The proliferation of blockchains, cryptocurrencies and government projects has got the World economic Forum (WEF) asking: ‘who is steering this thing?’
The non-profit foundation, made up of 1,000 members from the largest companies in the world, rightly recognises that this frenzied proliferation could have adverse effects on the technolgy’s progress.
“This extraordinary technology may be stalled, sidetracked, captured or otherwise suboptimized depending on how all the stakeholders behave in stewarding this set of resources -i.e. how it is governed.”
“A multistakeholder approach’
The WEF believes that blockchain will be the ‘foundational platform of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and move the world towards an ‘internet of value’.
And, like the internet revolution before it, it is vital to keep governance of blockchain out of the hands of states or international state-based institutions.
The answer lies in an multistakeholder approach the foundation refers to as ‘global governance networks’.
The report goes into some serious details about the challenges that this kind of approach will face, not least in gathering up the key players and putting some form of communication structure in place, before listing what needs to be done:
- hold meetings of respected globally networked institutions to discuss the governance issues
- create a standards network to encourage the adoption of common standards among the industry
- create advocacy networks to ‘forestall regulatory, legislative, judicial or executive action that might stifle further innovation’
- initiate policy networks to monitor and address blockchain challenges
- create collaborative ‘knowledge networks’ based around education and research
The internet of value
Ripple Labs, a company in the real-time payment space, was recently chosen as ‘technology pioneer’ by the WEF.
In an interview for the CME Group Tech Talk Podcast, Ripple CEO Chrisi Larsen explained what was meant by ‘internet of value’:
“For the first time, you have a technology that solves that problem of a lack of interoperability between networks and will allow value to move like information. Why couldn’t value do this before? Until now, to confirm that value has been sent or transacted, you needed a central operator. So you needed some network operator in a country or a private enterprise to be the central authority to say that value moved.
“The beauty of distributed ledger systems is you don’t need that central operator, so that takes away that key problem that the world had.”