What is trust?
It is not easy to define the concept of trust. Moreover, there are various scientific and philosophical currents to explain this. Let’s start from the simple principle that trust can be defined, as the dictionary puts it, in the following way:feeling a person It depends entirely on an individual or a system“.Trust can take many forms: trust in a friend, a health professional, in God, in a government, or even a currency. I can even say in a vaccine, but I will not just make friends. Note that trust does not require complete mastery and understanding.” of all the technical components that make up a particular system.
For example, it is not necessary to understand the technical operation of an aircraft to ensure that the aircraft will fly safely and reach its destination. Confidence can be gained through past experiences and general knowledge accumulated over time. In the case of the plane, we have general knowledge that very few planes crash, we have confidence in the engineers who designed, tested and validated all parts of the plane as well as the many security regulations that restrict airlines so that the flight takes place in complete safety.
But as we have seen or experienced, this trust can be lost or at least broken whether it is towards a person or a system. Let’s go back to our planes. The fatal accidents of the Boeing 737 Max in 2019 automatically led to a decrease in confidence in this class of aircraft, both on the part of the passengers and on the part of the flight crew: “We need to be able to trust Boeing to truthfully disclose the information needed to operate our aircraft safely.‘, Captain Jonathan Weeks, President of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA). This shows how quickly the concept of trust can fade. Aeronautics is an example, but it applies to all sectors, and the media is no exception as some are regularly flagged for on misleading information.
Evolution of trust in the media
Blockchain: eliminating or maximizing trust?
The 2008 financial crisis, due in part to the inability of traditional institutions to contain the financial meltdown, led to a renewed interest among individuals in the concept of trust. Recently, abuses by some companies supporting the marketing of personal data, sometimes accused of public coercion, have eroded users’ trust in these private entities. But how can blockchain solve this trust problem?
We can consider that the need for confidence lies where uncertainty prevails. Others may default on their obligations, the sovereign power may be weaker than we thought, the company holding personal data may be hacked, a man may corrupt his belief in God… Philosophically, the blockchain tends, through mathematics and algorithms, to allow individuals to transact with each other Some by eliminating the need for trust. Conceptually, this technique tends to maximize the degree of trust to the point of not worrying about the need for trust.
Bitcoin Example: Trust in Mathematical Accuracy
In the case of Bitcoin, anyone who understands the protocol can be sure that the network will generate a certain amount of new bitcoins (6.25, bitcoins) under specific conditions (every time a miner finds the mathematical solution to closing a block using the mathematical hash function) and at a certain rate (in within 10 minutes on average), without having to rely on any financial institution or other central authority. In addition, since anyone can maintain a copy of the blockchain (for more than 300GB), users can collectively review and verify all transactions performed on the network (since its inception), to ensure that they all comply with the rules of the protocol.
The performance of miners’ wages and thus the validation of transactions through computational consensus on “Proof of Work” will be the topic of the next episode. Here we limit ourselves to the concept of trust. Remember in this episode that miners are those who connect their computers (using mining hardware) to the blockchain (thanks to installing software). Once connected, computers (called “nodes” on the blockchain) validate transactions and validate the blocks on the chain. Then we understand that it is necessary to trust the minors who verify our transactions.
Diagram of a transaction on the blockchain
Blockchain Bitcoin: Ending Corruption
Since the nodes on the blockchain are ultimately controlled by individuals and thus can be bribed or corrupted, additional safeguards must be introduced into these systems to reduce the need to trust an individual miner. On the other hand, Bitcoin’s “Proof of Work” consensus algorithm (although there is another algorithm) aims to distribute trust among a variety of miners, reducing the risk of individual opportunism. (Transactions are verified by the entire network and not by a single miner who acts as a central authority). On the other hand, since all nodes (computers connected to the network) have a copy of the blockchain (this is a requirement for mining), they can always verify that every recorded transaction is valid and legitimate. Therefore, anyone interacting with the Bitcoin blockchain can have a high level of confidence that it will work as intended, as everyone can track every transaction. Hence the widely used adjective in relation to the Bitcoin blockchain, which is said to be non-falsifiable. Finally, unlike the central entity, if a node fails, the entire system will not be called into question because all other nodes in the network will take over (since everyone has the same data record). Whereas today, when a central entity is hacked, the entire system is paralyzed.
Maximum order: misplaced trust
Trust cannot be completely eliminated, it is only partially transferred to network developers and miners. So, while the blockchain protocol can help increase trust in how transactions are processed, such a degree of trust is only possible to the extent that miners as well as key businesses can be trusted. Network developers work in a way that does not compromise security, reliability, and predictability. for a blockchain-based system. The source code can be modified if the majority of the network decides to. Finally, trust returned to the hands of the network and all its actors. A network that aims to be transparent and accessible to all.
Currently, the Bitcoin network has proven to be tamper-resistant and flawless since its inception, and the ever-increasing number of nodes helps with the degree of decentralization, as more and more devices check blocks for legitimacy.
The number of nodes on the Bitcoin network and their geographical distribution
Here, we understood that blockchain is reinventing the concept of trust. Trust is decentralized (across all nodes) and transparent (because it is accessible to everyone) eliminating the need for trust. Or at least move it to multiple entities using a transparent math algorithm, rather than a single central entity with opaque means. Do you remember when I said a little higher than “Can confidence be gained through past experiences and general knowledge accumulated over time?” As with aircraft, the blockchain must bring together expertise and public knowledge by its users and controllers in order for it to be widely adopted. Trust will follow.
In this saga, we will gather knowledge to be informed and to be able to better understand this technology if it becomes necessary, to some extent, in our daily lives.
If this technology makes it possible to transfer trust from traditional central entities to a decentralized network inhabited by miners, many questions arise. How can we trust this decentralized trust? What drives miners to expend energy to record transactions? How are we recognized by minors (public key and private key)? Is it possible to stop the activity of minors and thus verify the validity of transactions? After understanding that the idea of decentralized trust is allowed with the blockchain, in the next episode we will explore the ins and outs of the mining system that turns out to be the heart of blockchain trust. See you in the next episode.
previous episode: Episode 3: Web 3.0, Logical Continuity?
Next Episode: Episode 5: Web 3.0, Double Spending and the Byzantine Generals