Thu, Feb 08, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Blockchain technology leading to a new era of digital sovereignty

By James Cooper

There was a distinct unease during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, two weeks ago.

An annual event since 1981, the small mountain village was inundated with 3,000 delegates and several thousand innovators, do-gooders, investors and the inevitable sycophants. They assembled to learn of global trends, both good and bad. The forum and its parallel programs are like Burning Man for rich and powerful people.

While a snowstorm left the town isolated and traffic snarled, the global elite were less fearful of the snow drifts and white-out conditions than the emergence of a new technology that will disrupt everything they do and perhaps their very existence: the blockchain.

Blockchain technology provides a universally transparent ledger to distribute trade and services without the need for the usual trusted intermediaries of the past.

The old world order of centralized services monopoly-controlling all the data and mechanisms of business like the largest financial services entities, auction houses and social media are gone.

Instead, marketplaces and services are disintermediated, empowering purchasers and vendors to conduct business directly with greater efficiency and transparency.

While the original Internet was massively disruptive to society by connecting the offline to the digital and Internet 2.0 furthered connectivity and multimodal interaction by providing social networks and mobile technology, blockchain technology represents the new Internet 3.0.

This new technology is providing and provoking a tidal wave of market potential of new distributed business models that pose challenges for multinational firms and the states that incorporate, tax and allegedly regulate them.

Using blockchain technology, consumers can limit the amount of data that companies can sell to one another, enhancing data protection and providing mechanisms for citizens to seek micro-payments.

In short, blockchain provides a form of digital sovereignty, empowering private actors to take control of the seemingly unwieldy encroachment on our privacy that social media magnates and other data firms have undertaken to date.

Blockchain, then, is a threat to large multinational corporations’ hold on global finance, corporate information sharing and social intermediation.

Blockchain technology is leading to a new era of digital sovereignty, one that empowers people no matter their social station or economic condition.

Multinational corporations are not happy, but they are also getting involved in the deployment of this leading edge technology. The most infamous use of blockchain is bitcoin, as the system works without a central bank or single administrator.

Operating in a gray zone of legality, the volatility of this financial tool has been in the news, but blockchain is so much bigger than cryptocurrency, and its potential was the main story at Davos.

Various firms were demonstrating the power that blockchain technology can provide — from a fairer and more efficient remittance system for foreign workers to micropayments for the use of intellectual property of artists and cultural workers.

Blockchain can help with portability of educational qualifications and even passports and other identification documents. For the unbanked, a majority of the world’s citizens, it provides access to financial services. For those with questionable land title, it provides mechanisms by which title can be registered and loans provided.

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