I was at a conference recently, and I ended up in a conversation with someone from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
As we were talking, he shared his view that the original goal of the internet was to help people, but in his mind, it’s clear the technology has done just as much harm as good.
I think that’s partly because people now have all the power of the internet at their fingertips, but there haven’t been many accountability measures put in place. The internet has freed people to do some wonderful things, but it can just as easily be used to anonymously tear someone down or spread misinformation.
There are still unrealized dreams out there about
the possibilities of technology to work for change and a more responsible future.
And that notion of accountability is why blockchain has the potential to accomplish what the internet couldn’t.
The cities and societies that use the blockchain to push for progress and incentivize people to act in healthy and productive ways will be the ones who do finally realize those goals.
Here’s why it matters for all of us:
Technology can improve trust — if used correctly.
Transparency is a complicated topic.
If an organization or individual is up to no good, they likely want as little transparency as possible. But just because someone wants privacy, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing something nefarious.
Still, many organizations can, and do, thrive while staying open about their processes and actions.
Blockchain has the capacity to help because it offers a way for governments and companies to offer more transparency in their dealings, their supply chains, and the products and services they offer. That’s because the cornerstone of blockchain technology is its trusted and secure automated transacting and record keeping.
zero-knowledge proofs allows companies and governments to prove they’re respecting human rights, providing the aid they say they are, or decreasing pollution — without giving up other sensitive data.
This capability can make transparency and trust the norm in our society. Because if no one’s being transparent, then no one will be held accountable.
New technologies can help with major global challenges.
Blockchain has plenty of applications for issues that we’re currently facing — like the recent humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of refugees to Europe.
Proving your identity and getting approved for entry into another country is an arduous process, and not everyone applying even has the proper documentation in the first place.
I mean, it’s not even easy in America. Just to renew my license, I had to go to my parent’s house, crawl into the attic, and pull my physical Social Security card from a lockbox. While I know a piece of paper or physical object works best because it’s unhackable, it seems pretty ridiculous when all of our identification numbers are floating around online.
If we could give people a digital identity to build credit and move across borders in a secure and simple manner, it would go a long way towards reducing stress for both refugees and the countries taking them in.
This isn’t just speculation, either. Bitnation has already created a voluntary, borderless blockchain jurisdiction with consulates in over 30 countries. It’s a way to provide people with self-sovereign identities. Those who don’t have a traditional place in the world can gain the ability to get marriage certificates, birth certificates, refugee emergency IDs, and all the other trappings of citizenship.
For someone who’s been forced from their home, this is a real-world application of technology that can actually make a difference in their life.
Use of technologies allows people to question how their city or country is advancing.
Data transparency and ownership may be the destination, but the road there isn’t an easy one.
There are plenty of countries that don’t allow their citizens full access to the internet or other emerging technologies because they fear what that level of transparency may lead to. And just because you have access to something doesn’t mean you can use it. No one is solving world hunger by handing out crypto wallets in third-world countries.
There are plenty of great opportunities for blockchain and other emerging technologies to make the world a better place, but realistically, it’s up to people to choose that path.
People often talk about all the amazing things this technology can do, but there has to be political will and societal pressure to make those changes. In many cases, it’s not the technology we’re lacking, it’s the will to act.
People have to put pressure on their local and national governments to become involved in using these technologies in ways that improve our lives. It’s the only way to actually realize the promise of blockchain, the internet, or any other transformative tech.