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Blockchain: hype or revolution? (Part 2)

 

Yesterday, we published a recap of the first half of our 4th industrial Revolution Challenge debate on blockchain, found here.

The event concluded with a lively panel debate, based on questions from the audience. On the panel were:

  • Seamus Cushley, director of blockchain for PwC
  • Brendan Smyth, COO of Arc-Net
  • Dr Patrick McCorry, Research Associate at UCL
  • Dr Ciara Rafferty – Lecturer at ECIT
  • Darshan Gadkari, a startup blockchain entrepreneur
  • Stephen Houston from Liberty IT 

How could blockchain reduce NHS cost?

Seamus: Medical records – patient could chose how to share their data records with a healthcare provider. Also, beds / equipment regulation inside hospitals – hospitals lack joined-up systems – blockchain could transform tracking systems

Stephen – Counterargument – The NHS has wasted a lot of money on failed IT upgrades – they won’t implement blockchain – it’ll be a billion pound project doomed to failure

Patrick – Lots of people lose their cryptographic keys - if I went to hospital and didn’t have my key does that mean I wouldn’t get treated?

Darshan – There are a lot of other use cases though – such as information exchange between doctors and nurses

What about privacy? For instance in voting – a lot of people don’t vote – are they kept private?

Patrick – When I vote, you shouldn’t be able to see that Patrick has cast his vote. You should only be able to see that a voting token has been spent, and that there is some encrypted value against that token.

You still have to trust somebody to authenticate your token against your real-world identity but there are ways to make it double blind.

Darshan – You need to decide where you stop tracking stuff so you get the best of both worlds. In the case of Brendan’s bottle of whiskey, the tracking stops after it’s left Tesco

Show of hands – A majority of people in the audience would be concerned with the privacy concerns of blockchain 

Will blockchain do a lot of people out of jobs?

Ciara – Many will see it as a threat but it’s really an opportunity. It’s very important to consider the applications and their relevance to the blockchain. You have to think about whether blockchain is the best solution. I’m slightly on the “hype” side. There are still a lot of questions to be answered like privacy, and does blockchain actually improve customer experience?

Seamus – A broader context is will robots take all our jobs? Really interesting point is where blockchain and robots converge together. As individuals where should you look at career path. If your job is repetitive it will be replaced. You need to be where humans augment the robots or machines

Darshan – Anytime a new tech is created everyone asks if it will result in lost jobs – there are jobs created if you embrace it – you might create new jobs if you embrace it – I think things will work out if you think positively about it

Banks are dealing with tech that’s 40 years old – and some of the banks nearly crashed 10 years ago. Are some of them using blockchain? Will it revolutionise the banks in the next 2-3 years?

Seamus – It’s all about innovation – how do large scale companies think like a startup and act like a startup – tech is about mindset – take a look at Monzo bank – its an interesting consumer experience

Patrick – if you look at the history of bitcoin the banks would shut down your account 10 years ago if you used it because they thought it was used for selling drugs. Banks were being outcompeted by bitcoin in doing cross-border transactions. The banks want to do this as well but they need compliance. They aren’t allowed to send payments without KYC (know your customer) checks

Darshan – Another example is Ripple which is accepted by most banks and that’s a cryptocurrency. At some point all banks will have to join the programme. Some banks are pushing it as an alternative asset. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when

Stephen – Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin – it’s not actually two parties that are required for trust – it’s the two parties on either side but also the code. You have to trust the code. 

Seamus – A smart contract is not a legal contract – Ethereum is experimenting in the open but you should experiment with $15 not with $150m. Currency in its very essence is a faith system.

How long before blockchain is going to be normal?

Ciara – A good question. We definitely need the bugs to be ironed out before we invest millions in it. It will be a minimum 10 years in my view before it’s rolled out on a grand scale 

Will organisations share more information – will they work like that?

Stephen – Yes, because they’ll need to

How does blockchain tie in with the future of work, will we all have employees, be self-employed?

Seamus – There’s a bigger trend to community-driven work.

Brendan – I take issue with the gig economy. I think Uber is an evil company. We need to make sure we don’t hurt each other in the gig economy 

Ciara – Legal frameworks won’t shift overnight and getting all the parties to talk to each other takes time

Stephen – Don’t invest in any ICO! If you take one thing away from tonight, take that away 

Seamus - However $75m in ICO funds raised have been found to be valid. Like anything, only place your bets where you can afford to lose your bets

Stephen – I still want to answer the question. It can be a trusted escrow. If I put 20 tokens in Michael’s account to mow my lawn, then I can only authorise that payment once I see that he has mowed it, or I can take the tokens back if he doesn’t do the job   

Darshan – Think about where we as humans were a few thousand years ago. We weren’t working for corporations. I think the ratio of self-employed versus employees working for corporations will go way up. Uber, whether you like it or not, have changed the direction. Everything is global but laws are local and country based. We are all restricted by the laws of the land but trying to make money globally. People are going to have to be creative about how to make money and how to find work.

Has audience opinion changed? Nearly twice as many audience members displayed “hype” rather than “revolution” compared to the first time.

Catch our next 4IRC event in Derry~Londonderry on the 12th of December, covering Government and Society - Is there an Algorithm for Good Government?


 

 

 

 

 

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