Blockchain as a Catalyst for Good
Esther Shein | 08 November 2018
Blockchain and its ability to “embed trust” can help elevate trust, which right now, is low, according to Sally Eaves, a chief technology officer and strategic advisor to the Forbes Technology Council, speaking at The Linux Foundation’s Open FinTech Forum in New York City.
People’s trust in business, media, government and non-government organizations (NGOs) is at a 17-year low, and businesses are suffering as a result, Eaves said.
Additionally, Eaves said, 87 percent of millennials believe business success should be measured in more than just financial performance. People want jobs with real meaning and purpose, she added.
To provide further context, Eaves noted the following urgent global challenges:
- 1.5 billion people cannot prove their identity (which has massive implications in not just banking but education as well)
- 2 billion people worldwide do not have a bank account or access to a financial institution
- Identity fraud is estimated to cost the UK millions of euros annually.
Blockchain for good
Blockchain has benefits all the way along the supply chain, she said. “Supply chains that are non-transparent, ethical or sustainable are prevalent, especially in developing nations, alongside high levels of illegal trade with no traceability or accountability.” Eaves is focusing on the transparency of blockchains and their integration with other technologies.
More needs to be done in the areas of AI development, blockchain, and cybersecurity with teams that are truly diverse and inclusive, she stressed. People also need to look at interoperability and changing the current approach of “siloed thinking.” Eaves said she doesn’t believe just in using advanced technologies but in repurposing older technology as well. “I’m all about sustainable, environmental, and economic impact.”
Mining costs, scalability, and performance are other considerations for blockchain, and some of the newer “flavors” of blockchain that Eaves is working on are “dealing with that head on,” she noted.
A particular project she mentioned is the Sustainable Asset Exchange, which addresses ethical mineral supply, ethical diamonds, food, and bamboo as a replacement for plastic, and how that can be traded fairly. Blockchain technology can be used as well as RFID and other technologies at every stage of the supply chain, she said.
All of this is geared at what Eaves called “a triple bottom line,’’ focused on sustainable development in economic, social, and environmental benefits and in bringing them together. “It doesn’t have to be an either or,” she said. “Sometimes, if we talk about one thing or another, we never look enough at how we can integrate them. And that’s what I passionately believe in.”
Headway is being made. Eaves cited research from Stanford University Business School that shows two-thirds of 193 early blockchain projects are expected to start demonstrating impact and tangible benefits in the next six months.
A three-way opportunity for change
Eaves went on to discuss opportunities from technological convergence. Another project she mentioned she is working on is in precision medicine, using blockchain security alongside machine learning to delve into pattern recognition to improve population disease management.
She predicted a rise in blockchain as a service; opportunities from science and technology pairings, such as genomics and blockchain; and opportunities to apply blockchain for social impact and to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Blockchain and evolving sustainable business models
The last segment of Eaves’s talk focused on using bamboo as a sustainable replacement for plastic in manufacturing bicycles, as well as in 3D printing and building modular homes.
“We need to make the application of advanced technology accessible to all and make it feel like this is something that is valuable and relevant to our everyday lives – not just something for the few,’’ she said. Her goal is to use blockchain to create sustainable business models that combine profit and purpose and are real-world and relevant to everyone.
We need to have a “cross-fertilization of ideas” from different aspects of the economy and addressing non-advanced technology issues, Eaves said. “You can’t have the best ideas in the world and most advanced forms of technology if we haven’t got the basic infrastructure right,’’ Eaves said. Otherwise, “we won’t get to that point of acceleration.”
You can watch the entire presentation below:
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