My Attempt at Explaining Blockchain Using the 1,000 Most Common Words

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I recently came across a handy text box (created by Theo Sanderson) that restricts you to use only the 1,000 most common words in the English language. (Check it out — you’ll soon learn our vocabulary is much simpler than you may have thought.)

The original xkcd comic that inspired this creation had set out to use this limited set of words to explain one of the most complicated technical systems: how rockets work.

I decided to try the same thing about another insanely complex topic: the Blockchain.

My results are below. Let me know how I did, and please share any attempts of your own.

A new computer set-up to keep your stuff safe

I would like to talk about a new way use a computer to keep important stuff safe. By “stuff” I mean your really important things — like your name, your money, and other things about you.

When you use a computer, you need to trust another person or a big group of people with your stuff. They keep it for you for free on the computer so you can find it later easily. This means you don’t have to worry about where to put it, and you trust them to keep it safe.

But your stuff isn’t as safe as you think it is. Some bad things can happen.

1. Sometimes that person or group of people can lose your stuff.
2. Sometimes that person or group of people keep some of your stuff that you don’t want them to have.
3. Sometimes bad people can find your stuff and use it themselves.

These bad things mean you may lose your money or other people may try to use your name or other stuff about you. This is not good for you!

These things can happen because right now, you have to trust SOMEONE in the first place with all of your stuff. And that means problems can happen. But there is a way to keep your stuff safe without having to give it to just one person or one group of people.

Here is how it works:

1. Let’s say you want to want to use a computer to keep your money but you don’t want anyone to know how much money you have or anything else. Instead of giving your money to one person (or group of people) to keep safe like you do today, instead you would sign up for a big new computer set-up that lots of people use all over the world.

2. Once your computer is ready to go, you can put your stuff (your money) on this new computer set-up. No one will know how much money you have and no one will know who you are. Your name will just be a number, which means you are safe. How much money you have will be something only you can see, which means that is safe.

3. Every time you add money or spend money using this new computer set-up, computers from all over the world who use this computer set-up will say, “Something just happened. I am sure of it.” They will share this news with every other computer who uses this new set-up. Then all of their computers will also check to make sure that something did happen. In other words, lots of people all over the world will see that you put some money on the computer, but they won’t be able to see how much money or where it went.

6. Since so many computers all over the world said your money is there, that means it’s there. You can’t pretend it’s there because every computer will check to make sure. And your computer will also be part of the set-up to help check and see when other things happen. This keeps everyone safe without having to know who anyone is.

I know this sounds a little crazy, but this is what the world will be like in a few years. You won’t ever have to give just one person or one group of people all of your money or everything about you. You won’t need to worry if your stuff gets lost. Instead, you can keep all sorts of stuff (money, your name, and other things about you) safe on your computer using this new set-up.

Written by

GM @USV, alum of @StackOverflow and @NorthwesternU, board member at @CompSci_High and @NUalumni, co-founder of #BeyondCodingNYC

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