzy subsided. But blockchain is so much more, potentially easing the doubts and uncertainties that dog so much of life -- whether buying a used car from a stranger, having faith that a piece of fruit really is organic, or knowing that a prescription drug isn't counterfeit. Blockchain, in effect, hard-wires trust into transactions or data that we might otherwise be more cautious about.

Mark - Siegel - Investor - Menlo - Ventures

"It's revolutionary," said Mark Siegel, an investor at Menlo Ventures.

Watch this: What the heck is blockchain?

1:49

Bitcoin's value has soared and plunged over the last year, and it's hard to separate the sensible from the scams...
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