How will we know if Blockchain Really Improves People’s Lives

In last of our few posts at[1], we mainly discussed the blockchain potential benefits, challenges and costs for a number of industries. In continuation to our informative content series on blockchain, we have, through this post, tried to explore the same but in perspective of people, i.e. how is blockchain actually helpful for improving people’s lives. Is this something whose benefits are just to be in favor of commercial entities and entrepreneurs or is it transformational enough to bring positive impacts in people’s lives and community at large. We will see this in this post.

Since last two decades, cloud computing, internet and other related technologies have brought great revolution for a number of aspects of society and business today. These advancements have helped people and organizations to be more productive, and indeed these have enriched the life of many people. However, the fundamental mechanics of how organizations and people forge the agreements with one another and implement them have not been updated since the start of the 21st century. In addition, with each upcoming generation, we have added even more processes, middlemen, bureaucratic checks and balances, and complex layers to our formal transactions and interactions, especially the financial transactions[2]. It seems that we are pushing the old processes through new pipes.

So, what could be the solution? One potential and streamlined solution is an intriguing blockchain technology, which is not much understood outside the little fraternity of the computer scientists. Blockchain has provided the technology underlying Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that has been a topic of much speculation and interest in business, technical and law enforcement settings, and at large, in society.

To me, the blockchain is more interesting and intriguing phenomenon. It is entirely new architecture for business. It is the foundation for developing a new generation of transactional applications that set up transparency and trust while streamlining the business processes[3]. It holds the potential to greatly reduce the complexity and cost of getting things done. It essentially could help taking hyper efficiency and openness to business processes that we expect in an era of Internet.

Blockchain oriented systems can greatly help to improve industries, starting with insurance and banking. However, its impact is much broader. It can make a difference whenever valuable assets are shifted from one party to another and the time when you need to know any information- anything from terms of business contracts to electronic artwork is unchangeable and unique by any party involved without the consent of all parties.

Though blockchain, people are able to exchange money or buy insurance safely without bank account, even across national boundaries. This is the feature that is actually transformative for around two billion people in the world at present, which are underserved by the financial institutions[4]. Blockchain technology lets people record simple and enforceable contracts without any lawyer. It helps to sell real estate, stocks, event tickets and nearly all kinds of rights and property without any broker.

Since blockchain transactions are recorded by using private and public keys, which are long character strings that are readable by humans, people are able to opt for being anonymous while making third parties verifying the digital agreement made. In addition to people, institutions can also use the blockchain to save binding promises and public records. For instance, it has been shown by the researchers at the University of Cambridge in the U.K[5] that how drug companies can be required to add comprehensive descriptions of their potential clinical drug trials to the blockchain. This can really prevent these companies from later shifting the goalposts if the trial didn’t pan out as expected, an all-too-common technique. George Galloway, a mayoral candidate in London, proposed putting the annual budget of the city on blockchain ledger to enhance collective auditing by the citizens[6].

Maybe the most admirable advantage of blockchain technology is the enticement it creates for the participants to work truthfully where rules are applied equally to all. Bitcoin resulted in some renowned abuses in contraband trading, and some immoral uses of blockchain technology are perhaps inevitable. However, as an infrastructure that enhances society’s public records depository and strengthens participatory and representative legal and governance systems, blockchain technology holds the potential to improve privacy, freedom and security of data conveyance, which certainly ranks up there with life, autonomy and the pursuit of happiness.