Blockchain in HE: Caution and Necessity (2)

McKnight et al (2017) argues for measures that help policymakers, industry, and users manage and harness the advantages of blockchain. A significant opportunity exists for regulators and policymakers to shape the evolution and commercialisation of blockchain – the technology that will enable the IoT and contribute tremendously to human well-being. Actual and potential applications of blockchain and the IoT (Internet of Things) are already numerous. The combination of the two will have dramatic, sudden, and far-reaching effects on societies and economies.

Three ethical and regulatory questions hover above the intersection of blockchain and the IoT: how permission to share data will be decided and governed; how ownership of data is obtained and how the value of ownership can be returned to the owner; and who can access which datasets on the blockchain, and which datasets must be available to all.

Policymakers attempting to address these questions must be expert in both the IoT and blockchain. Ideally, policymakers will have a deep understanding of cryptography, distributed storage, Byzantine fault tolerance, sensors, web protocols, and all relevant existing policies. Since academia straddles the private and non-profit sector, establishing policies that address both public and commercial interests may be challenging.

These authors see the two paradigms of blockchain and IoT as increasingly related. Hence, the two – and their intersection – have to be carefully considered during and after adoption of either. These authors have three recommendations for the development of policy pertaining to blockchain and the IoT:

1. As soon as possible, a blockchain/IoT commission should be established. Members would be scientists, engineers, mathematicians, technologists, and experts in academic and industry regulation.

2. As soon as possible, a symposium or workshop should be organised to review problems and possibilities.

3. Require specific, workable outputs from the symposium, e.g. recommendations for the implementation of regulation and policy, especially regarding the automation of information processing through blockchain/IoT.

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