Episode 117: Blockchain Basics

Blockchain technology is one of the biggest buzzwords in tech in recent times. But what are blockchains and what do you need them for, really? Spoiler: Not much, actually.

In this episode of The Private Citizen, we are talking about blockchains.


This podcast was recorded with a live audience on my Twitch channel. Details on the time of future recordings can usually be found on my personal website. Recordings of these streams get saved to a YouTube playlist for easy watching on demand after the fact.


What Is a Blockchain?

Producers of the show want me to look at non-fungible tokens (NFTs). But to understand NFTs, we first need to understand blockchains, which is what this episode is going to be about. I’ll be looking at NFTs in the next episode.

First off, I will examine how a blockchain works. Specifically, how does it differ from a cryptographically signed database like Git uses?

What Problems Are Solved by Blockchains? And Which Aren’t?

Next, we look at why the blockchain was invented: to power the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Since then, blockchain technology has been proposed for all kinds of applications. I examine why most of this is technobabble and buzzwords used by salespeople.

Basic guideline to remember: If something doesn’t need to be strictly under decentralised control of the public, using a blockchain is dumb and probably costs a lot more (money, time, effort, energy) than using other technologies.

Additional links for this episode:

Producer Feedback

Petit-Michel writes in response to episode 115:

I read a little bit into the Wikipedia article on the Winter War. It’s all horrifying, all war is, but something about this line I found especially alarming for some reason: “most Soviet soldiers had proper winter clothes, but this was not the case with every unit. In the Battle of Suomussalmi, thousands of Soviet soldiers died of frostbite.” Maybe it was a past experience I had with a broken down Chevette, the Trans Canada Highway between Swift Current and Moose Jaw, and a -45 C cold snap, or as likely Game of Thrones, non-serious and sheltered person that I am.

I’ve been trying to find recent press coverage of any remaining peace process for Ukraine. Other than news, which is of entirely unknown significance to me, that the Security Council has agreed to endorse the Secretary General’s peace efforts I am finding nothing. Did the efforts once reported about Turkish, Israeli, Pakastani or other heads of states to drive forward negotiations all evaporate? Obviously Blinken and Austen aren’t helping with their now publicly stated goal to use this war to weaken Russia’s military capability.

He also commented on me using the shorthand “the left” in episode 116 with this amazing truism:

However, the great thing about the left is they can never fucking agree on anything.

If you have any thoughts on the things discussed in this or previous episodes, please join our forum and compare notes with other producers. You can also contact me in several other, more private ways.

If you are writing in from Russia, you might want to use my whistleblower contact form.

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Thanks and Credits

I’d like to credit everyone who’s helped with any aspect of this production and thus became a part of the show. I am thankful to the following people, who have supported this episode through Patreon and PayPal and thus keep this show on the air:

Georges, Steve Hoos, Butterbeans, Rhodane the Insane, Michael Small, Jonathan M. Hethey, Michael Mullan-Jensen, 1i11g, Dave, Jaroslav Lichtblau, Jackie Plage, Philip Klostermann, ikn, Sandman616, Bennett Piater, Vlad, m0dese7en, Rizele, Kai Siers, Joe Poser, avis, Dirk Dede, Fadi Mansour, David Potter, Mika, Cam, MrAmish, Dave Umrysh, RikyM, Barry Williams, Jonathan, RJ Tracey, Rick Bragg, Captain Egghead, astralc, Robert Forster, Superuser, D, Noreply and krunkle.

Many thanks to my Twitch subscribers: Mike_TheDane, jonathanmh_com, Galteran, l_terrestris_jim, redeemerf, BaconThePork, m0dese7en_is_unavailable and jonathane4747.

I am also thankful to Bytemark, who are providing the hosting for this episode’s audio file.

Podcast Music

The show’s theme song is Acoustic Routes by Raúl Cabezalí. It is licensed via Jamendo Music. Other music and some sound effects are licensed via Epidemic Sound. This episode’s ending song is MX 7000 by Lupus Nocte.