Ethereum and other "compute blockchains" promise to create a whole new, programmable level of interaction and data processing on the Internet. […]
The blockchain is known for enabling digital currencies. Although cryptocurrencies like bitcoin get the lion's share of media attention, there is another revolutionary opportunity inherent in blockchain technology: secure, decentralized computing.
Don't be put off by the boring wording. Recent blockchain systems propose creating a global, distributed Turing machine that could host a whole new level of internet interaction and processing, essentially wresting control of data from central authorities and handing it to users returns.
That is the hope and the promise. But how do these ambitious projects plan to do this?
While blockchain and bitcoin have their origins in Satoshi Nakamoto's white paper, the idea of building higher-order systems on top of a blockchain is arguably most clearly laid out in the Ethereum white paper. (This white paper is still essential reading, even if the preamble states that it is several years old). And while Ethereum (and its companion coin, Ether) may be the most well-known higher-order cryptosystem, this category includes…
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