Article demystifying the world of blockchain


Hi all,

I’ve written this article which is my attempt to explain blockchain and its potential to a non-technical audience.

I would love to get any feedback as I know that the Monzo forum is a highly knowledgeable audience!

Side note: Are there any blockchain start-ups you particularly rate?

Many thanks,


I really loved this part of the article, an amzing idea, never heard of Smart Contracts before:

A smart contract is a contract that executes itself. For example, if I write a will as a smart contract, when I’m certified as dead, the Ethereum system will automatically transfer my assets in Ether (the Ethereum currency) to the people I nominated. No need for lawyers or executors to get involved.

One area smart contracts could be applied to is music. Mycelia, set up by singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, is exploring how to use blockchain to give musicians better control over their music and ensure they get properly paid. This could involve storing all music rights on a blockchain rather than relying on multiple databases as is the case today. Smart contracts would be used to grant access to songs in digital format, take payment and then automatically distribute it amongst creators.

The smart contract concept can be taken even further with something called a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO), which is a company that operates itself according to a set of smart contracts, without the need for human management. Ponder the implications of that for a moment.


Thanks Nizar! The Ethereum site is a good place to start if you want to find out more:

(Stephen Early) #4

The DAO: the steadfast iron will of unstoppable code

Imogen Heap: “Tiny Human”. Total sales: $133.20

(Brian Hunter) #5

Nice article, thanks.

(Brian Hunter) #6

This part of the Imogen Heap article you posted made me think “A record shop must not be harder to use than BitTorrent. The legal options, iTunes, Netflix and Spotify made it big by being more convenient than piracy, and there is nothing convenient about dealing with blockchains.”

He’s very right in saying that is has to be convenient for it to be adopted. Bruce Schneier say’s of security “One click is too many,” when it comes to security, and I think it’s entirely correct.

For it to work it has to all work in the background, without users having to go through extra steps.


Etherium smart contracts would be great if the development team didn’t step in to change things when they disagree with them!

(Brian Hunter) #8

That’s why your fork it. Then the fork dev’s fall out and fork the fork, and then…

We all win because we get 15 different ‘standards’. Then someone thinks there are too many of them so creates a new one, intending that everyone will use that and everything will be easier.

And after that we end up with 16 standards in use…


Thanks for reading and commenting.

Point taken on The DAO but this is very early days. I still think the concept of a DAO is interesting. It would probably only succeed if the underlying blockchain was run by, say, a consortia of consulting and law firms. As I said in my article, I don’t see any necessary connection between blockchain as a technolgoy and the desire of some people to live in a world without government or big corporations.

Re Tiny Human, I think this has to be taken as an experiment. Imogen Heap and Mycelia are trying to figure out how blockchain could help musicians. I can’t imagine the first person who sold an MP3 made much money either.


Thanks for your kind words! Totally agree about the need for ease of use. In theory each song would be a smart contract, a miniature business that runs itself. So if you played on a song on a streaming service, the song would charge you accordingly. Whereas if I use the song in my commercial, I will be charged for a commercial licence.

There are so many vested interests and competing systems in the music industry, who knows whether this could get going? On the other hand, the actual creators of music are deeply unhappy with how they are being treated at present. Maybe it needs someone like Taylor Swift to pioneer it, rather like the creation of United Artists? This is all pure speculation on my part.


Agreed. I think for blockchain to really get going, the question of governance would have to be nailed. I cannot trust my business to smart contracts unless I know the underlying system is robust and well run. Regulation brings a lot of benefits.


Agreed. I think for blockchain to be of any use in the real world, we will need the involvement of big companies and regulators. Blockchains don’t have to be managed in the same way as Bitcoin and Ethereum.