Evidence meeting 1: BLOCKCHAIN Definitions
Please download PDF Evidence Meeting 1 Overview here.
Evidence meeting 1: BLOCKCHAIN Definitions
- Date: 6 March 2018
- Time: 5:30 – 7:00 pm
- Location: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
- Participants:162 registered attendees
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain (APPG Blockchain) was set up by co-chairs Damien Moore MP and Grant Shapps MP to explore the impacts and implications of Blockchain technology. It launched at the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on 30 January 2018.
In 2018, the APPG Blockchain Group has decided to focus on building a roadmap to understand the practicalities and steps for addressing the implications of Blockchain technology. The group has prioritised six policy areas’ respective economic, social and ethical implications: Definitions, Supply Chain Optimisation, Business Models and Competitiveness, the Impact on Fraud, the Impact on People and Smart and Intelligent Contract.
Evidence Meeting 1 concentrated on: BLOCKCHAIN DEFINITIONS
- Helen Disney,Chief Executive, Unblocked
- Chris Skinner,Author of The Finanser
- Geoffrey Goodell,Senior Research Associate, Computer Science UCL.
- Terry Igharoro,Founder and CEO, Inventory Club
- Simon Taylor, Co-Founder, 11:FS
- What is blockchain as a technology and as a business tool?
- What are the different constituent technologies and technological processes of Blockchain?
- Which types of Blockchain are appropriate for what?
- What Blockchain typologies do we envisage?
V. BLOCKCHAIN CONTEXTS
Helen Disney introduced Distributed Ledger and Blockchain technology as being part of the same family of technologies. She pointed out that they predominantly focus on new ways of creating trust and processing information, and conducting transactions. She argued there are different potential applications for blockchain and why blockchain is both highly relevant, timely and needed. In the public sector, she said, blockchain can improve services, cyber security and ease the administrative burdens. She then discussed a number of industry use cases for blockchain technology including for: e-voting, land registry, medical records, use in smart cities and document management. She advised the government focus on classification, and gain a full grasp of understanding the implications of these new technologies.
Chris Skinner from the Finanser followed by suggesting that most of the attention blockchain technology had received was around bitcoin. Bitcoin, he said, provides an interesting demonstration of the radical power of Blockchain and displays the potential to innovate in a wide array of industries. Put simply, he said, blockchain enables people to transact freely and quickly with trust, share databases, increase efficiency and reduce transaction costs.
Blockchain was explained in the following way: Blockchain adds transaction history to a digital record ledger, a ‘block’, which is processed as part of a ‘chain’ of blocks – that is – a transaction between two actors, is assessed and confirmed quickly by a number of server ‘nodes’. The confirmation of a previous block being processed initiates the confirmation of the next block confirmation process.
Geoffrey Goodell from UCL said British Standard Institute (BSI) was working on terminology and concepts, reference and architecture, and the taxonomy and ontology of Distributed Ledger Technologies. Standardisation of these technologies can help address the clash of interests between institutional stakeholders to prevent money laundering and a libertarian mindset. He said we need a new set of protocols, not implementations to be the same. Government standardisation can allow for new systems to emerge, as innovators alone cannot provide us ideas and applications without institutions; multi stakeholder processes without breaking the consensus of trust, and to empower local communities to establish business practice on their own terms, and a mechanism to transact
Simon Taylor said Distributed Ledgers and Blockchain allows the government to focus on the question: who are you and what problem do you want to solve? He argued between standard solutions to problems versus tailored solutions. Decentralised governments for example allow us to have a structure without one single leader. It is a new structure which gives the ability to solve different problems for different people simultaneously.
Viii. BLOCKCHAIN VALUE ADDED
Commentators in the discussion noted that Blockchain is a new piece of technology which is currently growing organically. The government needs to ask how it can add real value to both the development of the technology, and ask how the technology can add real value to society. How can Blockchain help us reimagine and create systems in an entirely new way?
The advisors showed that Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technologies are transformative in their nature, allowing for unprecedented decentralisation, programmable transparency, and ultimately, help improve trust between individuals. The nature of Blockchain and DLTs being distributed across a number of computers and/or ‘nodes’ means existing systems which exist on a centralised structure are quickly becoming redundant.
This leaves the government with a number of questions however, including how these systems will reform governance techniques themselves. The UK government should consider how best to utilise and regulate these technologies for society.