Blockchain: Centralized values in a decentralized system?

The blockchain and its seemingly almost inexhaustible areas of application are increasingly coming into public focus. However, one important topic has hardly been discussed to date, but should be if the applications are to be successfully implemented: the ethical components and implications of this new technology.

In this article, entrepreneur and financial expert Maxim Bederov sheds light on the importance of users’ and programmers’ morals for the success of various blockchain applications. Centrality versus decentrality The great advantage of blockchain is its decentralization. Therefore, the headline may seem a bit misleading to some readers. What is meant by this, however, is the central value framework on which blockchain technology is based. This ethical foundation, in order for it to have any viability at all, must be defined very precisely and extensively.

The following questions should be addressed:

  • Which moral concepts do we want to implement with the blockchain?
  • Which ones do we not want to implement under any circumstances?
  • What happens if fundamental values are violated?
  • What are our fundamental values?
  • Which society/community do we want to evolve towards?
  • Which specific behavior is desirable, which undesirable?

You realize, these are already philosophical questions, but they inevitably arise, with the increasing use of blockchain technology.

The community’s canon of values must be worked out in any case. After all, what can happen if this is not the case was impressively shown to us in 2016. The Ethereum disaster Ethereum is the cryptocurrency that has the second highest market capitalization after Bitcoin. In 2016, hackers managed to steal $50 million worth of coins due to a software bug. A heated discussion broke out in the community as to whether or not it was trustworthy to undo this incident by means of a software change. In the end, this was carried out and since then there has been the “classic” Ethereum version and the new form. What was left in the end was, of course, a deep shake of confidence in the “currency” and its founders, as there was willful interference here.

Suddenly, it was very convenient to be able to intervene centrally. Since then, the community has been wondering when such an intervention might be the case again. And already we are back in the area of ethics and morals. The blockchain is pure ethics and morals At this point, it should be noted that the Blockchain and its future applications have the potential to actually implement ethical values. Just think of democratic elections, for example. Underpinned by a blockchain, there can no longer be any manipulation, as this process would then be visible to all and therefore traceable. For the first time in the history of mankind, it would have a tool at hand to realize actual democracy and thus to have the absolute certainty that the elected parties or persons were actually elected by the people.

This is anything but self-evident

Another point would be the revolution of global money transfer. Using blockchain-backed cryptocurrencies, for the first time in human history, every person with an Internet connection could participate in the transfer of value, within the community, from anywhere in the world. It could be done, almost in real time and cheaply. That, too, is anything but a given. Power Eruption The blockchain is providing nothing less than a huge shift in the power structure. This is precisely what should make us very wary. Power holders are rarely interested in giving up their position of power. So how can blockchain innovations make that happen? By means of transfers of value and information that are organized, confirmed and held in a decentralized manner. When people are no longer dependent on banks, but have personal responsibility for their money, this provides a massive increase in freedom. If authorities such as notaries, lawyers and the like suddenly become superfluous by means of smart contracts, this not only saves time and money, but also ensures independence. If blockchain is meaningfully integrated into a wide variety of processes in our lives, it ensures an increase in self-responsibility and freedom through its transparency and decentralization.

Have courage to use the Blockchain

You certainly know this quote in a different form, namely like this: “Have courage to use your own mind!”. This sentence comes from the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and is more relevant today than ever before. For just as at the time of the French Revolution, we are once again at an important turning point. Power in so many areas can return to the hands of the majority through blockchain. But only if we become aware of the consequences and ethical and moral implications. That means knowing what we are getting ourselves into and what the consequences might be. After all, we have learned that we can always rely on others. Take banking, for example: If you lost your PIN code for your EC card, a call to the bank was enough and you got a new one. However, if you lose the private key for your Bitcoins, then you lose access to these assets forever. We have to learn to take more responsibility for our lives again and this is a process that has to start now if the Blockchain is to be successful.

Conclusion

We hear and read a lot about the benefits of various blockchain applications. What personal, ethical, and moral implications are involved are less often considered. Now is the right time to think about our own actions and values. Let’s rather invest time and energy here and now so that the Blockchain can have a healthy foundation and serve as many people as possible.