When it comes to the blockchain, most people fall into one of two camps: the hand-wavers that think the blockchain will disrupt and benefit the world as profoundly as the Internet, and those who are scratching their heads and just can't see how that could be possible. I confess that I fall more into the second camp than the first, but I do recognize that blockchain technology can provide a far superior tool to tackle some challenges than any that we've had to work with before.
I identified just such a challenge many years ago when the Internet was really taking off, and suggested that individuals needed to seize control of their personal information before commercial interests ran off with it instead, locking it away inside proprietary databases. The date of that article? February 2004, the same month that a little Web site called Facebook went live. Back then the problem was (and it still is) that the critical keys to avoiding data lock in are standards, and the process that develops those standards wasn't (and still isn't) controlled by end users.
Here's how I posed the challenge in that article: