The first phase of Blockchange will seek to test the hypothesis that by applying blockchain attributes to identity management, a trusted digital ID can be created that can benefit, for instance:The estimated 1.1 billion people who are unable to prove their identity to the satisfaction of authorities and other organizations – often excluding them from property ownership, free movement, and social protection as a result;The 1.3 million refugees that are trying to relocate around the world but can’t be identified; andAll the women and girls, who disproportionately struggle to obtain IDs, often the result of barriers related to: freedom of travel, distance, financial costs, time constraints, illiteracy, lack of information and awareness, and lack of support from family members.To become smarter about the application of blockchain technologies for identity, Blockchange will initially seek to:Map, and provide a taxonomy of blockchain technologies that seeks to provide identity;Develop a primer on the potential and challenges of blockchain technologies across the identity life-cycle (such as creation; verification; authentication; and authorization);Map the actual use of identity provided through blockchain technologies for a variety of social good purposes through case studies; andCo-develop a set of (evidence-based) design principles that can guide the further development and use of blockchain for social change.
Experiments in Algorithmic GovernanceThe following is an excerpt of an academic article [PDF] I wrote detailing why The DAO failed, and why other DAOs and blockchain technologies might also fail. In a nutshell, lack of an appropriate governance structure and plan, and insufficient recognition of the challenges of building new social models doomed The DAO. When building new blockchain platforms, one ought to plan for these eventualities.
That the first forays into state-backed cryptocurrency comes from two countries with a history of restricting a free and open internet is not surprising. While Bitcoin originated as a way to opt out of government control of money supply, increasingly governments see the underlying technology as a way to increase their control of the economy.As Xiong Yue explained:For example, if the government plans to subsidize certain farms, say some corn farms, to support this sector of agriculture, they can directly add a certain amount of money to the wallets of some farms, for instance 100 million dollars and program this money to be sent to certain fertilizer merchants at a certain time, and that each can only spend maximum of 10 million dollars per year, and in this way, they can make sure that the farmers won’t squander the windfalls, and that this money won’t flow to other sectors, for instance, the stock market or real estate market.Even though this kind of monetary policy is bound to fail, from the perspective of government officials, CBDC provides them a better tool. For them, with the help of the CBDC, they can plan and manage the economy better.
assets serve decentralized applicationsDecentralized applications are a new form of organization and a new form of software. They’re a new model for creating, financing, and operating software services in a way that is decentralized top-to-bottom. That doesn’t make them better or worse than existing software models or the corporate entities that create them. As we’ll see later, there are major trade-offs. What we can say is simply that they are radically different from software as we know it today and radically different from the forms of organization we are used to.
With the continuing collapse in online advertising revenues, websites are turning to other methods to pay their hosting bills – including using visitors’ computers and phones to mine cryptocurrency.It’s a controversial practice, with some likening it to running malware on visitor’s computers, but it is a potentially lucrative endeavour for websites. The downside is that at best it slows down visitors’ machines, and at worst it can also drain their batteries or send their electricity bills soaring.BitTorrent search engine The Pirate Bay, and US video streaming service Showtime, are two sites that were discovered to be sending mining code to users. The former owned up, posting in mid-September that the code was “just a test” and that the experiment was being done with a view to removing all adverts from the site.
Exploring the Strategic Opportunities of Blockchain:FOR INDUSTRY TRANSFORMATION, COMPETITIVENESS, MANAGEMENT AND PUBLIC VALUEThe technology that will enable, secure and formalize the digital relationships shaping the future of enterprise, government and the global economy has arrived — Blockchain. The first generation of the digital revolution brought us the Internet of Information. The second generation—powered by blockchain technology—is bringing us the Internet of Value: a new, distributed platform that can help us create the digital relationships that will reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better.In the first best-selling book about the blockchain revolution, Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott argued that blockchain technology will transform financial services, the deep architecture of the corporation, animate the Internet of Things, recast the role of government, revamp our content industries, and solve important problems like the security of organizations and the privacy of individuals. New blockchain-based business models will transform most industries, and big disruptors may themselves become disrupted.It’s now time to take the next step and conduct deep research into killer applications — identifying the most important opportunities for blockchain in business and government and drawing the roadmap for how to get there.
The empirical data and stories above do not mean that investors should stop trading all cryptocurrencies or pass on investing in blockchain-related products and services.To the contrary, the goal of this article is to elevate awareness that this industry lacks even the most basic safeguards and independent voices that would typically act as a counterbalance against bad actors. In this FOMO atmosphere investors need to be on full alert of the inherent risks of a less than transparent market with less than accurate information from companies and even news specialists.Cryptocurrencies aren’t inherently good or bad. In a single block, they can be used as a means to reward an entity for securing transactions and also a payment for holding data hostage.One former insider at an exchange who reviewed this article summarized it as the following:The cryptocurrency world is basically rediscovering a vast framework of securities and consumer protection laws that already exist; and now they know why they exist. The cryptocurrency community has created an environment where there are a lot of small users suffering diffuse negative outcomes (e.g., thefts, market losses, the eventual loss on ICO projects). And the enormous gains are extremely concentrated in the hands of a small group of often unaccountable insiders and “founders.” That type of environment, of fraudulent and deceptive outcomes, is exactly what consumer and investor protection laws were created for.Generally speaking, most participants such as traders with an active heartbeat are making money as the cryptocurrency market goes through its current bull run, so no one has much motive to complain or dig deeper into usage and adoption statistics. Even those people who were hacked for over $100,000, or even $1 million USD aren’t too upset because they’re making even more than that on quick ICO returns.We are still at the eff-you-money stage, in which everyone thinks they are Warren Buffett.85 The Madoffs will only be revealed during the next protracted downturn. So if you’re currently getting your cryptocurrency investment advice from permabull personalities on Youtube, LinkedIn, and Twitter with undisclosed positions and abnormally high like-to-comment ratios, you might eventually be a bag holder.86Like any industry, there are good and bad people at all of these companies. I’ve met tons of them at the roughly 100+ events and meetups I have attended over the past 3-4 years and I’d say that many of the people at the organizations above are genuinely good people who tolerate way too much drivel. I’m not the first person to highlight these issues or potential solutions. But I’m not a reporter, so I leave you with these leads.While everyone waits for Harry Markopolos to come in and uncover more details of the messes in the sections above, other ripe areas worth digging into are the dime-a-dozen cryptocurrency-focused funds.Future posts may look at the uncritical hype in other segments, including the enterprise blockchain world. What happened after the Great Pivot?[Note: if you found this research note helpful, be sure to visit Post Oak Labs for more in the future.]Acknowledgements
Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), has indicated that his institution does not have the authority to regulate cryptocurrencies.Making his statements to the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, Draghi said that “it would actually not be in our powers to prohibit and regulate” bitcoin and other digital currencies.The comments came in response to a question from the committee over whether ECB intends to issue a regulatory framework or an all-out ban on cryptocurrencies, and whether Draghi felt that higher capital requirements for fintech were required to protect the banking sector.Draghi revealed that the ECB has yet to discuss the potential impact of cryptocurrencies, but likely areas of analysis include the risk posed by cryptocurrency due to its scale, usage and economic impact.”We have to ask what effects cryptocurrencies have on the economy,” Draghi stated, adding that they are still too immature to be considered a viable method of payment.The primary concern for the ECB surrounding cryptocurrencies, and digital innovation more generally, is cybersecurity, he went on, stressing that protecting against cyber risks is central to the ECB’s agenda.Earlier this month, Draghi also criticised the proposed initiative by Estonia’s e-Residency project to launch a national cryptocurrency called “estcoin,” reportedly stating: “I will comment on the Estonian decision: no member state can introduce its own currency. The currency of the Eurozone is the euro.”Draghi is not the only senior ECB official to comment on cryptocurrencies in recent days.The central bank’s vice president, Vitor Constancio, made headlines last week when he stated that cryptocurrencies were a purely speculative asset, and compared them to “tulip mania” – the 17th century trading bubble experienced in the Netherlands. Constancio stated that the ECB doesn’t see the technology as a “threat to central bank policy.”Mario Draghi image via Shutterstock
This paper draws on regulatory governance scholarship to argue that the analytic phenomenon currently known as ‘Big Data’ can be understood as a mode of ‘design-based’ regulation. Although Big Data decision-making technologies can take the form of automated decision-making systems, this paper focuses on algorithmic decision-guidance techniques. By highlighting correlations between data items that would not otherwise be observable, these techniques are being used to shape the informational choice context in which individual decision-making occurs, with the aim of channelling attention and decision-making in directions preferred by the ‘choice architect’. By relying upon the use of ‘nudge’ – a particular form of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives, these techniques constitute a ‘soft’ form of design-based control. But, unlike the static Nudges popularised by Thaler and Sunstein [(2008). Nudge. London: Penguin Books] such as placing the salad in front of the lasagne to encourage healthy eating, Big Data analytic nudges are extremely powerful and potent due to their networked, continuously updated, dynamic and pervasive nature (hence ‘hypernudge’). I adopt a liberal, rights-based critique of these techniques, contrasting liberal theoretical accounts with selective insights from science and technology studies (STS) and surveillance studies on the other. I argue that concerns about the legitimacy of these techniques are not satisfactorily resolved through reliance on individual notice and consent, touching upon the troubling implications for democracy and human flourishing if Big Data analytic techniques driven by commercial self-interest continue their onward march unchecked by effective and legitimate constraints.