Minimum Viable Block Chain, is the best explanation I’ve seen of how and why the technology behind bitcoin works.
It takes a while to get through it all, but it’s time well spent.
The combination of all of the above rules and infrastructure provides a decentralized, peer-to-peer block chain for achieving distributed consensus of ordering of signed transactions. That’s a mouthful, I know, but it’s also an ingenious solution to a very hard problem. The individual pieces of the block-chain (accounting, cryptography, networking, proof-of-work), are not new, but the emergent properties of the system when all of them are combined are pretty remarkable.
Properly understanding this infrastructure is a necessary first step in understanding other potential uses for the technology. There are sure to be some interesting ideas as this all pans out.