BSV as an eternal clock

BSV as an eternal clock

September 3, 2021

This week we take a break from the hard computer science aspects of BSV to one which has more appeal to general society as a whole—the problem of agreeing on the timing or sequencing of events or actions. 

Take one moment to consider how many things involve knowing the exact order of events to ensure proper operation—from aircraft control to insurance claims, accident reports, legal actions, car servicing, medical procedures to the logistics of delivering sushi around the world. So much depends on knowing when things are shipped, scanned, stamped, processed, delivered, injected or consumed. So much of our daily society depends on keeping good records, and the most important part of keeping records is making sure that they have accurate timestamps. 

This is a laborious task, and though error-prone the existing methods are, they work well enough such that our society gets by well enough. After all, we have things like computers to keep track of time (imagine the world before a globally synchronized notion of time!), digital signatures, identity and authorization processes to ensure that there is ‘sign off’ at each point where records are made, such that errors in the records can be investigated and the truth ascertained if necessary. But even as good as our current systems are, there are times during massively organized events involving millions when even our best technology fails to keep things in order.

We recently saw evidence of this during the recent U.S. election. Whether you believe the election was fair or not, it is undisputed that the election experienced widespread issues in terms of voter registration, mail in votes, and vote counting. A lot has to do with the timing or when votes could be counted versus when they were submitted, which is a problem exacerbated with the massive amount of mail-in votes. There are just too many things that could go wrong with a mail-in ballot when the input of the voter just cannot be clearly determined. In many of these cases, the vote either has to be thrown out, or the polling station manager has to make a judgment call. You can see how putting this much power in the hands of a few people could lead to problems of trust, or even corruption. This is one of those times when a globally accessible, public blockchain could be used to ensure that only registered voters are the only ones that can cast a vote, and that the time of the vote can be verified. 

The simple task of recording an event with a globally synchronized timestamp is sufficient to prove whether or not the vote was cast at a time that was appropriate for the voter, along with a digital signature that is impossible to forge. With the use of the blockchain as an evidence trail and ledger, it would be an achievable task to have auditable election records, making elections more trustworthy and accountable.

This is just one possible application of using the blockchain as a timestamped record. The thing that makes this record useful is that it takes a proven amount of work in order to write the records, meaning that as long as the records are of lessor value than the amount of work needed to write the records, it is safe to assume that the records are authentic. Indeed, this is only for verifying records if one was not around when the record was written in the first place. 

BSV as a universal clock

BSV is a universal clock, running forward about 10 minutes every tick. Much like UTC, it is a time standard, by which everything can be based against. Time, of course, is relative, but having a fixed reference point is useful in order to figure out the order in which things are occurring. UTC, like any other timezone, is a relative point. It represents when a certain longitudinal point on the earth passes the closest point relative to our star in any given rotation of our planet. But as soon as you start to want to track things which are extraterrestrial to our world, you soon realize how cumbersome using a time system based on the mechanics of our planet spinning around our sun could be. 

The good thing about blockchain time is the fact that it is calibrated to the time a specific event namely when a block is found and when any particular observer node was notified of the block. This notion of time is much more useful for tracking things on an interstellar scale, as any notion of synchronous time loses utility once we get to distances in which the speed of light takes an appreciable amount of time to reach all observers.

In a sense, BSV is very much like an eternal clock, constantly running forward. One could conceivably imagine a time in the very far future when humankind spans several star systems. In this scenario, it makes more sense to measure local time in something that can be simply used locally as it has universal meaning to all local observers. It is simply a tick that happens every 10 minutes or so. Using this system, a future civilization would be able to calculate how far back in time something occurred on planet earth, relative to their own time.

In a sense, it is not very much unlike our current date system, only that the current system is based on an ostensibly arbitrary event that marked the year 0 (epoch), and the passing of 24h cycles from that day onwards. Using this universal heartbeat, we could start to track the events that happen on this little ball of rock we call home, with the certainty that as long as we don’t get to relativistic speeds or distances, that the whole world can agree on when things actually happen relative to each other.

I hope that this article has gotten you all to start to think about the higher level usages of BSV, and the innovation of having a universal time system that doesn’t depend on the geographical standards of our planet (its spin rate, location in its orbit or particular places on it called Greenwich). As we start to consider what a time standard might be usable for an interstellar civilization that spans worlds separated by relativistic distances, we start to realize how silly a time standard that depends on a particular planet circling a particular star in the galaxy really is. Instead, a spacefaring civilization may use different ‘timezones’ which have their own blockchain which records events in blocks, with known conversions or sync points between multiple local group blockchains. 

At the end of the day, the goal of any time standard is to simply ensure that we know when things happen, relative to each other, which is exactly what a blockchain like BSV accomplishes. Perhaps one day ‘star dates’ like the kind used on Star Trek may be used which simply refer to the most recent block height of the BSV blockchain.

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