By Robert Herian, Lecturer in Law, The Open University Law School
Blockchain technologies first emerged as the architecture making Bitcoin work after the 2008 financial crisis, and arguably as a direct response to it. Since then, blockchains have been promoted as a means of conducting peer-to-peer, decentralised networking in a variety of sectors in order to do away with the problem of the ‘middleman’, and help build the economic layer the World Wide Web never truly had.
From supply chain management to land registries, provenance to artist income, electoral monitoring to health records, blockchain appears to its stakeholders as a clear answer to the question of how online activity between individuals and businesses can be made more secure, trustworthy and transparent. Centralised global financial institutions and services that blockchain was designed to circumvent are, however, now in control of much of the research and development around the technology. So, what is the future for blockchain?
Robert Herian from the OU Law School sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on blockchain, examining policy development and regulation of distributed ledger technologies. With the debate raging about how to regulate – or indeed even ban – cryptocurrency and the role blockchain can play in the world economy, his new book ‘Regulating blockchain’ is due out later in the year. The Lecturer in Law also gave one of three presentations at a masterclass organised by the OU Business School at the Crowne Plaza in The City last Wednesday (2 May) to discuss his ideas.
“There’s so much excitement and positivity about blockchain at the moment, while radical blockchains undoubtedly scare governments and big business. It’s still really unclear what role blockchain will play in the fourth industrial revolution but one thing is for certain, this technology can’t be ignored.
“Businesses have been put on notice but in reality, it’s really hard to tell when it will arrive on a wider scale. There is a marked contrast between blockchain evangelists who claim that the technology can solve all the world’s problems, versus a far more mundane reality that blockchain is little more than a means of accounting. Our underlying problems in society will still exist even though we’re using a new technology.”
‘The future of work 4.0: Disruptive technologies, opportunity or threat?’ Business Perspectives masterclass also featured presentations from Dr Charles Barthold, Lecturer in People Management, on the fourth industrial revolution and the possibility of a universal basic income, as well as a discussion on some of the opportunities and challenges posed by potential economic ‘disruptions’.