Introduction: How Frontier Technologies Are Changing Our World

Introduction: How Frontier Technologies Are Changing Our World

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9578-6.ch001

Abstract

This chapter introduces Blockchain technology and its potential for social change. It explores the exponential growth of new technologies, highlighting key challenges in Blockchain applications. For context, the authors draw upon management literature for an historical overview of the constructs of social change including charity, stewardship, corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, and the triple bottom line. The advent and rise of each construct are presented to explain the dynamics that have contributed to the global focus on social change and the opportunities it creates.
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The Background To Blockchain

Today we live in the historical product of successive social impact constructs. They have produced a framework that varies not only over time but also by culture, issue and industry. The framework has not evolved via any unifying principle but has been constructed ad hoc around specific issues at specific points in time and on the prevailing management theories at those times.

It is by deconstructing this historical background that insights into the theories and social influences leading to the more recent calls for greater Social Impact may be framed.

It is understanding the narratives of the earlier forms of Social Impact and taking a closer look at their rise (and fall) that has the potential to lend insight into what actually is good practice. That in turn leads to an enhanced framework for the roles and responsibilities of communities, corporations and governments in the overall thrust for greater and beneficial Social Impact.

Blockchain is a word that evokes great excitement and, often, controversy. It is part of a suite of technologies including Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data and 3D Printing which are rapidly changing the world of today. So rapidly in fact, that the report of the World Economic Forum (2016) foresees that Blockchains could store as much as 10% of global GDP by 2027. Bitcoin, the decentralized digital currency built on Blockchain began to capture global attention in 2008 as Blockchain’s first application at scale. Bitcoin was then quickly followed by a plethora of digital currencies such as Ripple, Lite Coin, EOS and Ethereum.

Since then, the world has looked to global leaders in Blockchain such as Estonia (referred to in detail in Chapter 3) for national-level implementations of Blockchain to radically transform staid economies and introduce bold reform for national socioeconomic benefit (Estonian Blockchain Technology, 2019). Indeed, a 2018 report by Stanford University indicates there are now over 193 organisations currently working on Blockchain-enabled social impact projects, 20% of which are solving a problem that would not have been able to be solved without Blockchain (Galen et al., 2018).

PositiveBlockchain.io, an open-source database, media platform and community exploring the potential of Blockchain technologies for social and environmental impact, lists more than 580 projects and start-ups already engaged in this field. Several of which are profiled in Chapter of this book.

Despite the warm reception, there remain, however, questions from the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MERL) community, industry groups and Blockchain advocates alike, regarding the applications of Blockchains, such as:

  • What could each stakeholder group of a project gain from the use of Blockchain across the stages of design and implementation, and would the benefits of Blockchain incentivize them to participate?

  • Can Blockchain resolve trust or transparency issues between disparate stakeholder groups, for example to ensure that data reported represent reality, or that they are of sufficient quality for decision-making?

  • Are there less expensive, more appropriate, or easier to execute, existing technologies that already meet each group’s needs?

  • Are there unaddressed needs that Blockchain could help address, or capabilities Blockchain offers that might inspire new and innovative thinking about what is done, and how it gets done?

Blockchain is a technology that is developing at a rapid pace. This book has been updated almost daily and the day it is published, the information contained within will already be out of date.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Node: A device, such as a computer, that forms an intersection in a computer network.

IoT: The internet of things. The network of physical devices including vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these things to connect, collect, and exchange data over the internet.

UN: The United Nations. An international organization formed in 1945 to increase political and economic cooperation among its member countries.

Private Blockchain: A permissioned Blockchain with restrictions on network participation.

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals. A collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

Permissionless: A public, decentralised Blockchain where all participants can read, write, and participate in the Blockchain. Examples include Ethereum and Bitcoin.

CSR: Corporate social responsibility. A type of private business self-regulation seeking to do social good outside of and in addition to direct business activities.

MNC: Multi-national corporation. A corporation that owns or controls production of goods or services in at least one country in addition to its home country.

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