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Blockchain Disruptive Possibilities

Scott Burkitt

This is the first in a series of articles in which I will explore the possibilities and opportunities surrounding the use of blockchain. Blockchain technology but combined with the similarly decentralized and disruptive Internet of Things (IoT), it’s gearing up to be one of the most disruptive technologies in recent history.

While the technology behind blockchain may be complex, the applications and interface for the users can be as simple as using an app on your phone. Blockchain enables faster more efficient transactions, and information sharing and permanent event logs in a transparent and confidential manner. The opportunities in a digital economy seem endless. 

In today’s article I want to explore the idea of how governments might bend the curve of a pandemic without sacrificing personal freedoms in the name of safety utilizing disruptive technologies such as blockchain. 

We're often led to believe that there is a binary choice between safety and freedom. In the case of the pandemic it is framed as an increasing rate of infection associated with freedom or defeating the virus through centralized government surveillance, tracking, tracing and forced or mandated widespread lockdowns.


Perhaps there is another way? 


While the Blockchain is showing us that’s not true. The technology, which works through encryption, is ideal for verifying, securing, and sharing data.

Automated rules can be coded to execute specific events such as rewarding citizens for behaviors that decrease virus spread rather than having governments mandate behaviors and require intrusive surveillance to monitor and that are applied broadly resulting in economic suffocation. It's an alternative to the current gridlock of liberty v. lockdown.

Here’s how it works:

A smart contract is a self-executing contract or set or rules that is directly written into lines of code. The code and the rules or agreements contained therein exist across a distributed, decentralized blockchain network. The code controls the execution, and transactions are trackable and irreversible.

Envision a technology-enabled game-like app that might utilize digital coins or tokens that can be created and awarded automatically via the smart contract to users who participate, share information privately and comply with social distancing.

Shared information, movements and geolocation data would be stored on the encrypted blockchain to protect privacy. Individuals that comply with social distancing or share test results could be rewarded digital tokens that could be converted to fiat currency.

This would also serve as a kind of economic stimulus. Additionally, testing and contact tracing could be incorporated while all the data is securely stored on the blockchain.

For example, after attending an event, dining out or being in proximity to a group of people where one or more of them subsequently test positive for the virus, the app could alert you and recommend getting tested enabling the app to contact others who may have been exposed all while maintaining the individual’s privacy.   

In an era of technological disruption, we must not allow ourselves to accept this false dichotomy of freedom versus lockdown. The call for global government collaboration does not have to be an alarming call for centralization.

We should not willingly give geolocation data to governments, without applying privacy-preserving technologies like blockchain. Blockchain (decentralized) technology is still in its early stages but it is quickly becoming one of the most disruptive technologies in recent history.

The encrypted and decentralized nature of the record keeping combined with the automated execution of smart contracts allows potential applications to enable peer-to-peer trust instead of requiring multiple intermediaries to have access to and verify data stored in the blocks. This is the opposite of centralized government control.

In short, blockchain is a way to have digital trust.  Specifically, what that means is that the technology can facilitate a transaction that does not require the parties to trust each other.  Blocks on the blockchain store data.

They can store data about monetary transactions such as bitcoin does, but they can also store data about property exchanges, attributes (time or temperature to name a few), or documents (test reports, material certifications, certificates of authenticity etc.) in a supply chain, and even votes for a candidate.

Now is the time to deploy new technology. We have the tools to design guidelines and policies to protect and enhance our lives without having to sacrifice freedom. We already have a way to avoid the abuse of surveillance and the corruption of centralized power.

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