Blockchains: Taming Decentralized Computing

The Ethereum digital platform, based on blockchain technology, is still little known to the general public. It could, however, allow considerable progress to be made in various fields, including that of finance, believes Jeremy Clark, holder of the Industrial Research Chair in Blockchain Technology at Concordia University.

Blockchains are mainly associated with bitcoin, a virtual currency that appeared in 2009. “This is the first completely decentralized currency to have been created, explains Jeremy Clark. Bitcoins are not associated with any bank or government. »

While bitcoin is just a currency, Ethereum is a blockchain platform “on which you can program whatever you want”, explains the professor at the Institute of Information Systems Engineering of Concordia’s Gina-Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Blockchains rely on a peer-to-peer network on the Internet,” he continues. It is computers, connected to each other, that make the system work. There is no one who is responsible for the system as such. Due to their decentralized and cryptographic operation, blockchains provide a secure environment for all types of transactions.

Applications built on Ethereum are called decentralized applications. Their computer code is in open-source » and they do not depend on any central authority.

Ethereum has its own cryptocurrency, called ether. “The main problem with ether is its extreme volatility, similar to bitcoins. Much greater volatility than for state currencies struggling with the most significant hyperinflation issues, he notes.

Multiple applications

With his research team, Jeremy Clark explores the various possible applications for blockchain technology. Among these: a contribution to the development of a more stable cryptocurrency, called stablecoin, and the establishment of a platform for order books. “We are looking at how we can build an exchange space for buyers and sellers directly on blockchains. Thus, no one is responsible for the platform, but anyone can use it. Regulators are really interested in the feasibility of this project. »

Jeremy Clark also explores the issue of prediction markets. “It’s a way of betting on future events. » A prediction market can be created for any event where a winner will be crowned: an election, a sporting match, a prestigious prize. Each market player bets on the competitor of his choice. Thus, the price of each competitor represents the probability that this one wins.

“The predictions of these markets have been shown to be closer to reality than the polls,” notes Jeremy Clark, attributing this to the fact that participants bet their own money, which makes them more honest in their choices.

Jeremy Clark is also working with the Autorité des marchés financiers and major accounting firms to determine how companies using blockchain technology can be audited.

“It’s such a new technology. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it means to own a bitcoin, he points out. Our work makes it possible to establish how audits can be carried out. Our conclusion is that companies operating in this new environment face the same challenges as other companies, only in a different form. »

This content is produced in collaboration with Concordia University.

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Blockchains: Taming Decentralized Computing

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