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What is the Blockchain?

blockchain, NOUN /ˈblɒktʃeɪn/
A digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.

A mysterious white paper (Nakamoto, Satoshi, 2008, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”) introduced the Bitcoin blockchain, a combination of existing technologies that ensures the integrity of data without a trusted party. It consists of a ledger that can’t be changed and a consensus algorithm—a way for groups to agree. Unlike existing databases in banks and other institutions, a network of users updates and supports the blockchain—a system somewhat similar to Wikipedia, which users around the globe maintain and double-check. The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is the first use case of the blockchain, but much more seems to be possible.

The Next Generation of the Internet

The first 40 years of the Internet brought e-mail, social media, mobile applications, online shopping, Big Data, Open Data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. Information technology is at the heart of everything today—good and bad. Despite advances in privacy, security, and inclusion, one thing is still missing from the Internet: Trust. Enter the blockchain.

The Blockchain and Us: The Project

When the Wright brothers invented the airplane in 1903, it was hard to imagine there would be over 500,000 people traveling in the air at any point in time today. In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin and the blockchain. For the first time in history, his invention made it possible to send money around the globe without banks, governments or any other intermediaries. Satoshi is a mystery character, and just like the Wright brothers, he solved an unsolvable problem. The concept of the blockchain isn’t very intuitive. But still, many people believe it is a game changer. Despite its mysterious beginnings, the blockchain might be the airplane of our time.

Economist and filmmaker Manuel Stagars portrays this exciting technology in interviews with software developers, cryptologists, researchers, entrepreneurs, consultants, VCs, authors, politicians, and futurists from the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the UK, and Australia.

How can the blockchain benefit the economies of nations? How will it change society? What does this mean for each of us? The Blockchain and Us is no explainer video of the technology. It gives a view on the topic, makes it accessible and starts a conversation about its potential wider implications in a non-technical way. The film deliberately poses more questions than it answers. For a deep dive, see all full-length interviews from the film here. Additional information about the project is in the Q&A and Disclaimer.

Stills from the Film

A Film by Manuel Stagars

manuel-stagars_0_small-bManuel Stagars was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. He is an economist, film director, author, and serial entrepreneur with twenty years of experience in consulting and startups in Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and Singapore.

Manuel’s current film projects focus on the potential of technology for the economies of nations, societies, and the lives of people around the world.

He has published books and scientific articles on startups, marketplace lending, impact investing, data quality, and Open Data.

Manuel has a degree in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and several financial certifications (CFA, CAIA, ERP).

Read longer bio on

Clips and Full-length Interviews from the Documentary

During the course of the project, interviews took place with software developers, cryptologists, researchers, entrepreneurs, consultants, VCs, authors, politicians, and futurists from the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the UK, and Australia.

Conversations with (alphabetical order)

David Birch
Director of Innovation, Consult Hyperion,
Guildford, UK

Perianne Boring
Founder & President, Chamber of Digital Commerce,
Washington, USA

Christian Decker
Core Tech Engineer, Blockstream,
Zurich, Switzerland

Taylor Gerring
Co-Founder, Ethereum,
Zug, Switzerland

Marco Carlo Grossi
Director Audit & Risk Advisory, Deloitte Switzerland,
Zurich, Switzerland

Caitlin Long
Chairman of the Board & President at Symbiont,
New York, USA

R. Jesse McWaters
Financial Innovation Lead, World Economic Forum,
New York, USA

Paul Meeusen
Head Finance and Treasury Services, Swiss Re,
Zurich, Switzerland

Dolfi Müller
Mayor of the City of Zug, Switzerland,

Matthew Roszak
Co-Founder & Chairman, Bloq,
Chicago, USA

Guido Rudolphi
Founder, Cryptocash,
Uster, Switzerland

Jan Seffinga
Partner, Deloitte Switzerland,
Zurich, Switzerland

Elizabeth Stark
Co-Founder & CEO, Lightning,
San Francisco, USA

Alex Tapscott
Founder & CEO, Northwest Passage Ventures,
Co-Author “Blockchain Revolution”,
Toronto, Canada

Lars Thomsen
Chief Futurist & Founder, Future Matters,
Zurich, Switzerland

Eric Van der Kleij
Founder Adeptra, London Tech City, Level39. Adviser UK Govt, Kickstart Accelerator,
London, UK

Roger Wattenhofer
Professor, Distributed Computing Group, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH),
Zurich, Switzerland

Rik Willard
Founder & Managing Director, Agentic Group,
New York, USA

Steve Wilson
Digital Identity Innovator & Analyst, Lockstep Consulting, Constellation Research,,
Sydney, Australia

Additional Conversations and Special Thanks

Many people and organizations helped to make this project happen by contributing their ideas, advice, time and access to their networks. Special thanks to all of you (list in alphabetical order of last names).