BLOCKCHAIN FOR SOCIAL GOOD
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In 2008, while the rest of the world faced the biggest financial crisis in decades, a paper was circulated among a small group of cryptography enthusiasts. In this paper, Satoshi Nakamoto explained the concept of a cryptocurrency called Bitcoin and a solution to the long-standing problem of double-spending (where digital tokens representing unique value can be spent more than once). For years, double spending has been one of the main barriers to the widespread adoption of digital money. In 2008, the domain name Bitcoin.org was registered, and at the beginning of 2009, the genesis block – that is, the first block in a blockchain – for bitcoin was created. At that point in time, nobody foresaw the impact that Nakamoto’s underlying technology would have on the world’s largest organisations, trusted intermediaries, and society at large.
Since Nakamoto’s paper, distributed ledger technology, also known as blockchain technology, has rapidly gained popularity. Although ledgers have been around for millennia, for the first time in history, they can be updated across multiple organisations and computer networks simultaneously through the use of blockchain technology. This functionality significantly reduces the possibility of “gaming” the system. That is, the distributed and decentralised nature of the blockchain ledgers prevents any single party from controlling, and therefore manipulating, the ledgers. The cryptography underlying blockchain ensures a “trustless” system, thereby removing the need for intermediaries to manage risk. This is a true paradigm shift and it is why so many organisations are exploring Blockchain’s potential use to improve their tracking and audit systems. Although blockchain technology has only been around for less than a decade, businesses, government organisations, and consortia alike have significantly invested in this modern phenomenon, with a view to exploiting it for their financial or political
Identity has become flawed as too often your privacy is breached unnecessarily and too many people fall victim to identity theft. That is, if you at least have an identity. Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights stipulates that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” As such, identity is a fundamental human right. Unfortunately, according to the World Bank, approximately 1.5 billion people live without an officially recognised identity, most of them in Africa or Asia. These people do not own a government issued and recognised document and often are the most vulnerable people who cannot access basic services because they lack an official identity. In the digital society that we live, it is, therefore, time for change and if we want to solve some of the wicked problems discussed in this book, we first will need to solve the identity problem. As it seems, Blockchain might be a suitable technology to do so. Before we dive into how to solve this identity problem and what the role of Blockchain could be, let’s first discuss what identity actually is, because it might not be what you think it is.
3.2 What is identity?
Know thyself was inscribed in the forecourt of the Greek Temple of Apollo at Delpi and since then philosophers, psychologists, scientists, poets, authors, artists and politicians have discussed and debated the topic. Plato referred to it as long-standing wisdom, which was given as an advice by the Gods, and according to Socrates, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. It seems so easy to answer the question, Who am I and What is my identity? But it is a lot more difficult than one would expect and many people disagree on what identity is. Is your identity what is stated on your government issued identity document such as a passport or driver’s license, assuming you have such a document? Is identity your name that your parents gave you or is it the nick name that your friends gave you? Is identity your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn username, is it your employee number at your work or is it your social security number or your credit card number? If your credit card number has been stolen, has your identity been stolen as well? What about the pseudonyms that you use when you comment on different forums on the web or the username that you created for that dating website, is that your identity? What if those websites get hacked? What if you suffer from dementia and forget your name, have you then lost your identity or what if you are schizophrenic, do you have multiple identities? These are just some of the questions that come up when thinking about identity. But that is not all. Once you have identified who you are, we have to deal with the persistence of identity; which you is you? Is your identity who you are today, yesterday or tomorrow? Is it your physical appearance, your perceived identity, your feelings and thoughts or your actions? If you change your attitudes, behaviour or even your physical body (your cells are replacing themselves constantly), does it change who you are? In addition, is your perceived identity different from your real identity? Your feelings about yourself and your characteristics might be perceived differently by you than by others. You might identity yourself as a shy, introverted person, while others view you as a confident and extraverted person. The way we perceive our identity, however, determines how we experience life – does this mean that it is part of your identity or is your identity how others see you? As hard as it may seem to answer this rather philosophical question in the analogue world, it seems a little bit easier to address in the digital world as we will see. Nevertheless, as you may have discovered by now, identity is a lot more complex than you might have thought, keeping in mind that have not yet embarked on questions about group identity and all those devices that you can connect to the internet: do they have an identity as well? As it appears, they do, but we will get back to that in a bit.
“The digital revolution’s first era failed to solve pressing social, economic and environmental challenges. Blockchain offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right. Blockchain: Transforming Your Business and Our World skilfully champions the opportunities offered by a new Internet of value.”
“Blockchain’s potential is so much more than digital currency. Blockchain: Transforming Your Business and Our World is a step towards bringing that potential to life, exploring positive use cases and practical solutions to a diverse range of global social issues, from climate change and healthcare access to digital identity and poverty. For anyone interested in how we can build a better world with blockchain technology, this book provides an educational snapshot into what a more decentralized future could look like.”
“This is a fine and important read especially the Blockchain history I thoroughly recommend you read, ponder and absorb for your token strategy planning”
“The authors tackle a timely and important new technology in an accessible and engaging way. This is a book that will reward you for the time you spend reading it, and we are already looking forward to reading it a second time. It is a worthy addition to the emerging collection of informative and helpful books on the world of blockchain.”
“So much more than JABB (Just Another Blockchain Book). Van Rijmenam & Ryan take you on a tour of the world’s potential with the blockchain trust protocol and its ability to change our world. When you’re done reading this book, you’ll be sketching the art of the possible … not dreaming about it.”
“Trust is a competitive advantage. You earn it in droplets and lose it in buckets. Van Rijmenam & Ryan turn the typical boring blockchain book upside and create a journey on how trust can change our world. More so, the book makes you dream big – not just about the changes that are coming – but ones that you can participate in or imagine on your own. Never really had a “Must Read 2018 Books” list … until now.”
“Blockchain will do for trust what the Internet did for search. In a world of good and bad actors, where trust becomes a differentiator, Van Rijmenam & Ryan expand the blockchain aperture from the ubiquitous (and overwritten) cryptocurrency discussion, to a discussion how trust can change the world: business, social, equality, and more.”