To Coin an Idea

A bitcoin puzzle is equivalent to finding the correct key to a lock out 200 quintillion (10^18) keys.  Given the key, you can quickly tell whether it fits in the lock, but to find the key yourself would be a nearly impossible feat.  

With bitcoin, the block chain is the public ledger that contains the history of all previous solutions.  Each new puzzle (lock) contains a reference to the previously solved puzzle.  Once someone solves the puzzle, they present their solution to the community.  The community can verify that the solution is correct and that it properly adds on to all previous solutions.  Upon validating a solution, each entity adds it to their version of the block chain.  At any point in time, there can be multiple puzzles available to solve.  Each puzzle would lead to a slightly different history which could cause subsets of the community to temporarily have different records of the proper history.  This discrepancy is resolved once a new solution is presented.  Whichever branch has the longer history is chosen to become the official correct branch.

Great ideas are similar to the keys of a bitcoin verification puzzle.  Ideas are difficult to come up with, but are easy to verify once they are presented to you.  

In this analogy the human brain acts as a copy of the block chain containing a complete history of the previous solutions.  When presented a new idea, we compare it to all of the previously validated ideas and decide to accept it if it matches.  If it matches, we broadcast this idea which is then accepted by people who have block chains with similar histories.  In the case where we find a block chain which is longer that doesn't match up with our current history, we (should) discard the history of solutions which do not match and accept the new, longer history as the current best.  For a history to be "longer" in this analogy, implies that the chain of ideas is better able to explain the universe.  Unlike the solutions to bitcoin puzzles which can travel around the globe in hours, ideas have historically taken generations to spread before becoming widely accepted.

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