Updated: Jan 22
By Barbara Harvey
Blockchain Technology is set to change the world as we know it. But for the average person, its mere definition is elusive. The words ledgers, bitcoin, exchange are often synonymous with the technology and despite having had the concept explained to me numerous times, I was always a little confused about what Blockchain Technology actually was and why it was so important. That is until Don Tapscott took to the stage at the World Business Forum Sydney 2019.
As well as being a digital visionary, one of the world’s leading authorities on Blockchain, Co-author of "BlockChain Revolution" (with son Alex Tapscott), Don Tapscott can also add to his book of tricks, explaining Blockchain in such a way that it is simple to understand. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough,” and I tend to agree. After listening to Don speak I understood Blockchain to be a peer-to-peer exchange supply chain in which transactions of value, such as money transfers can occur in real-time, with infinitely more security than traditional banking. And in a recent article Don provided this explanation: "Blockchain provides a platform upon which we can create, store, and transact value digitally, peer-to-peer."*
But of course, Don's authority on Blockchain goes beyond a simple explanation. He is the founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, a think tank which currently researches and seeks to support organisations to benefit from the research by implementing Blockchain Technology into their operations.
Don is invited to present all over the world about the potential for Blockchain beyond its application in cryptocurrency. Don prophesies that Blockchain's greatest value lies in its potential to be a positive force for change for business, modes of operating, finance, for education and even voting in an election. As Don writes "Blockchain is the foundation for the second era of the internet – an internet of value, where anything of value, including money, our identities, cultural assets like music, and even a vote can be stored, managed, transacted, and moved in a secure, private way." I met with this incredible figure at WOBI's World Business Forum Sydney 2019 to talk about his ideas and his most treasured collaboration with his son Alex Tapscott.
You have long been known as a digital visionary. What does the future look like for the generation of children today?
There are a couple of scenarios for the future. One is that we keep going the way we are going but soon we will have passed a deadline to do something about climate change. There will be a world of further fragmentation of social discourse, structural unemployment, our data will have been captured irrevocably by giant digital conglomerates and our governments will not only undermine our privacy but be able to control our lives. Because a lot of medical data can be turned into software so big corporations and governments will not only spy on us but alter our behaviour. I could go on painting a nightmare scenario.
But there’s another option. A future in which we decide that we're going to embrace this new technology and we're going to build a new social contract to ensure that technology serves people. We could have a pretty cool world. A world where artists, musicians and creative people are fairly compensated for the work that they create. It could be a world where we turn around the current trend in which economies are growing but the middle class is shrinking- we have wealth creation but declining prosperity. That's a solvable problem. We could pre distribute wealth and ensure that the economy is more democratic and that people are fairly compensated for the value they create.
What is the role of Blockchain Technology in the future in solving global issues?
Technology doesn't build a better world for future generations. People do. Blockchain is a new platform whereby we can do some extraordinary things. We can know what's truthful and what isn’t. We can enable people to cooperate together to co-create value and wealth.
We can attack some of the biggest problems of our times, climate change, the crisis of legitimacy of our democratic institutions, creating a new second era of democracy. Climate change is the biggest problem facing the planet. And through Blockchain Technology there is the potential to contribute to solving it with a Blockchain-based incentive plan. For example, the company Carbon Axe.
CA is attacking the problem of climate change by tokenising carbon credits, providing an incentive to mobilise the entire planet to behave differently.
One of the greatest opportunities enabled by Blockchain technology has to do with recovering our identities. All this data that we have created has been captured by large corporations and institutions. But as individuals, we can't use the data to plan our lives. We can't monetise the data and our privacy is being undermined if we can't get that data back. The possibility of managing this data responsibly for ourselves is a wonderful opportunity.
Have you always been a big thinker? Were there any signs of creativity in your youth?
I was a musician at an early age and I played in my Dad's dance band. He asked me to play instruments that I didn't really know how to play properly. So whenever he was missing a guitar player or a keyboard, trumpet player or a bass player from the band I would sit in. So I had to get creative really fast. And if I think about High School my most important subject, hands down, was my music class. I'm still in a band today, it's called "Men in Suits." We used to do a concert every year whether the public demanded it or not but then we got good so we are recording now. We are a charity band and raise funds for good causes. We're not all men and we don't wear suits, but we've helped raise approximately 3-4 million dollars over the years for good causes.
What is it like working with your son Alex Tapscott?
It's been the most joyous collaboration of my life. When you're working with someone you share DNA with it's pretty interesting. We got to the point in writing the book where we didn't even need to speak to each other. We look at something together and I would say “I think…” and he would say before I finished… “I know what you mean…” and I would say "do you?” and he would say… “yes!” Here’s an example. At the time when our book “Blockchain Revolution” was released an Australian named David Wright said he was Satoshi Nakamoto* One day we were doing an interview on television and the journalist said: “I need to ask you. Is David Wright Satoshi Nakamoto?” Without missing a beat, Alex and I looked at each other. I said, “what do you think Alex? Is it time?” He said, “it's time.” And together we said: “We are Satoshi Nakamoto.” And that was not rehearsed. It just happened.
Thank you, Don Tapscott, for an insightful and entertaining conversation.
* Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the creator of Bitcoin. It is unknown who Satoshi Nakamoto is.
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