OGDEN — Blockchain, the technology that has helped lay the foundation for digital currencies like Bitcoin, can be a bit tough to grasp for the layperson.
You better start studying up on it, though. W. Scott Stornetta, one of the developers of “early blockchain,” as he puts it, foresees the technology becoming more and more embedded in everyday life.
“I think we’re still a ways away, but I very much see it coming, succeeding to the extent that we become unaware we’re even making use of it,” he said during a visit to Weber State University, where he met with faculty and students on the matter.
What’s more, Stornetta — now a partner in a New York-based venture capital firm, Yugen Partners — foresees growth in the digital currencies that rely on blockchain, creating a measure of competition with traditional currencies like the U.S. dollar. Some could view competing currencies as a threat, but if it helps bolster the U.S. economy, Stornetta suggested it should be viewed favorably.
“I think that’s a healthy thing, quite frankly,” he said.
Stornetta’s wife, Marcia Stornetta, is originally from Ogden and returns each year, assisting Weber State students with the application process as they mull moving on to medical school. Given the tie, university officials connected with Scott Stornetta, inviting him to meet with students and staff.
Stornetta’s presence “is an incredible opportunity,” said Matt Mouritsen, dean of Weber State’s Goddard School of Business and Economics. “Not only will learning from Scott enable us to ensure our curriculum is aligned with the most-advanced technological concepts, but also by having him visit one-on-one with students, industry leaders and faculty, we are building connections between curriculum and communities that are invaluable.”
Aside from a talk to students, Stornetta, now living in Morristown, New Jersey, also met with the Standard-Examiner, discussing digital currencies and blockchain. His efforts developing blockchain with Stuart Haber date to the early 1990s while they worked together as researchers at Bell Communications Research.
Blockchain, a Weber State press release explains, is “a database storage technology that collects information in blocks.” As “blocks” fill, new ones are added, creating “irreversible, uneditable and independently verified” chains of information.
While blockchain’s most visible use is with digital currencies, helping verify their value, Stornetta said it has a range of applications. It can be used more broadly in the financial sector and even in tracking goods and commodities as they pass through the supply chain.
“There are a lot of nuts and bolts things that can be improved on,” he said, creating “frictionless” transactions that are more transparent, trackable and trustworthy. Broadly, he sees blockchain as a tool in creating a more trustworthy system of record-keeping.
Some view the technology with fear and distrust, Stornetta said, but that was the case with earlier innovations, like the printing press and even clocks. He also acknowledged that there can be dangers with technological innovations.
“But they don’t have to be feared and treated so defensively that we miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of them,” he went on.
A measure of government regulation may be merited, he said, also noting that Americans are pretty good at tapping and harnessing innovations like blockchain. “I think blockchain’s going to reach that level of just becoming part of the underlying infrastructure,” he said.
Stornetta is originally from Maryland. He received a doctorate in physics from Stanford University and bachelor’s degree in physics from Brigham Young University.