Melanie Swan: Crypto Enlightenment: A Social Theory of Blockchains

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This is a fundamental article about distributed trust and a must-read if you want to understand what is coming. The writer of this article is Melanie Swan a globally renowned blockchain economic theorist, philosopher, and science and technology innovator at the MS Futures Group. She founded the Institute for Blockchain Studies in 2014 and is the author of Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy.

There is something new and fundamental happening in the world which could be the start of the next enlightenment period. The core of this is shifting from centralized to decentralized models in all aspects of our lives, both individual and societally.

…A philosophy of economic theory is necessary since nearly all existing economic theories have taken scarcity as a central precept. These antiquated models configured by scarcity are weak philosophically because they are conceptually limited, and are also weak empirically since there is emerging and existing evidence of situations in the world where scarcity is not a parameter, and not the governing parameter. A ready example of this is digital goods, such as software or digital images, where there is essentially zero cost to producing another unit by copying the goods electronically.

…The crypto-enlightenment includes seeing the potential impact of blockchains beyond the flexible recasting of human economic and political processes; blockchains are singularity-class technologies. A singularity-class technology is a technology for the large-scale trustful automated orchestration of vast and detailed processes. The power of singularity-class technologies, this level of technological orchestration of processes, possibly without our human participation, has given way to the fear of runaway technologies. The fear of runaway technology is in the same form, and persists across all singularity-class technologies, that AIs, robots, nanobots, 3D printers, matter compilers, space terraformers, synthetically-replicating bioengineered life, etc. will take over the world.

Blockchains are a potential solution to the fear of runway technology in any of these areas. The fear of runaway technology can be allayed in noticing that the very nature and design principles of singularity-class technologies, certainly blockchains, and by extension, perhaps any singularity-class technology, are that the large-scale orchestration cannot proceed otherwise than through a system of checks and balances. The key blockchain functionality principles are being a very-large scale automated system of checks and balances where all ‘transactions’ must be validated, confirm via a reputation or other mechanism, employing algorithmic trust and smartnetwork consensus mechanisms.

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Founder of Blockchain News and The Hackitarians Foundation, Richard Kastelein is an award winning publisher and editor, hackathon organiser and entrepreneur. He has written over 700 articles at Blockchain News, has a massive network in the Blockchain arena and is available as a speaker and consultant. (richard@the-blockchain.com) Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on technology at events in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Gdansk, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Oxford, Rio de Janeiro, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, and Zurich. A Creative Technologist & Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) his career began in the Native Press (Canadian Arctic) and he later spent a decade in the Caribbean media. Currently, he writes occasionally for Wired Insights, Guardian & Virgin and his articles have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German & French.