People are generally put off when they learn that blockchains are trustless. They feel this way because “trustless” sounds like a terrible thing! From an early age we’ve all been trained to seek out experts in different fields for us to trust, and then put our faith in them to do authentic and reliable work. If that’s the case, why would you ever want your currency, assets, or savings to be part of something that has no trust? It just makes no sense.
People feel this way because they’re misunderstanding the very nature of trustless. Trustlessness is the idea of removing the need to trust people from the equation and being able to interact without trust altogether. This is only attainable when the system cannot be tampered with, and the resulting data can always be relied on.
As it stands today, when evaluating where to place their money, whether it’s a bank, investment firm, or retirement company, people will spend weeks, if not months, speaking to friends, interviewing companies, and evaluating their options. This is because they are going to be giving this person or company significant amounts of money and putting them in charge of their savings. Everything they’ve worked towards their entire careers will be entrusted to them, and individuals are generally only interested in handing their savings over to someone that they trust absolutely.
When we’re evaluating a financial planner, we’re interviewing a person, because if we trust a person, we’ll trust their work. If someone has spent 40 years successfully managing or maintaining funds, we have no reason to distrust them, and if they’ve done good work for people we trust, then we might trust them as well. This creates an inherent connection between the person and the work that they are doing; namely, if we can trust the person, then we can trust the resulting work. The problem is that there are countless examples of pyramid schemes and other scams that were only possible because the wrong people were trusted.
Blockchain works very differently, where the person and the work are separated entirely. This creates a fascinating paradigm where individuals don’t need to trust or even know the people involved in the process, but they will still be able to trust the resulting data intrinsically.
Trustlessness is a result of the decentralized nature of blockchains. Blockchains store identical data across hundreds or even thousands of devices around the globe, and maintain the integrity of that data through a mechanism called consensus algorithms. These algorithms are, simply put, a majority rules vote for all of the devices claiming to be storing an authentic version of the blockchain’s data.
When blockchain’s encounter conflicting data, the consensus algorithm will look to see which version of the data is being stored on more than 50% of the devices, and whichever version wins that vote becomes the true and authentic version.
In order to corrupt a blockchain, a malicious actor would need to control and alter more than 50% of the devices on the blockchain network. Therefore, we need to shift our thinking to separate the work that’s being done from the individuals who are doing the work. Within blockchain, the more devices storing data, and the farther apart they are physically located, the more trustlessness we can have.
What this means is that you can have no trust, or even distrust the miners who are processing all of the data on the blockchain, and yet, still have absolute confidence in the data that is being processed. This is a shift that forces us to take our vision away from the person who is handling our data or our currency and instead focus on the mechanism being used.
Trustlessness within blockchain is an incredible progression in data since it enables individuals to trust data absolutely within a system that they do not understand, or that do not trust at all. Consumers and customers will no longer be forced to blindly trust companies or individuals based on outside information. Instead, they’ll be able to verify the authenticity and reliability of data through the system itself. They will be able to track their personal currency and make sure with absolute certainty that the data present is authentic, and cannot be changed or removed.