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Reacting to change

On December 31st, 2018 an interesting article appeared in the New York Times. It was titled “Wielding Rocks and Knives, Arizonans Attack Self-Driving Cars“.  It wasn’t a lazy review of some crazy future book. The fourth industrial revolution is here and our tools seem to be testing us. And some of us are running out of patience. The world is reacting to change. Like in Arizona, people were pelting stones at driverless cars! Including one man who jumped in front of one driverless car and waved a gun at it saying, ‘he despises it’!

Energy Revolutions

Every revolution is about a shift in energy. From physical to mechanical. From mechanical to digital.

The first industrial revolution (sometime between 1760 – 1840 or so) had the power of ‘steam’ as its thrust area.  Steam. Steel. Machine tools. Industrial looms. And the like. 

The second industrial revolution a.k.a “The technological revolution”, is about scale. Electricity. Petroleum. Iron & Steel. Railroads. Turbines. Engines. Etc. And the like. Perhaps a mention of Fredrick Taylor and his management principles is due. The second industrial revolution happened between 1870-1914. 

The third industrial revolution is the giant shift from mechanical to digital. Commencing sometime from the late 50s when computers began to make their first appearance. An important marker on the ground was the movement of music from vinyl records to CDs in the 80s!

Some argue that the fourth is primarily a continuation of the the 3rd. Obviously, it’s not that simple. Wearable devices. Implants. Networked devices. Data. Robotics. Internet of things. All point to a fusing of the physical, biological and digital. 

Reacting to change

Example after example from history points to non linear change leading to a forceful response .  Every significant change that disrupted an existing status quo provoked people of that time. Be that a wave of dismissal, royal proclamation or violent protests! 

Is it different this time?

If change is natural, so must our reactions to it. Isn’t it? Only this time, the scale of change isnt quite the same. Changes that are reaching us are more intense, simultaneous, interconnected like never before.  Klaus Schwab, who wrote “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” speaks of the difference in terms of Scale, Scope and complexity. The fusion of physical, digital and biological worlds will break boundaries of a number of disciplines. From economics to research. From biology to technology. 

Artificial Intelligence is changing professions. Lawyers. Doctors. Construction engineers. Construction engineers. Armed Forces. You name a domain and a passing lark will point to how AI and related stuff is sitting outside the door. 

The ramifications of such sweeping change presents dilemmas at scale. Most of it dished out simulataneously. Complex and interwoven, mankind’s sense of preservation is being tested. The scenario of mankind not cherishing all the progress made by its own is real. Worse, it is already happening every day. 

There is something more 

The fourth industrial revolution has in it an innate ability to amplify and showcase the inequalities that are omni present in the world. These inequalities have been a result of a thinking that gave ‘Capital’ a lot more heft. Perhaps this time it will be a tad different with ‘talent’ getting more attention than before.  

The amplification of inequalities and the new opportunity to amplify independent voice is a different deal. This change is not the usual change! 

In search of new frameworks and new mental models

Ways of thinking and working that aided us all these years are coming apart now. Not because they are wrong but because, they were designed for a different era. The new age citizen needs a new assortment of skills and mind maps. Needless to say that holds true for leaders and leadership as well. 

Klaus Schwab notes, “We need leaders who are emotionally intelligent, and able to model and champion co-operative working. They’ll coach, rather than command; they’ll be driven by empathy, not ego. The digital revolution needs a different, more human kind of leadership”.

We need to keep thinking and talking about this. It is only in our interest to do the same.

The habits of champions

Michael Phelps helps me arrive at three monikers to treasure

All that separate him and me is about 50 meters.  The 23 Golds, 3 silvers and 2 Bronze medals and achievements that befit the tag of the greatest Olympian ever’, are beside the point.  His achievements give a new meaning to what ‘Olympian heights’ or ‘champion’ could mean. Reading about or listening to habits of champions always leave me with ideas and energy. This one is no different.

When an Olympian with the stature of Michael Phelps is in front of you talking about his past, present and future, you shut up and listen. He speaks on his hydrophobia as a kid. He speaks of his coach. His mom. His team. How he trained, how he ate and much more.  Disbelief and gasps escape my lips as I soak in his story. Even as I do so, I become clearer of what it takes to scale the heights he has. Like a swimmer whose head bobs out for a brief moment before the body slices through the water with grace,  things crystalise in the mind.

These ideas stay on. Long after the event, put together to celebrate 20 years of the founding of True North, is done. Michael Phelps is perhaps back home minding the Instagram account of his son Boomer(With 726K followers that must be one tough job! 🙂 )

It’s a Sunday.  My mind keeps darting back to his statements. Elements of his life and his story that refuse to fade.  To unearth what’s within me, as has been a practice, I grab a pen and paper and write. It seems easy as they tumble out. I write them with care. Some of them are here (Please click on any of the tiles below to scroll through the quote gallery).

An hour passes by like a starter’s gun in a big race.  All his statements and ideas. A quick blast and its all over! Ideas that seemed to have competed for a share of the mind are all out there to see. They lend themselves to a ‘sit and ponder’ after the words are well digested.  How would I remember this, I ask myself? How would I share it with others? And wonder if I can put it into three themes? Monikers if you will.

Just three.

With a tentativeness of a sore muscle after a big race, I begin. I know what I am saying will not be new to many.  At least it isn’t to me. I realise that the gap between knowing and doing kills at many levels. The mind lulls us to think we have cracked it because we ‘know it’.  Sometimes, refusing to let us dig further. That has been my battle. I wonder if it is yours too. Anyway, here are my three monikers that hold a bunch of ideas in them.

1. Hard work beyond talent. 

It’s been stated several times before: Talent is an entry criterion.  Talent is far more common than success. Success comes from hard work. Putting in the hard yards makes a difference at every level. Every single qualifier, forget a medal winner, at the Olympics, has the talent and the hard work. There is no argument that at all.

But success at Phelps’s scale requires a maniacal devotion to the task at hand. And that makes all the difference! There isn’t much more!

The maniacal devotion requires hard work, when the arc lights, the podium and fame arent in the frame.  Labouring in obscurity and enduring relentless pain. Several years ago, I came across a piece titled “The Common Denominators of Success” by A.N.Gray. It tugged at me differently.  

 “..the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful — lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do”

“…The things that failures don’t like to do are the very things that you and I and other human beings, including successful men, naturally don’t like to do. In other words, we’ve got to realize right from the start that success is something which is achieved by the minority of men, and is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by following our natural likes and dislikes nor by being guided by our natural preferences and prejudices. ” 

A.N.Gray spoke in the context of insurance sales. But those passages leapt in, even while Phelps was speaking. All of us love champions and aspire to imbibe their thinking into our lives. But we forget to remember that Phelps (and champions like him) dont like several parts of their routines, yet do them with great discipline. It is not about likes and dislikes.  Doing every inch of what it takes is what will bring success is key.  Deserving success is as important as getting success. 

Michaealangelo famously said, “If you knew how much hard work went into it, you wont call it genius”. Thats that. 

2. Focus beyond boredom.

The world that we live in is ripe with distractions. Every sensory organ is invitingly propositioned with a promise for gratification. ‘Deep work’ is much needed.  But Deep work is demanding. And many times plain boring. Imagine showing up in the pool every day for six years straight.  Ever single day of six years in the peak of youth. That sets up an exploration of another level of boredom and drive. 

There is another aspect to the boredom. The relentless toil in complete complete obscurity, away from the arclights, the podiums and people. Chipping away at yourself one second here and another there. Adding strength to a calf muscle or a forearm! Stuff that will go completely unacknowledged but will all contribute to the goal! To do this for days on end, will need relentless motivation. For it can get plain boring. 

Champions bring a level of focus that lies beyond the first shore of boredom. It means, they show up even when they don’t feel like showing up and produce champion stuff. “Embrace boredom” says Cal Newport.  The high perches of success comes after many hours of languishing company of boredom. 

That would apply to everyone of us. People out to excel in the corporate world. Aspiring writer. A fashion designer. Lawyers. Coaches. Every one of us! If we want success at the scale of Phelps, there is no escaping the regimen that brought it. 

So, how about embracing some boredom,  and sticking to what you promised yourself? 

3. Team beyond Individual.

The narrative of the individual champion who changed the way of the world, is lovely story. From Michael Phelps to a Steve Jobs. From Sachin Tendulkar to Elon Musk. But that story of the individual is an incomplete story. 

For every individual champion that we see and celebrate there is a team behind the scene, that has given a hand. Well, more than a mere hand.  That is obvious.  Michael Phelps had his coach an entire troupe. A troupe that included his mom, sister, wife and now, his kids. He spoke of his special relationship with his coach Bob Beamon who deserves a part of every single of the 28 Olympic medals and more! 

Sudeep Banerjee said it very well on twitter.

An Olympic athlete can afford such a team and must do so too. On more personal terms, we have our own Olympic equivalents every day. And the responsibility of building our own support team rests with each one of us too. Of course, whilst speaking of teams I am not speaking of the teams that we end up with at our workplaces.

For instance, have you considered co-opting mentors onto your journey? Whatever the journey. Or maybe a coach? Perhaps members of the family? A classmate? A colleague from another team? Someone who will be able to look at things dispassionately and tell you as they see it. Someone who is interested in you and brings a strength that makes a difference to you. Infact, the part about hard work is rather incomplete without a smart agenda to work hard on. That is something a rich coalition of a co-opted team can bring.   

That sums it up for me.  With talent, hard work and discipline a good distance gets covered. But success at the height at which champions like Phelps have succeeded can’t happen without a team.   Speaking of teams,  here is a take on the same event by my good friend and colleague at Founding Fuel, Charles Assisi.  His take is very inspiring.

In a world that reveres champions and celebrates their success, not enough is said about what it took for them to get there. That applies to each one of us in our respective fields. Unless we are prepared to give it what it takes, our aspirations stay as well intentioned wishes. Before we realise someday that each day chipped away at what we might have become! 

The opportunity is omnipresent. The choices are ours to make. 

The Blockchain Triumvirate

The 2009 financial crisis shook the world in more ways than one. Even with a $787 billion stimulus package from the taxpayer’s money, that the US government put in, it has taken a while. It did something else as well. We got to see the extent to which greed had engulfed us. This also propelled a new triumvirate to emerge. The blockchain triumvirate!

The financial crisis shone a light onto the complicity of policymakers, bankers and large corporates. A complicity that went well past ‘hand-in-glove’! It was extreme. To say the least. Extremities cause frustration and frustration can cause action as well. Satoshi Nakamoto the creators of Blockchain brought Bitcoin to the world as a response to the financial crisis. As an alternative for the people of the world.  It may well seem like it aims to deliver the world from dependence on greed propelled corporate malevolence. It does have a Robin Hood feel to it or perhaps a “we-the-people” feel to it. Thus was born new relevance to “peer to peer” network strength. Considering the timing, this hypothesis rings well.

The Blockchain Triumvirate

Enter the Blockchain triumvirate. The three deep anchors bode well for it to be called triumvirate, won’t you agree?  “Transparency – Security – Immutability” upon which Blockchain was built. The lack of these is precisely what contributed to the 2009 financial crisis.

Transparency ensures that every transaction and updation of records is visible real time to all users across the globe. It divests the privileged few of the undue advantage of access to data. Security ensures that data is stored across the world and there is no ‘one’ honeypot to hack into.

Immutability is perhaps the most important one of all. The fact that it is very hard, well next to impossible, to make any changes to the data, makes authority figures redundant. Banks and middlemen
who corner a large part of the value generated simply for vouching for each of us, have to find new relevance in the blockchain world.

What stands in the way of people completely getting Blockchain is that it demands a new way of thinking. The edges remain jarred when the assimilation of the new happens through the openings of the familiar. To go beyond the familiar, suspend judgement and evaluate what is, from a position of ‘what can be’, is necessary.

The attempts on this blog through this series, in conversation and with contribution from others, is precisely that. To help stoke conversations by sharing learning and understanding. Which also fuels curiosity and gives the energy to do more of this.

Energy, especially to sustain conversations with curious people who think blockchains are bitcoins and nothing else. Well!

The Chemistry In Digital Transformation

Back in school, the chemistry lab with its test tubes, beakers and such stuff was a pure joy. It was magical to see new substances emerge out of old ones in beakers. And it was created right there! On a few occasions, my experiments went completely awry, in a deeply invigorating way. The lab was special. Because the lab was the first place for me to witness transformation before my eyes. That is where I learnt about mixtures and compounds as well. The days in the labs help me make better sense of the chemistry in transformation. The chemistry in digital transformation as well!

The distinction between mixtures and compounds was simple to understand. A compound was a new substance. You couldn’t separate its constituents even if you wanted to. Unlike a mixture. In essence, a compound represented a transformation. A compound meant the original constituents gave up their properties for a new set of properties. Oftentimes it was physical and magical too. An irrevocable change.

What about chemistry in digital transformation?

There isn’t any shortage of Digital Transformation projects that are announced. The question really is, do end results from these projects resemble ‘mixtures’ or do they resemble ‘compounds’?

When digital technology is slapped on top of existing work/ways of work, where it runs as a parallel stream, it is analogous to a mixture. It is a mixture when leadership thinks ‘transformation’ is for “those others”. That it is done to other teams! With sanctions of resources and leadership bandwidth.

The output of real change and transformation is more like compounds. That is when work is reimagined for digital! Digital is not a layer atop work. Digital technology gets enmeshed into work so much so, that work looks different. Such transformation is lasting because the old way of working has ceded space to a new way of working.

I will go so far as to argue, that complete transformation takes places when the change alters the way organisations think and approach their dilemmas. It may take a while and it is difficult. But there are no shortcuts in the long road to transformation.

As much as the allure of a transformed future is inviting, any organisation that seeks to go through digital transformation journeys needs to be prepared to endure pain. The change will cause enough and more disruption to current ways of working and leadership teams must be ready to face these.

There is no dearth of the technology that is available for change. The problems rest in us and our incapability to imagine work differently.

Vectors for digital transformation

“Why are Digital Transformation projects tough?”, he asked me. We were just starting a conversation why the vectors for digital transformation were simple to see yet not commonly practiced. This was a CEO of a large enterprise who has been at his wit’s end, trying to evangelise digital change. The conversation meandered and the two vectors that stayed on the table are outlined here.

A growing number of leaders understand the importance of digital and the impending changes that knock on our gates. At one level, that is good news. The other piece of good news is the surfeit of new technology that docks at our ports every minute. They call it the fourth industrial revolution and thats not without reason.  Technology at that scale accompanied by executive backing should be a sufficient multiplier you would reckon. True, it implies raw power. But digital transformation is more nuanced than that.

Digital Transformation is tough.

Despite all the promise it holds, any transformation is tough. Particularly so for digital transformation. For starters, Digital transformation cannot be achieved through diktats. There are no silver bullets, gilded warriors and ornamented events.

There are many other reasons why digital transformation is tough.  These range from having a common understanding of what digital is to evolving a strategy for getting the organisation ready to leverage it in full. The digital space is dynamic, with both actual change and a lot of noise leaving people confused and leaden-footed. This is often exacerbated by leaders seeking lasting change at a furious pace. Like any other initiative!

The only trouble is that going digital is not an initiative.  On the contrary, it is patient work at organisation social design and reimagining of the work that is important.

The difficult part about the change does not pertain to technology but about conversations about work. To fundamentally reimagine a set way of working with all stakeholders concerned, is not a function of technology alone. Therefore, it requires an inviting way for people to examine their new context owing to shifts heralded by technology. Processes go redundant. Policies will require a relook. Skills are different. Etc etc. These warrant careful examination via conversation. Human and work-centric facilitated conversations make a difference.

Change management with digital is a messy dialogue. It needs patience and a series of sustained activities. Two vectors for digital transformation are outlined here.

a. Portfolio of initiatives:

Any transformation project doesn’t get accomplished with one swish of a sword. It needs multi-pronged initiatives over a period of time. Work and accomplishment of work tasks being at the center, a multidimensional patient effort is a bare minimum. Communication, org design, workflow, processes and policies, skills enhancement and several others. All targeted at a few work-related outcomes that can flourish through conversation, ideation and perhaps experimentation. Teams that are willing to invest the time in conversation and evolve new ways of working have far more chance at engineer lasting change.

b. The necessity of the big moves and the small wins:

Digital transformation success stories have often an adroit balance between ‘big moves’ and ‘small wins’. The big moves provide stability and the foundations. Investments of money and time, infrastructure, commitment, and communication etc are all examples of the big moves. Small wins are like speedometers on the journey. They show that there is progress in the direction of the Big Moves.

Several leaders recognise the importance of these and bring about a play in both. A celebration of the Small Wins in the context of the Big Move brings clarity to a wider population about what is what. Not to mention, a clear understanding of the need to keep going forward.

To be able to hold the space for all stakeholders to come together to reimagine their roles, skills, and ways of working, in the wake of digital, is a key skill for modern day change makers. We must remember that the days of ‘herding into a room for a powerpoint based announcement’ are long over.

All this is for ones that are serious about orchestrating a mindset that embraces digital transformation. The essence to lasting Digital Transformation is getting ready to change again, just after you have changed! It is a continuing conversation with no finish line in place. That makes it perpetual.


Proof of stake and Blockchain

One of the biggest issues facing mass adoption of Blockchain across the world? It is slow. It is really really slow. Let’s put this statement in perspective. Visa processes 150 million transactions per day, roughly 1,700 transactions per second. And their capability far surpasses that. They can process 24,000

How many transactions can the bitcoin network process per second? Seven. Yup, All of Seven transactions! Each transaction takes about 10 minutes to process and form a block. As the network of bitcoin and Blockchain users grows, waiting times will get longer. There are going to be more transactions to process without a change in the underlying technology that processes them.

Why is the Blockchain framework so slow?

The answer is in the example we explored. The teacher and her 50 students ‘simultaneously’ trying to solve a puzzle. Blockchain thus uses a Proof of Work concept, to confirm transactions. Apart from slowing down the network, Proof of work consumes enormous amounts of electricity.

The saga does not end with electricity. Proof of work offers Bitcoins as rewards for validating the transactions. This reward reduced by half every 4 years or after 2.1 lac blocks. Thus by 2024, it will also become unprofitable for miners to continue solving these puzzles and generate blocks. Less the users, more vulnerable becomes the Blockchain. Compromising on its biggest pillar of Security and Immutability.

Proponents are aware of these limitations. They are exploring many other ways of making Blockchain scalable and secure.

Proof of Stake method to create Blocks is one such. Ethereum among many other firms is leading the way in this effort. In PoS, ‘one’ individual(s) are chosen to generate a block. They are known as validators.

How does this help? Think of the electricity saved by not having hundreds of miners trying to be the first ones to solve the puzzle.

The flip side, how do you make sure these chosen validators do the right thing? Do you recollect renting a self-drive car or a video CD? The shopkeeper asks you to put down a security deposit. One that will be used if you damage the car or not return the VCD! Similarly, in the Proof of Stake method, the validators have to deposit their coins to a central store. These coins or stake is only released back if the transaction is validated accurately.

How are these validators chosen?

Each network can define their own criteria for choosing validators. Some may opt for the validators who have the maximum coins ( thus they have more at stake to get it right!). However the rich get richer in this scenario. Yet others may use a random algorithm to choose the validators. What if as luck would have it, the validator was offline for a few minutes, when the block was assigned to him/her. Each delay will slow down the network. Yet others prefer to go by the aging of the coins the validator owns. The older the coins, the better their chances of being chosen.

Similar to the rating given by passengers to the uber drivers, these validators are given a rating basis their performance in validating blocks of transactions. These ratings can be another criterion to allocate future blocks. Ensuring the validators have stake/sufficient coins to lose will be imperative. Else the possibility of them behaving irresponsibly. Nothing at Stake problem!

The Pros and Cons

While many cons exist. We should not forget the pros.

(1) Massive savings in electricity. (2) Much much faster than the PoW method. (3) decentralized – It isn’t dominated by a few cartels & mining rigs. (4) Validators can work on home computers and don’t need all that fancy equipment!! This one is my favorite. Tempted to be a validator myself and experiment! (5) Rogue or 51% attacks are tougher, not impossible though.

As I write this, two news briefings catch my attention. Ethereum has delayed its switch over to PoS till 2019. Red Belly a Blockchain research project, funded by Australia’s National research body CSIRO and Sydney university has achieved the 30,000 transactions per second in Blockchain. Tested on Amazon Cloud (AWS) from July 2017 to May 2018, they have been able to do it across time-zones with over 300 computers. They have solved the scalability issues and the enormous need for electricity. This is exciting stuff. Read more here and stay tuned. Is the future here already? I wonder, I hope. I look forward.


Block & Chain

Headlines about Blockchain ushering in a revolution and becoming the internet of value is quite common. So much so, that none of us realize that it’s creators Satoshi Nakamoto in their 2008 whitepaper introducing this concept to the world had not named it Blockchain! They had used the words ‘Block’ and ‘Chain’ separately. To the creators, Block and Chain were concepts rather than a name. They believed that the process of verifying and recording transactions into a block and linking them together as a chain, would make this whole approach of peer to peer interactions secure, visible to all parties and be hard to hack into or be modified without detection. Thereby eliminating the need for middlemen or authorities.

Blocks by themselves are an interesting concept. Does it remind you of a family!

A ‘block’ very simply, verifies and records any new transactions. Thereby creating a permanent record. Roughly every ten minutes a new Block is created and added to the blockchain. Once created a ‘Block’ steps away from the spotlight and ushers in the next block. Yet, even as it steps away from the spotlight. It holds hands with the next block and lends it credibility. Much like a family giving its surname to the next generation. Its Hash is imprinted and carried by the next block. Thus forming a chain of blocks

Here is a live sample of a chain being formed of Blocks and a pictorial representation follows.

Why would ‘Block & Chain’ offer unparalleled security?

Think of a notebook with page numbers to indicate the linkage or chain. It is possible that someone could replace the contents of the page without having to alter the page number. Well, we may never notice something amiss since the page numbers continue to tally.

In the ‘block and chain’ concept, each block in the chain carries the digital signature of the previous block. Even if a single alphabet in the transactions is changed, the digital signature is significantly altered. It will not tally with the next block as seen in the image below.

Let’s dive deeper into this image. This digital signature or Proof of Work you notice in the header of a block is a cryptographically generated key. Any change in the transactions listed in the block will substantially alter the Hash/Proof of work/signature of the block. You also see that the next block carries the signature of the previous block. This is the chain linking them. So the minute any transaction in the previous block is altered. Its hash will change. It won’t tally with the one already imprinted on the next block! This makes it very evident that the details have been tampered with in a Blockchain.

Thereby giving this framework of peer to peer interactions the security & immutability features. The block and chain are the foundational elements, the very molecules, upon which the premise of Blockchain is built.

Leaving you with an idea of how a real Block looks like. The blocks are not without their own quirks and sense of humour. There are Orphan blocks, uncle blocks, Stale blocks, Genesis blocks and many more funny blocks out there. Go on read about them here and pass on the chuckle:).


When my daughter was three, the favourite game at home was called ‘Giddy Up’. I was the horse and she would clamber on to my back and shout ‘giddy-up’. I had to move ahead emitting neighs. Every time she wanted a bit more excitement, her magic word was ‘giddy up’ and I had to change pace. (a.k.a faster).

One horse that I would like to clamber on and ride into the future is a steed named Facilitation. And guess what, ‘Giddy Up’ would be the first thing that I would say. There are several reasons.

Facilitation is best poised to be a potent tool to build dialogue and bridges in a world that is mired in conflict and walls. There are several other reasons and I would urge you to give this a read.

For years now, the power of debate, dialogue and the strength of human connection pulled mankind through. Now stare at several abysses. The invasion of technology, the loss of connect, the generational gap, the resurrection of walls and much else. It is time to say ‘giddy up’ all over again and help the world experience the power of facilitation.

Giddy-Up for #Facweek

The week beginning 15th October is being celebrated as the International Facilitation Week. There are several events that are happening around the world for the same.

You could consider being part of a few or follow the hashtag #FacWeek on social channels. I intend writing here on some of my experiences and ideas on Facilitation. Do give me a shout if any resonates with you.

I have had the good fortune of facilitating conversations across cultures and continents. Whenever  I do this, there is one phrase that I play in my mind.  Every time I sit in silence before a session or emerge from the cacophony after it is the catchphrase ‘lightly-tightly’.

To be able to tell between ‘light’ and ‘tight’, and to be able to work it well is important. What would you hold light? Why? And at the other end of the spectrum, what would you hold tight? Why?

To be able to hold your own fleeting feelings and emotions lightly whilst getting the group to tightly own the agenda and work towards finding solutions makes much of a difference. When the group owns the problem and there is a space for solutions to emerge, much happens. Much of it is unseen and goes by the name of ‘facilitation’. When the facilitator is invisible and the groups declare that they did it by themselves, there is collective move forward.

The masters of the craft, I have noticed, hold themselves lightly and recede into the background. Emerging only to nudge the group to hold each other tightly if they find a need. With experience and success, the ability to cast oneself out of the frame is troublesome and tricky. But that often get the group to ‘Giddy Up’ and gallop away!

That’s my thought. Your turn now.

Blockchain and Electricity

Visa, the worlds leading payment processing firm, processes 1700 transactions in a second. They do it in a matter-of-fact manner, within a blink of an eye. Blockchain, through the Bitcoin network, process SEVEN transactions in a second, yes seven. Which is why, the protests and US Congressional hearing even, sounded like an overreaction from an already paranoid world. A world, according to Gartner, is in the trough of disillusionment with Blockchain. Blockchain and electricity, need closer examination and greater understanding.

How much electricity does Blockchains consume?

Was it disillusionment or does Blockchain consume unwarranted amounts of electricity?

A cursory search on Google. 6.5 million U.S. households could be powered by the energy consumed operating Blockchain (2017). A more recent study puts it closer to the electric power consumed by Ireland or New Zealand. It got worse, pundits predict this figure could rise to 7.7GW before the end of 2018. That is 0.5% of the electricity consumed by the entire world!!

In a world strained of natural resources, this is a fair lot.

Why would Blockchain need this enormous supply of electricity? This question sent us on the road of conversations and exploration. The creators of Blockchain, Satoshi Nakamoto, introduced a framework which uses proof of work or solving puzzles to confirm transactions. This type of validation prevented malicious attacks and double counting. Critical to establishing trust in the network without the need for a middleman or authority.

Blockchain’s need for electricity

Why would solving puzzles on the computer, or in Blockchain terms ‘Proof of work’ need enormous amounts of electricity? Here is an analogy for the processing transactions on a Blockchain.

Imagine a teacher who gives a puzzle to a class of 5th graders (50 kids in her class). She promises them a coin as a reward for solving the puzzle. Each of them is hard at work, pen and paper in hand, trying to crack the puzzle and win the coin. The child who solves the puzzle first, jumps up and down, raising his/her hand. The teacher examines it for accuracy, certifies it as CORRECT. She rewards the child with the promised coin! Think of all the other kids in the class who also worked on the same puzzle but were not the first to solve it. The amount of energy spent on solving one puzzle thus is: 50*effort to solve the puzzle. 50 times the effort!

This is how Blockchain works as well. A transaction occurs. All the miners across the world are trying to solve the puzzle and generate the hash. While the kids worked with pen and paper, the miners work with powerful machines. The reward for solving the puzzle currently is 25 Bitcoins + costs involved. The first miner who gets the puzzle right and forms the block wins the coins. The electricity consumed by the other miners is unfortunately superfluous. This manner of creating blocks is the Proof of Work, method.

Proof of Work gives Blockchain the enhanced security feature. Proof of Work also gives Blockchain the ability to remove middleman. Yet it results in Blockchain being accused of consuming enormous electricity. Processing one transaction can instead power an American household for an entire week!

Blockchain and electricity. When it started..

Did the creators of Blockchain foresee the enormous waste of natural resources? Satoshi Nakamoto has a robin hood feel to them in Blockchain folklore. One(s) who were tired of being at the mercy of big corporations being hand in glove with governments. Anecdotes say that blockchain resulted from the disillusionment of the Lehman Brothers crash in 2009. An alternative for us. Did they disregard nature?

Apparently not. Satoshi insisted and urged the initial users of Blockchain to stay away from powerful computing machines. The potential damage was known. Therefore a wider adoption of Blockchain to enhance security was sought. The initial bitcoins were mined on good old Pentium 4 processors or home computers. This Gentleman’s agreement, to not use powerful equipment to mine, held firm till 2013. The soaring price of a bitcoin and greed got the better of us. GPU’s entered the game. Now we have moved to fancy mining rigs.

Some loyalists say the energy estimation of Blockchain is overstated. Maybe. This technology has the power to usher in change and a new way of working for the world. Technology and change carry the responsibility of ensuring sustainability. As Blockchain moves into the spotlight, it must deliver at the intersection of people, change and technology to be relevant, sustainable and to make change meaningful. If that means adopting the Proof of Stake method, which is being experimented with, so be it. If it means waiting to see what the silicon valley firm Splend seems to have solved in stealth mode, so be it. Stay tuned.

The Blockchain journey has just begun.

Earlier attempts on understanding Blockchain are below.

a. Blockchain Law and Education

b. Transparency and privacy

c. Blockchain possibilities

Blockchain News – Education and Law

Heres a roundup of interesting stories on Blockchain that got discussed, debated or worked on. Blockchain news and views that caught the eye.

#1. The Law joins Blockchain!

China’s Supreme Court Rules that Blockchain Can Legally authenticate evidence which is legally binding, as part of newly clarified litigation procedures in the country’s internet courts. The state of Vermont in the USA passed a law that made Blockchain records admissible in court as well.

#2. The education sector is collaborating to bridge the huge gap in supply for Blockchain skills. With a whopping 151% increase in the number of jobs asking for Blockchain/Cryptocurrency skills in the last one year alone, no one is surprised.

Wharton offered its first full-time course on Blockchain for both undergrad and postgraduate students and guess what, it is already booked in full. Wharton also joins 17 other universities around the world in a $50 million, multi-year research and development initiative backed by Ripple (a cryptocurrency payment network).

The Ripple Project” a University Blockchain Research initiative will be an avenue for academic research, technical development, and innovation in Blockchain, cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology.

Coursera And ConsenSys Partner To Offer A Free Blockchain Course starting September 2018!

Not to be left behind start-ups in Blockchain are climbing the ranks in the Best places to work Survey by LinkedIn this year.

And for all you Blockchain enthusiasts here is a useful link which has collected information on all the Blockchain conferences, meetups and Summit’s across the globe in September 2018. If there are other events that you are looking forward to, leave a comment here or give us a shout @flyntrok on twitter and we will help and spread the word.

Did you read about the Blockchain District? That sighting evoked quite some chatter. Happy to keep the conversation going. So, whats the latest Blockchain News you have heard?