Blockchains represent the computer hardware and software behind the bitcoins application. It is one of the hottest topics in the technology world today. Knowing we may step into stereotypes, it is instructive to observe blockchains from a moral innovation perspective to observe how humanity is changing.
To define a blockchain in its most basic form, it is the ability to communicate (from sender to receiver) information that can be valued by the sender and the receiver which define an application (such as bitcoin as a currency). The communications process itself uses the cloud to connect multiple servers with data that can be interpreted from one server to the next using encryption. The combination of not knowing how many servers in what configuration in this process, along with the encryption technology among each pair of servers make this “blockchain” impossible to hack with what we know today.
In a school, the most sensitive information include the student health records (i.e. HIPAA compliance) and transcripts. A blockchain application in a school could be the school issuing “coins” to students to carry their transcript wherever they go, without having to request a transcript from the school, as long as the recipient of the transcript (e.g. a college) accepts the transcript protected by the blockchain.
Even though customized blockchains can work now, it can be very expensive – too expensive for applications like transcripts. To achieve economy of scale, blockchain applications require an infrastructure with standardized protocols and/or very large transactions like movements of currencies. It is similar but not exactly comparable to the Internet released by DARPA in the 20th century, waiting for HTML(language) and IP (communication protocol) to emerge.
From a Moral Innovator perspective, the values of over 90% of humanity come from Christians, Muslims, Indians and Chinese. Christians and Muslims follow monotheistic values where Christians drive innovations. Indians and Chinese follow community based moral values where Chinese drive trade. (Humans cannot live off morality alone because morality does not feed us.) Less than 10% of humanity lives outside these four communities, the largest of whom are the Japanese. As outliers, Japanese have demonstrated that they can sacrifice their culture such as shogunate in order to emulate the Christian innovations to the extreme. It was the Japanese that delivered the greatest intensity of massacre during the second world war – more intense than the holocaust – when over 300,000 mostly women and children were killed over a 50 day period in 1937. About 100,000 additional Chinese were victims of chemical warfare experiments, the most notorious the unit 731 battalion based in Harbin, China. What makes this worse is the fact that war criminals are still celebrated in the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan today.
Even though blockchains started in the 1990s, it was the Japanese that introduced the bitcoin application in 2008. Large companies like IBM and Google seek the very large transactions (such as payment for the millions of barrels of oil transacted everyday) or the elusive “Big Data.” Without any infrastructure, Christians especially associated with Silicon Valley propelled progress of this innovation after 2008. As a potential instrument of trade to support their One Belt One Road initiative, China is working very hard to suppress the volume of activities through Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) because the infrastructure simply does not exist. Germany is just now beginning to see ICOs and travelling to Silicon Valley to explore how blockchains can correlate to product qualify from standardized processes where the Germans excel. ICO valuation, as described by a Venture Capitalist, is “way out there.”
Without confidence on our innate morality, and without knowledge of a visible path to scalability, Moral Innovators need to focus on the value of the applications that come close to being accepted by coin buyers and sellers. As of April 2018, no compelling visible path exists for any ICO.