When is a blockchain not a blockchain?

We were delighted to host another online Blocknorth think-shop session with Michael Bradley & Thomas Wedel from IBM Europe, covering many things, cabbages and kings.

One of the elements of the think-shop which struck me was an echo of a conversation we’d recently had with one of our technology clients, during which we had tried to define what might be understood as the key characteristics of a blockchain system.

It looks like a rose, it smells like a rose

Our client suggested that they were reviewing the potential for a blockchain platform to allow for some form of reverse edit, say, an agreed level of retrospective access to accommodate, for example poor data entry or simple human error.

We, being ever so ‘umble, figured that sounds remarkably like a traditional database.

Beware of the Greek bearing gifts/paradoxes

Vagueness – what’s that all about? 

The sorites paradox, also known as the heap of sand paradox, involves a heap of sand, from which grains are individually removed, and of course this is still a heap. But this beggars the following - removing a single grain does not turn the heap into a non-heap, but what happens when you repeat the operation? 

At what stage do you un-heap your heap? 

To heap, or not to heap, that is the question

Well, we figure that this sense of ‘limited edit’ for blockchain has a touch of the heap/un-heap dilemma to it. At what stage does modest incremental changes to your initial blockchain tech offer move you from heap to un-heap.

Answers on a postcard, please.