Will blockchain fulfil its democratic promise or will it become a tool of big tech? | John Naughton

Engineers are focused on reducing its carbon footprint, ignoring the governance issues raised by the technology

When the cryptocurrency bitcoin first made its appearance in 2009, an interesting divergence of opinions about it rapidly emerged. Journalists tended to regard it as some kind of incomprehensible money-laundering scam, while computer scientists, who were largely agnostic about bitcoin’s prospects, nevertheless thought that the distributed-ledger technology (the so-called blockchain) that underpinned the currency was a Big Idea that could have far-reaching consequences.

In this conviction they were joined by legions of techno-libertarians who viewed the technology as a way of enabling economic life without the oppressive oversight of central banks and other regulatory institutions. Blockchain technology had the potential to change the way we buy and sell, interact with government and verify the authenticity of everything from property titles to organic vegetables. It combined, burbled that well-known revolutionary body Goldman Sachs, “the openness of the internet with the security of cryptography to give everyone a faster, safer way to verify key information and establish trust”. Verily, cryptography would set us free.

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