Wtf is blockchain? Approaching it through first principle thinking

Blockchain is changing the world. People approach it from a black and white perspective. It's not that simple.


The world is a blank canvas, always.

People often want to know the answer within the first few minutes of learning something new.

So here it is: Blockchain is a network of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system.

But wtf does that actually mean?

Why is it important that blockchain can record information? Why does blockchain even exist?

For a deeper understanding of blockchain, it's important to approach the technology with an open mind.

Nava’s purpose in your journey is to provide answers to questions relating to blockchain but more importantly, encourage thoughtful conversations.

Throughout our series of posts, we’ll ask you to pause and answer questions. The purpose of the questions is to provoke different trains of thought.

Approach blockchain with an open mind

People often forget that before cars, we rode horses, before horses we walked.

Made famous by Elon Musk, first principle thinking challenges the status quo of how or why pretty much anything functions. First principle thinking is about decomposing a problem or an objective into the most basic elements which can be termed as the first cause. The first cause identifies the purpose that is meant to be served by that said object.

Elon Musk explains first principle thinking from a product perspective.

Let’s use a car as an example. There are many types of cars that exist in the world. They can use gas, diesel or run on electricity. However, the purpose of a car remains, to move someone from one place to another. Prior to cars, there were horses. Prior to horses and surprising to many, people walked.

Considering the pandemic, a more applicable example is the air fryer. For an individual, the goal remains the same, they want to bite into some deliciously crispy french fries. How they get those fries golden brown is up to them. They can choose to use an air fryer or deep fry them.

Fry responsibly.

Without first principle thinking, the world would fail to innovate. Imagine if people like Fred van der Weij, the inventor of the air fryer, accepted that fries could only be made using oil. Or, Elon Musk thought cars could only function on fossil fuels. Where would the world be today?

Applying first principle thinking to daily interactions

It’s hard to wrap your head around not moving past riding horses or having electric cars, right?

Well, think about our voting system today. For as long as we can remember, voting has always required some intermediary to count your ballot or secure your vote. Whether it was in the middle of a town with a wooden box or at the school gym in a cardboard box, the process remains the same. You place your vote in a box and wait for someone to tell you who won. But why?

Question: Why do you trust someone else to count your vote? How do you know that your vote was counted? Using first principle thinking, if you could redesign how we vote, what would you do?

When you deposit a cheque at the bank, they must clear it before you can take out cash. But why?

Each day we live our lives without questioning the reason for how things are done and seek third parties for approval.

Blockchain exists for change. To understand blockchain and the various industries that may be impacted by it, approach everything you do on a daily basis with a blank slate. Ask yourself why you do things the way you do and how can we improve them.

Using first principle thinking, challenge the status quo.

No, we are not asking you to turn into a rebellious member of society, just simply think like one.

Closing thoughts — a Poem by Tao Te Ching

What’s perfectly whole seems flawed, but you can use it forever.

What’s perfectly full seems empty, but you can’t use it up.

True straightness looks crooked. Great skill looks clumsy.

Real eloquence seems to stammer.

To be comfortable in the cold, keep moving; to be comfortable in the heat, hold still; to be comfortable in the world, stay calm and clear.


Comment below or just think about the following:

  1. What are some industries or technologies that could be improved by using first principle design? What value do those industries/technologies provide?

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