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In 19th century Birmingham, working mothers, in absence of professional daycare, brought their newborns to factories, where they would hang them by their garments from specially designed hooks to keep them from harm’s way. They would also ply them with opiates, similar to heroin, to stop them crying. Chris Ferrie, a faculty member at Sydney University’s Centre for Quantum Software, has a better idea: Teach them about blockchain.
Thus: Blockchain for Babies, a slim, 12-page hardback for $7.66, which takes infants and their parents on a whip-quick tour of the technology’s most fundamental truths, or at least what Ferrie has designated them to be.
“The intention isn’t that the child comes away from the book and runs an ICO,” Ferrie tells Decrypt. Instead, it’s a natural progression from his earlier titles, all designed to educate children—and their non-technical parents by proxy—on complex topics: Quantum Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Rocket Science for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, to name a few. And, with newborns sufficiently caught up on this ineffable life-stuff of the cosmos, it only made sense for Ferrie to proceed to that most confounding mystery of all: The Blockchain.
So how did Ferrie decide which aspect of the blockchain catechism would be essential learning for a dribbling bebeh? Will the kiddies be wising up on zero-knowledge-proofs, or is it perhaps more urgent that the warbling homunculi figure out stablecoin arbitrage-trading first? Ferrie, interestingly, chose to go for the blockchain’s “merkle-tree ledger,” the underlying data structure that strings transactions into blocks of encrypted “hashes,” each of which contains the entirety of the previous transaction.
Baby got block
I read Ferrie’s treatise myself to see if I, a full-grown man, could understand blockchain at the level of a zero-year-old. It starts with a picture of a ball, which I get. Then it says the ball can be bought for a coin, which I also get. Then it says the coin is now “invisible,” which I take to mean it’s On the Blockchain, but I only get that because I write about this stuff every day, unlike the majority of babies. Then it explains how blocks of transactions slot together like jigsaw puzzles, with fraudulent transactions unable to fit, which is a nice conceit.
Any baby parsing this, I figure, would understand the concept of “a ledger of invisible coins,” but would have little understanding of why this ledger exists, why it’s being written about, and how it’s set to disrupt fractional reserve banking and crony capitalism. Nevertheless, when I get to the end, it tells me I “know blockchain!” Really, I just have a “cursory understanding of distributed data structures,” but … to be fair, the babies have to start somewhere. And any little ‘un that reads this will at least understand blockchain on the level of, say, Craig Wright.
So the verdict? Sure, buy it for a baby. Why not. It’ll probably just puke all over it, but it’ll still be more legible than the Tron white paper.