22 December 2015

Tapping Bitcoin and Blockchains to Support the Solidarity Economy

(excerpt from application to present at The Global Social Economy Forum - GSEF 2016 - in Montreal, Canada)

A revolutionary peer-to-peer technology was created in late 2008: Bitcoin and its underlying software, the Blockchain. Its creator's intention was to offer people a tool to circumvent the hold that financial systems had on their populations, and to prevent the corruption, mismanagement, and exclusion that governments, banks, and corporations were perpetuating.
Since then, Bitcoin has been embraced worldwide by early adopters, technologically savvy individuals, and more recently, those same financial institutions that were meant to be disrupted.

It is vital that more people understand how to use bitcoin and blockchains so that they can benefit disenfranchised communities, and so that the development of these technologies include more diverse perspectives than just software engineers and economists.

The Bitcoin blockchain and others such as Ethereum offer opportunities to disintermediate contracts and transactions, giving people the power to interact without lawyers, notaries, banks, realty agents, and other middlemen. These are tools for empowering and increasing social solidarity at both the local level and worldwide. Blockchains and digital assets can be used for encrypted online voting and shared governance, true peer-to-peer online marketplaces, crowd-funding and crypto-equity, and so much more.

My role is to educate and inspire more people to learn about bitcoin and blockchains, so they too can benefit and shape our future. Ongoing partnerships are informal and include educational groups (eg. CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium; Diginomics; College Cryptocurrency Network; Bitcoin Meetups worldwide), as well as small businesses and non-profit organizations (eg. Empowered Law; BitGive Foundation; Factom).

The adoption of Bitcoin as a currency is growing worldwide, but is still primarily used by the privileged, despite efforts to integrate better remittance options and improved micro-transaction tools for less wealthy populations. Similarly, bitcoin is also being used quite a bit for speculation rather than actual transacting. These factors are unfortunately concentrating its use rather than spreading opportunities for those who need them most. Along the same lines, large financial institutions (eg. Goldman Sachs) are experimenting with private blockchains to tap into their potential efficiencies, thereby recreating the exclusionary nature of our current financial systems. But the ability to create useful and open blockchain networks is available to all of us, if we work together and engage invested communities well.

Blockchains are the future - let's make sure everyone has access.