An interesting little nugget has recently appeared on the Coindesk blog, entitled ‘In 10 Years We Won’t Have Blockchains’. Its author, and Vice President for blockchain at Talla.com, Will Murphy, posits that the term ‘blockchain’ will no longer be meaningful in the future. He begins by summarising the fundamental concepts underpinning the blockchain by describing its consensus and managements mechanisms, and its technical structure. What follows is a breakdown of the term itself into its component parts: the ‘block’ portion referring to the bundling of multiple transactions, and the ‘chain’ reference describing the linear method of their connection, and the strong cryptographic bond that validates previous transactions.
Murphy continues to predict various changes in the mechanisms of decentralised ledgers that will render the term ‘blockchain’ obsolete. Semantics aside, the main gist of the article is that to overcome the existing bottlenecks and shortcomings of the blockchain, a completely new fabric needs to be woven – one that’s not based on these existing linear bindings. His first suggestion is that in future, the transactions themselves will be responsible for confirming previous transactions, making the block itself redundant:
“In order to submit your next transaction, you need to validate others in the queue. In order to get what you want (your transaction submitted), you have to do some work for others.” [Read More]
He continues to claim that this model would improve transactions times – one of the major sticking points of cryptocurrency, which at times spikes to unworkable highs where confirmation times can run into hours, and sometimes even days. Removing the cryptographic miners from an eco-system that has ploughed so much time and money into them may seem akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it’s this type of broad, lateral thinking and practical application of mathematics that gave rise to concepts like the blockchain in the first place.
What Murphy predicts is a fundamental change in the DNA structure of distributed transactions; he’s not the first to suggest such changes. He mentions IOTA’s protocol ‘Tangle’ – initially developed to enable fee-less microtransactions for the Internet of Things (an article comparing Tangle and Blockchain can be read here). In expanding his vision of the future architecture of the chain, Murphy says:
“I also think that in the future, the chain won’t be a single directional string of blocks. I think it will look more like a mesh (or graph). Maybe we could have a non-linear set of branches that go in several different directions, where many parallel transactions are happening.” [Read More]
Murphy goes on to explain that the ‘Directed Acyclic Graph’ or ‘DAG’ is one possible candidate that matches his imagined path. Wikipedia describes DAG as:
For those interested in digging a little deeper, I recommend taking a look at the Wikipedia page, as the visual descriptions help in explaining the concept without going too far into the mathematics of vertices, edges and paths (aspects of which are still incredibly ‘hard’ in a computational sense).
Murphy concludes by stating that such a model would theoretically improve as more nodes were added, improving both the fees and scalability of existing blockchain models.
As the echoing boom of 2017’s crypto-explosion fragments into a confused, and often bankrupt silence, many are left wondering about the future of blockchain technology and its real-world uses beyond crypto trading. Murphy’s article provides an intriguing glimpse into what the next generation of distributed transaction ledgers might look like.