Cryptocurrency and blockchain: the complex made simple

This is a bit of an unusual book review for this blog I know, and not a subject I would normally delve into, at least not here. There are no airship, or dragons, or spaceships in this book…  Well there are, but not in the usual way… because this is a non-fiction book that seeks to demystify and de-jargon the complex world of cryptocurrency’s, blockchain and the digital economy. A subject that could be reasonably described as a tad on the heavy side and which I frankly would not claim to fully understand, though after reading this particular book I have a much more rounded not quite understanding…

Like most people, I would imagine, what I know about cryptocurrency’s is mainly what I know about the ubiquitous Bitcoin which, if it doesn’t dominate the crypto market, certainly dominates the public perception of it. And what I know most about Bitcoin is it generates an awful lot of the spam in my spam folder. Bitcoin is the modern day carpetbaggers / snake-oil salesman’s dream product, the masses don’t really understand what it is, but know ‘others’ are getting rich on the back of it and no one wants to miss out on the opportunity for fear of been left behind. A quick search of the word cryptocurrency on google will get you a whole bunch of dubious ads offering get rich quick investments, because ‘yay, capitalism’ , ‘yay, lack of regulation’  and of course someone will always try to sell you a dream.

Then there is Blockchain, a term that is spoken of in boardrooms and government offices around the globe, and as with all new tech idea’s a lot of those discussing it don’t really understand it. I know a civil servant, working at a reasonably high level in a government department, who sat in a meeting discussion ‘block-chain: and why we need to implement it’ for a couple of hours. Having listened to everyone stating over and over how enthused they were about the subject and how important it was that they implemented it, he asked a question no one in the room could answer, a deeply insightful question, and one that cut to the quick, as it were. That question?

‘Can I just ask, what exactly is block-chain?’

Much like Bitcoin, block-chain, the underlying technology, is something that not everyone understands, but they know they need in the emerging digital economy. What this whole subjects needs is a bit of demystifying, it needs explaining in a way that’s easy for people to get their heads around, it needs explaining in a way that doesn’t drown the reader with dry arid techno babble, and it needs explaining in a way that will let it all make sense. Also the odd pop culture reference, star wars joke, and the understanding that if you really want to get people to learn about a subject the way to do it is to entertain them as you teach. Because everyone pays more attention when they are laughing along with the writer and made to smile while they think…

(note for anyone from Cisco, whom technical books it has been my misfortune to have to read in the past. If you make the subject matter as dry as the Sahara, your readers will dry of thirst before they learn a damn thing. Sorry needed to get that off my chest… damn you Cisco…)

Kate Baucherel is a fellow Harvey Duckman writer, and the writer of the annoyingly good SimCavilier novels (annoying because I didn’t think of it first, they are extremely well written and a fabulous read) A 7th dan black belt in karate. Ski’s. Loves star wars. has been known to dress up as Han Solo at every opportunity. lecturers and she is also the person who you invite to a conference on digital currency and block-chain if you want other people to attend.

‘Meh a cryptocurrency applications conference in Newcastle, I’m not sure I can make it…’

‘What Kate Baucherel’s going?’

‘Okay in that case I’ll be there.’

So if anyone is going to demystify the subject of block chain and cryptocurrency its her, and in her non-fiction book Block-chain Hurricane that is exactly what she does. It is frankly a great read that informs, educates and explains complex subjects without becoming dry and unreadable as so often happens. Instead even to a layman like myself it illuminates the subject and throws in enough humour to make reading it an informed pleasure. Because you need the geeky references and the jokes to get through what otherwise would be a dry subject.

For reasons that make little sense there is however a quote in the book from a disreputable novelist that comes from a twitter question Kate asked about a year ago… The vivacity of that quote is questionable, so questionable I am not going to repeat it here (it was however a very funny one liner I am somewhat proud of, and if I am going to be quoted in a book about cryptocurrency and blockchain I am glad its this one… It’s one of my better musings on  the subject, but you’ll have to buy the book to find out what it is…)

Can I claim to know what I am talking about on the subject having read this book? Well probably enough to answer that civil servants question, which is the point at the end of the day. More importantly perhaps enough to recommend this to anyone who wants to get their head around the subject. Because I doubt you will find a better book for doing so anywhere. You will laugh at the jokes, you will also learn a lot in the process, and probably not even realise you are doing so, which is the best way to learn anything.



Look at that I got all the way through that without once mentioning my new novel Maybe is being released this week…

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