Since the blue/black dress confusion took over the world way back in 2014 another confounding topic has slowly but surely taken root. Over the years governments, central banks, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts have mooted for the adoption of Blockchain technology, the now debunked misconception that this equates to adopting one of its use-cases, cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin), is patently false. As exciting as new technologies are they do come with their own pitfalls as evidenced in the Cambridge Analytica scandal (2018). Simply banning a piece of technology over its perceived loopholes or lack of accountability over use is not the right approach first and a winning argument second.
Barring El-Salvador, which adopted Blockchain and also cryptocurrency (2021) at a national level, there are no social experiments to illustrate the positives or negatives of this technology at scale, yet. China, Bolivia, Egypt and a few others have taken a hawkish or rather dragon-ish stance on this issue, EU, US, Singapore are trying to integrate them or atleast find use cases for them. The common thread amongst all these nations is to calculate if the perceived benefits outweigh the potential negatives of adoption and then take a stance.
Firstly, this is an ever involving space, malicious actors will keep finding methods to misuse technology, it is upto the regulators to monitor-identify-assess-act accordingly and at pace. Secondly, the public should have the space to voice their opinion on an issue that might impact them, public knowledge/understanding on this issue tends to be not accurate in most cases. Lastly, a set of controlled experiments need to be conducted before a stance is taken.
This is not a problem solving exercise but an exercise in charting a path forward.
To address the points in order they were stated in, all government deliberations need to be realigned to –
- Recognize and constitute a body/grouping of people whose understanding and take on the matter is of good repute. Often it is the myriad voices of so called experts, wonderkids etc who lead to the cacophony and drown out the credible information. As this is a rapidly evolving space, researchers, entrepreneurs and civil servants with required technical backgrounds can serve as a source of information and arbitrator of disputes on technicalities.
- Provide for a two way communication medium for the wider public and the panel to communicate views, the panel is representative and not absolute .
- Identify small demonstrable use cases to check if the technology will work for the society, often it gets forgotten that technology is to serve needs and solve problems and not a high-school trend that needs to be adopted no matter the compatibility.
- In El-Salvador vendors were thrust with a technology that they neither had the means to adapt at short notice nor understood greatly of, to avoid such missteps a proper use case needs to be identified and agreed upon first. Then what success means should be clearly defined and within a set time frame the experiment should be carried out with the results for all public to see. From there with further public consultations a proper stance can be taken, there is no hurry as Elon Musk is not going to refuse to sell Teslas nor Jack Dorsey or any other crypto enthusiast close their doors to us .
A small example to illustrate this would be this, India is in the nascent stages of becoming a manufacturing hub, all Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) face the issue of counterfeits in the market and also at the retailing points price haggling is a common site. Blockchain’s credentials are burnished by the fact that it is an IMMUTABLE record keeper, the records can’t be edited/modified or tampered with once entered. The entire chain from OEMs to the final retailers of select industries can be given access to a chain and have records entered at each stage marking the equipment, the price, the process it undergoes, the buyer, the seller etc. This can be a public-private undertaking with the government supporting by providing and maintaining the chain while the companies ensure everyone along the chain know of the chain and how to use it also ensuring that they do use it. Over time compliance costs will theoretically come down, boosting adoption rates. If quality assurance problems attributed to the counterfeits are brought down when compared to before the exercise and price stability is achieved , this counts as a victory.
Such exercises can be scaled if need be. This will allow both exposure to those intended to benefit from the technology in a regulated manner while not depriving access to those keen to access and experiment with it.
What can we conclude?