Can blockchain protect historical facts from falsification? Expert opinions
It seems that with the advent of the Internet, historical facts have become more accessible. Indeed, you can find everything on the net: from the Code of Hammurabi to the notes of the First World War soldiers. But how to be sure that the historical data has at least some relation to the original sources, and is not distorted by the subjective opinion of historians?
People have been falsifying history since the Ancient Egypt period
The first examples of falsification of historical facts were recorded in ancient Egypt. One example is the disappearance of information about Akhenaten – the pharaoh who tried to introduce the law on monotheism. After the death of Pharaoh, his reform was declared heresy, and images and sculptures of Akhenaten were destroyed. Only few documents were left that helped to restore the fact and identity of the king.
Since then, methods of falsifying history have become more diverse, but in general they can be boiled down to the two main ones:
direct falsification – destruction of documents and historical research, concealment of information sources, fabrication of facts and forgery of documents.
unilateral falsification – willful interpretation of facts, resulting in building up imaginary relations between these facts.
The first group of methods refers to the falsification of information sources directly. In such historical materials they will be either not indicated at all, or mentioned with a reference to a fictional publication. In this case the invented fact can be also presented as real one. For example, the Iron Maiden, known as the medieval instrument for torture, was invented in the XIX century, when illusionists and fear museums were popular.
The most delicate way of creating fakes is forging of primary sources: “sensational” archaeological discoveries, “previously unknown” chronicles, memoirs, diaries, etc. It is difficult to identify them, because for the refutation of such data, a special examination is required.
One of the known examples of such a falsification is the French scientist Michel Chasles. In 1867-1869 within the Paris Academy of Sciences, Michel presented a whole collection of letters from Galileo, Pascal, Newton and other famous personalities, including letters from Alexander of Macedon to Aristotle and those from Cleopatra to Caesar. Mr. Chasles was pretty sure of their authenticity. But, as a result of detailed examination, these documents turned out to be fakes, which, by the way, were sold to the scientist by the swindler Denis Wren-Luke for a huge sum.
Even scientists sometimes find it difficult to determine the truth and fiction. How can ordinary users make sure that the information is reliable?
How to save history as reliable data?
Modern volumes of world history can no longer be filtered in manual mode. According to AIN.UA, in 2017 Google processed more data per day than it was written in all literary works in all languages until 1991. Having huge amounts of information, it is almost impossible to find the sources, in any case, it is impossible to check what happened a thousand years ago.
But we can keep the modern history in its pure form by recording data in a system that cannot be faked or changed. And blockchain is here to help.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that became known to the general public in 2008. It can be compared to a puzzle: all information in blockchain is divided into blocks, and each new data block is attached to the previous one using complex mathematical algorithms.
One of the main rules of technology is open data. This data can be easily verified, and any changes in information are easily tracked. Users don’t need to guess how reliable the information is – the data recorded in blockchain once, can no longer be faked. But is it possible to save history from the fakes in this way?
Will blockchain protect history from fakes and subjectivity? Opinions of Ukrainian crypto experts
Let us assume that someday blockchain will be used to record historical data. But will the chain of blocks become a new source of data that can be referenced? Will this help the media to become as objective as possible? Can blockchain prevent historical facts from subjective assessment of historians? Who and how will verify the authenticity of the facts recorded in blockchain? How realistic is this for Ukraine? To answer all these questions, Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Kyiv asked Ukrainian experts in the field of blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Konstantin Yarmolenko, advisor to the Head of the Electronic Governance Agency of Ukraine, believes that recording and storing of historical data using the blockchain technology is a very promising area, but only if the information is approved by certain validating parties.
“Throughout the history of mankind, historical events or key figures have been distorted. That is why we, as humanity, have a very vague understanding of our history. Blockchain allows us to protect accurate historical facts using modern cryptography methods. If historical information is stored in a decentralized way, it will enable future generations to see a true story. The consensus of such blockchain may include a mechanism in which historical facts will be recorded in a block only after general agreement of validating nodes belonging to authoritative historians in different countries”.
Igor Porokh, trader and iTuber analyst, is confident that blockchain will become a new source of data for the media.
“Technologies are moving forward, and soon blockchain will be used everywhere. I think in the beginning one shouldn’t take for truth and refer to all sources recorded in blockchain. But when technologies will be less vulnerable and more decentralized, we will be able to trust the media!”.
Nevertheless, Artem Afyan, Managing Partner at Juscutum, believes that blockchain will not be able to protect historical facts from subjective assessments.
“The whole story is a subjective assessment of historians. People perceive the world through the prism of their emotions and relationships, so facts can be interpreted in different ways. Although many believe that it is the ability to interpret that distinguishes people from computers. Thus, blockchain will only slightly reduce the risks of distortions of facts in the future, but will not protect the information from the subjective perception of those who make the recording today.”
When answering the question of who and how will verify the authenticity of the facts recorded in blockchain, Artem noted:
“Blockchain can create a convenient institution of presumption of rightness. This means that the record is considered true until the opposite is proven. And then it doesn’t matter who exactly and how refutes the record. Of course if we are not talking about technical audit.”
At the same time, Aleksey Mushak, People's Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, believes that using blockchain for history recording is not such an illusory prospect as it seems at the first glance.
“The more users are involved and interested in blockchain, the better. We have understood this on our own experience, because the State Service of Ukraine for Geodesy, Cartography & Cadastre has already connected to the blockchain system. Cryptocurrency business and blockchain developments are connected, and the more users start to be interested in the crypto community, the more often blockchain will appear in different spheres of our life.”
Blockchain will be useful not only in public institutions. This technology will become a tool for business, medicine, industry and much more. Learn more about the benefits of blockchain at Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Kyiv, which will be held on September 19 in the Ukrainian capital.