A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Harold Talks About Blockchain

Episode Summary

Harold Hughes, author of A Kids Book About Blockchain, talks about fostering curiosity and conceptual discussion of an evolving technology called blockchain.

Episode Notes

Harold Hughes, author of A Kids Book About Blockchain, talks about fostering curiosity and conceptual discussion of an evolving technology called blockchain.

A Kids Book About Blockchain (view book)

Full Book Description:

This book helps foster curiosity and conceptual discussion of an evolving technology called blockchain. Through big and small ideas about practical uses for it, a clear eye to the future, and with the author and his expertise guiding the reader each step of the way, learn how blockchain has the power to bring positive change now.

About the Author:

Harold Hughes (he/him) is a first-generation American who was raised in a Jamaican household. As a startup founder and dad to Carter and Camryn, he lives the importance of work-life prioritization, not balance. Harold and his wife, Tiffany, are raising their kids in Austin, Texas. He is co-leading Black@ to foster community and bring more Black people into the Web3 space.

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Harold Talks About Blockchain



Matthew: What is blockchain?

Harold: Blockchain is really just a new way to store data. And so when we think about as I get into the book on how that works is, you know, my son and I actually worked through some of these examples. I said, when you have toys, where do toys go when you're storing them? Well, the toys go on the toy bin. And where do you, uh, books go? The books go on the bookshelf. 

And so when we talk about data, data's just a thing. And that is normally stored in a database. And so blockchain is just where you store data. It just happens to be different than a toy, um, box or a bookshelf. 

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast!  I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. 

The voice you heard just a moment ago was from Harold. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Harold: Hi, my name is Harold Hughes. I'm a dad. I'm a startup founder. I'm also an investor. I love barbecue and hanging out with my kiddos. And I'm also the author of A Kid's Book About Blockchain. 



Matthew: Hello, listeners! Today we are talking about a topic that was completely new to me. Blockchain may be a new-to-you word as well, but I know that after hearing this episode you’ll be able to see evidence of blockchain everywhere. I can say that with confidence because it’s exactly what happened to me. 

In fact, that’s an excellent place to start: Can you see evidence of blockchain… of our data being stored?

Harold: Yeah, actually, that's the coolest part. Blockchain is something you can absolutely see. Because of its public nature. It makes it a lot harder for people to get away with things. 

You could imagine in, uh, some cases where if you're playing a game  one of your friends may have an unwritten rule, where they know some secret that you don't know, and that makes it really hard to have fun and enjoy that game. But in blockchain, everyone gets to see all the rules. Everyone gets to see all the information. And so it's really important as we look at the various ways that you can apply it, that it's able to give you visibility that you can look at it and see it, you can read it, and it's not something that you need to worry about, uh, someone's not being honest or fair with. 

So being able to see blockchain is actually one of the coolest parts about it. 

Matthew: And this transparency, the ability for you or anyone else to see and access blockchain, is what gives it its strength.

Harold: Yeah, that's actually one of the coolest things. We were talking to one of our customers just the other day. And they were asking us questions about some of the transactions that happened. And I was able to send them a link that I could send to you, or I could send to your mom or your little brother, and anyone would be able to click that link and see all the information, all the transactions. 

And so, because of that, It makes it in such a way that, you're less incentivized, you have less of a reason to try and cheat the system. There's not as much hidden. And so from a permission standpoint, yeah. Everyone can see it and that makes it really, really open for everyone. 

Matthew: It is so important that we protect our data and our personal information. This is something that your grownups emphasize, your teachers, your librarians… Protecting your identity and personal information online is one of the most important practices you, and really all of us, can establish in our lives today because almost everything we do is linked with technology and an interconnected online system.

So the transparency we were just talking about helps to keep the transfer of information very, very visible, which discourages others from being distrustful. 

But security also plays a big part in blockchain.

Harold: When you think about, um, how a blockchain database works. I like to think about like the black box that goes on an airplane. So most people know there's a black box on the airplane and records something, and we all like, just know that that's a thing. But oftentimes you think about that visually a black box. You don't see what's in it. You have no idea what's in it and you have no way to or access it. 

When I think about glass box. I can think about how it's transparent. I can see in it. I can see really all the information and then be able to access it. And so the access is really your key. 

When you think about the key that you have to your house or the password that you have to your email or the password to your video game when you're buying, certain things like skins in the game, there's a password that's required. And so when it comes to blockchain, visibility is definitely not the problem. The most important thing is how secure it is. And that's because your password is normally really complicated. It's not as easy as like eight random letters and numbers. It's normally 12 whole words, which you could imagine would be a lot harder to guess for someone's password and definitely hard for person to remember.

And so that's really what the biggest difference is when it comes down to, uh, the security of it is really secure. And that is security matched with transparency is really, really the future of this. 

Matthew: Let’s take a quick break. When we return, Harold will talk about the potential to expand, for people around the world, access to resources such as banks. And also, the importance of keeping an open mind as new technologies challenge the way we think about how information is exchanged in our world.

Harold: As you're forming your opinions about blockchain, be open-minded. You're gonna hear a lot of different things where people will say, “Well, blockchain is bad for the environment” or “blockchain doesn't have a use case.”

And I think it's important to understand why people say those things and educate yourself because as every great innovation happens, whether it was going from the horse and buggy to the car or us going from printed mail to digital mail. There's going to be some different tradeoffs we have with all the innovations.

And so I just wanna make sure that you're being open-minded. That's one of the number one things is that being open-minded going into this, trying to explore is really going to create the most opportunities. Completely understand going in and being a little skeptical. But let's be open-minded about how this actually works, because I truly don't believe we're going backwards from here.

And so I'm excited about the applications of blockchain and I think some of the best ones have still yet to be built. And so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Matthew: We’ll be back in just a moment.



Matthew: Welcome back.

Today on the podcast we’re talking about blockchain with A Kids Book About author Harold Hughes.

Before the break, Harold introduced us to blockchain as a tool that is integrated into information exchanges online in order to help us manage and keep a record of transactions. If you play online games such as Minecraft, Roblox, or Fortnite, and have ever made in-game purchases, such as for money to spend within the game, new skins, new items, those purchases are recorded via blockchain, linking your account to the digital assets in the game. 

Harold: I think it's really interesting when you look at the difference between centralized data versus decentralized data. And that really comes down to who's making the rules. That's really, all it is, is who makes the rules and who gets to decide. 

So in a centralized example, that's where you buy a board game and those board games come with their own set of instructions and everyone, regardless of where you buy the board game or who you're playing with is abiding by that one set of rules that was created by a company that you have no idea who they are.

Decentralized is where everyone creates their own new rules. My son and I often like to play UNO and he likes to play with all these different rules. And when we play with his friends, they get to add new rules too. And that's where an example of a decentralized approach to playing would be. And so it's more inclusive, more people can participate and that allows for, really, more democracy and, and that's what we are really interested in is everyone feeling like they have a voice in how the process goes. 

Matthew: Harold sees blockchain as a way to preserve information that otherwise might be lost.

Harold: For me, the blockchain is actually something that I use to store a lot of our content. 

When you think about the amount of pictures we take on some of these social media platforms every day, I think that oftentimes we're conditioned for them to disappear, right? There's a couple of notable ones where there's content where you take a picture and it disappears in 24 hours. 

On the opposite side of that, you've got blockchain where everything is permanent. So if it's my daughter's first steps, or if it is my son and I going on a camping trip, I can actually create an NFT, which is a non fungible token, which is basically saying, “Instead of me storing my picture on my phone, I'm gonna store it on the blockchain”. And yes, other people can see it and all that, but now I get to preserve it forever. 

And so I'm actually getting really into the idea of storing more of my content on the blockchain so that it lives forever because some of these things you never want to get rid of and so it's been really important to see those types of applications be more common. 



Matthew: Listeners, you may still be forming opinions around how you feel about blockchain. That makes sense. Many of you are hearing about the concept for the very first time today. But blockchain is still pretty new for all of us. Which means that a lot of us are still trying to figure out how we feel about it. 

I love the excitement Harold brings to this conversation around the potential blockchain has to bring us together and to help shape a more collaborative and equitable world.

Harold: I think that we are at an opportunity point where a lot of people that have access to the internet are able to shape their future and be creative in ways that normally they may not have had access to just because in most cases, blockchain technology and blockchain communities are way more collaborative.

And I say that to say, you have more people who are talented, who are sharing their expertise and their skills and their talents to help bring a product to market. And so, because of that, I think about the way in which many people, content creators, or folx who have had their work not properly attributed to them are credited to them, I think that we're going to see more Black creators., we're gonna see more women creators, we're gonna see creators of different economic backgrounds and different geographies be able to get their products and services to the market as well as be able to have the ability for them to make money on it, which is important if they want to continue to support their families and support their communities.

And so for me, I think that is probably the most exciting thing is that, with blockchain, you're going to get more collaboration, more people building together. And that is going to, I think, change the livelihood of families as well as communities.

Matthew: As we said earlier, access to blockchain isn’t just about the excitement of a new technology. For Harold and many others, it’s a means to do a lot of good around the world. It means thinking about who is being left out of conversations, of access to resources, of a place at the table. And seeing this as a means of bringing more people access.

Harold: You know, obviously we're aware of all this going on in Ukraine right now. And as a person who's constantly on social media, I was able to see many Ukrainian citizens be able to leverage their cryptocurrency balances and people giving to them through cryptocurrencies as that was their means of, of spending. That was their means of finances due to the infrastructures from a bank standpoint. Right? 

And so when you think about that here in the United States, it's not because we're in the midst of a war as it relates in that sense, but more so there are a lot of communities that are just, simply ignored. And so they're not getting the resources that they need.

And so when you think about a decentralized and a global financial institution, like some of these cryptocurrencies, I think that that's where there's gonna be an opportunity. If, of course, you have the internet and infrastructure you need to where you're gonna see more people be able to participate.

But I do think that personally, we do need to figure out the financial situation for many of those unbanked and underbanked people. One of my good friends, Sheena Allen, is working on that, uh, down in Atlanta. And so it's hats off to her and her team and what they're building. But I think that when you think about cryptocurrencies, there's a huge opportunity to make sure that more folks are able to participate in the global financial system.

And right now a lot of them are being left out. 

Matthew: Listeners, conversations around money and data and privacy tend to be adult-focused, meaning, kids are often written off as “not ready” to talk about these topics. And yet, these are things that affect you right here and now. 

That’s why it was so important to Harold that he helped to bring this conversation to you.

Harold: Well, one of the things that I talk about oftentimes, I'm sitting in my, my office where I've got about half a dozen books. The one that's on my shelf is A Kids Book About the Tulsa Race Massacre, is that, as a dad, I understand how important story time is for my son and I, and, and eventually more so with my daughter, because that's a time where we just have conversations. And we're asking questions about the pictures we see in the book or the words that are being said. And so given the fact that, you know, oftentimes parents are looking at that is true conversation time, where the child can ask all kinds of questions. I think that's a great point of discovery and learning. 

And so as I was learning more about blockchain myself over the last few years and then explaining it to my own son, you know, as, as I've talked to Jelani and Stephen and the team…

Matthew: That’s Jelani Memory, founder and CEO of A Kids Co, and the team that helps to run things at A Kids Co.

Harold:  You know, we know the kids are ready, we know that this next generation of children are gonna learn things faster than we do.

And so being able to figure out like, “Well, how would I explain this to my son, literally a five year old”,  was also really valuable because I had several people who were adults who said, “I have no idea how this works. I don't get it.” 

And so it reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows where the guy says, well, why don't you just explain it to me like I'm five? And being able to do that, I was like, oh, well, that's perfect. I'm like explaining it to my son. ]And so being able to collaborate with A Kids Co and deliver this, this book, you know, A Kids Book About Blockchain really is saying, “I know the kids are ready.” We can explain this in a simple way to give some great examples and literally just plant the seed, so folks can start thinking about how they can be creators as well. And so it's just been a really, really perfect partnership. 

Matthew: Our time’s almost up. I’m about to send you back out into the world. So let’s  think about how we’ll use what we learned today in order to step out into that world in a more intentional and, perhaps, meaningful way.

Harold, are there any actions we, the listeners, can take as first steps to better understanding blockchain or, even, using and accessing blockchain?

Harold: I think the biggest thing when it comes to exploring this new space is being inquisitive, asking questions.

A lot of the folks who have been building in this space are doing, as the phrase says, try to find a problem for a solution that they already have instead of understanding what the problem is, and then finding a solution that fits it.

And so to that end, I think that the more people that we have coming from outside of the crypto and web three and blockchain space, the better the solutions are gonna be. 

So all that's being said, I think from an action item standpoint, I would definitely encourage folks to read the book. And if you aren't able to read the book, definitely find ways to learn more about some of these interesting applications of blockchain.

So one of the things we talk about is cryptocurrencies, and we talked about Bitcoin and Ethereum. Find your ways to learn about those. Or I mentioned non fungible tokens, NFTs, or how artists will be making money on blockchain throughout the rest of the years. 

And so think through applications on how you yourself could take something you do every day or something you interact with all the time and how it could be impacted in a lot of cases, you may arrive and say, “Oh, nothing changes.” Which is completely fine, but on the chances that it does, whether it's voting or commerce or art and, all those types of things, that's where we see the opportunity. 



Matthew: Thank you to Harold Hughes, author of A Kids Book About Blockchain, for joining us today. A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com.