Blockchain Technology is not a Monolith

Many observers seem to assume blockchain technology is an immovable monolith. While such assumption does help when trying to explain how the technology works to the general public, this is indeed not the case when it comes to describing the actual status of the technology.

Rapid and agile innovation is one of the core traits of blockchains, backed by impressive human talent with substantial financial resources, addressing not only some of its well-known limitations but also enhancing its core functionality. Blockchain technology is evolving rapidly and the best way to take stock, for now, it’s via frequent snapshots. In fact, keeping track of blockchain innovations could quickly become a full-time job. In any event, the monolith is not only moving. It is indeed flying at the speed of light.


Read More

ICO Update: A Slowdown in Sight?

ICO data for last February is now available and shown in Figure 1 below.

We can immediately see that both the number of ICOs and the total investment volume has decreased. The latter, which amounted to 1.2 billion USD for the month, is 20 percent less than the total for January this year. The same goes for completed ICOs which decreased 21 percent. Among them, only one ICO surpassed 100 million dollars, reaching 150 million. And it managed to distance itself from the runner-up by a cool 100 million.

Figure 2 confirms the decline in total monthly investment but shows that the median declined only slightly or about 1.2%.

Even so, the median investment per ICO is still above 16 million dollars.((The average is much higher but probably not significant as the statistical distribution

Read More

Blockchain Technology and Human Development revisited

I was invited to Canada to discuss my blockchain technology paper. Here are my opening remarks at the panel organized by Government Affairs and IDRC.

Speaking about a seemingly complex subject such as blockchains poses a challenge not only for me but also for you, the audience. More so when the time is scarce. It is probably not the same challenge, however. So perhaps the best way to start this conversation is to take a step back and start with technological innovation. Technological innovation has been around longer than you and me, for sure. But what has changed nowadays is the frequency in which innovation is happening, especially since the dawn of digital computing and electronics.

The Internet is no doubt the best example here. Initially conceived with government support and public

Read More

An Overview of Blockchain Technology and Digital Identity

Like previous digital technologies, such as the Internet, for example, blockchain technology (BCT) has been driven by a high degree of techno-optimism not yet backed by on the ground impact or reliable evidence. Undoubtedly, the technology, which is still in its infancy, has enormous potential in many sectors and could promote human development if harnessed strategically.

One of the many BCT innovative traits is the use of sophisticated cryptographic tools to generate unique identities for individuals interacting within its distributed network. In general, such identities are pseudo-anonymous, immutable, secure and directly created and managed by the individual. This in principle makes BCT an ideal candidate to propel further innovation in the digital identity sector. The critical question

Read More

Overall Perspectives on Technology

Disruptive, transformative and revolutionary are some of the adjectives commonly used to describe the potential impact of new and emerging technologies on society. Joblessness, human decay, and the Singularity sit on the opposite side constantly reminding us of the darker side of technologies.

Indeed, there are two traditional approaches to the social impact of technology which, despite their very divergent predictions, share a common trait.

The first and most commonly accepted approach is the instrumental approach. Here, technology is a tool: A hammer is a hammer; the Internet is the Internet, ready to be used by people – but lacking any intrinsic social value. In this perspective, technology is neutral meaning 1. Technology can be used in any social environment and can thus be easily

Read More

ICOs: Crowding-in Blockchains?

Nowadays, ICOs (or Initial Coin Offerings) are all the rage. Unlike traditional IPOs, ICOs allow startups to streamline the capital raising process while at the same time enhancing the number of potential investors.  While venture capital is still part of the equation, other non-traditional investors and stakeholders are more than welcome to join. How is this possible? Is venture capital being democratized?

By default, blockchain technology (BCT) has built-in financial incentives. In the now classic case of Bitcoin, such incentive is the generation of a cryptocurrency. Users mining the Bitcoin blockchain to process network transactions get rewarded a certain amount of Bitcoins for their efforts which are computationally expensive and power hungry. Without such incentive, Bitcoin network

Read More

25 Years of the Sustainable Development Networking Programme, SDNP

The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) was a UNDP global program that ran between 1992 and 2004.  SDNP’s core goal was to enhance access to sustainable development information on a multi-stakeholder basis using new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Its scope of work was driven by Agenda 21, the sustainable development agenda endorsed by UN member countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Agenda 21 was composed of forty chapters, organized under four separate headings. The very last chapter of the agenda called for increased access to information for decision-making as one of the means of implementation of the agenda. Adding to its approach the targets of chapters 27 (strengthening non-government organizations) and 37 (capacity building in developing

Read More

Blockchain Mining: Competition and (de)Centralization

“One-CPU-one-vote”.1 CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, nowadays also known as microprocessor. From a governance perspective, this is perhaps one of the most interesting phrases included in the original Bitcoin paper penned by a still anonymous author. Could we then say the goal is to build a democracy of devices, a CPU-democracy where each node has the same “power”, so to speak?

The phrase is part of the paper’s discussion of the so-called proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm.2 Needless to say, PoW is not the only algorithm used to add records to a blockchain. Others such as proof-of-stake and proof-of-value for example have been developed. As a decentralized peer-to-peer network, blockchain allows any CPU to run PoW. In principle, any network node could be a blockchain miner. Attaching

Read More

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, nowadays also known as microprocessor.
2. Needless to say, PoW is not the only algorithm used to add records to a blockchain. Others such as proof-of-stake and proof-of-value for example have been developed.

Blockchain and the Future of Society

Alongside artificial intelligence and robotics, Blockchain technology is enjoying widespread popularity around the globe. The surrounding hype seems to increase by the minute. Pundits and supporters see a plethora of applications for the technology not limited just to the financial sector. But to the average person, Blockchain technology is mystifying, given its technical complexity. If you do not know what a nonce is, then you are not as cool as those who do.

blockchain2There are now plenty of books, papers and newspaper articles dealing with Blockchain. One of them, by Don Tapscott and his son, caught my attention. This book is a sound attempt to make a case for Blockchain as a disruptive technology that will impact most aspects of our lives – and not just financial services as first Read More

App-based Car Services in Guadalajara

The last time I visited Guadalajara, Mexico, was in 2011. Jalisco’s Electoral Institute (IEPC in Spanish) invited me to take part in a seminar on technology and citizen participation. Gathering proceedings were published later on and are still available here. Back then, regular taxis were one of the main options for moving around the city. Cabs in Guadalajara had meters so there was no need to negotiate ride fees with drivers before hoping into a car.

I went back a few days ago, on a short-term consultancy. While the hotel booked by the company that hired me was centrally located, the work envisaged meeting a wide diversity guatrenelectricoof local actors dispersed all around an already large city that continues to grow. Unlike five years ago, our options for going from one place to another were not limited

Read More