What is the Byzantine General’s problem and why is it important?

People have called bitcoin an asset, a property, a currency, a speculative investment. I think it can be all of those things but more than anything, bitcoin is a technology, or rather an instrument built on a technology, that we’d never seen before. And that’s why it’s important.

Before he, she or they disappeared, Satoshi Nakamoto said that bitcoin solved the Byzantine General’s Problem, also known as Byzantine Fault. And it (bitcoin) solves it, in a way that’s mathematically impossible to alter or corrupt. But what is the Byzantine Fault and why is it so important?

The name is derived from an allegory that describes a scenario where, in order to avoid a fatal mistake, the actors in the scenario must agree on a strategy. And here’s the kicker, you can’t guarantee that all actors will be reliable.

If the general says ‘attack’ and all soldiers attack at the same time, the battle is won, but how can you trust all soldiers to actually do what they said they would?

By implementing proof-of-work, bitcoin transactions are verified in a way that makes it impossible to say you’ve verified the transaction when you haven’t. And the Byzantine Fault will be overcome, so even if some of the soldiers don’t intend to attack, the end result will still be verified.

It’s kinda hard to understand, and even harder to explain, so please do feel free to correct me and/or add your thoughts/explanation in the comments.

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