Art Malkov is the Chief Digital Officer at BlockchainDriven and is a Columbia University Lab to Market Blockchain Accelerator Advisor.
Blockchain’s potential impacts are very widespread. It’s one of the features of the industry that makes it so appealing to me personally. Some industries will be disrupted much sooner than others, but I would be surprised if most of our lives aren’t being impacted by blockchain in a few decades’ time, similar to how the internet currently dominates modern life to such a degree that we don’t even think about companies as “internet companies” anymore. Finance, healthcare and supply chain management stand to gain the most from blockchain in the immediate short term, as they have significant inefficiencies that blockchain can address quite quickly.
That brings me, like everyone else, to politics and voting. I’m a big believer in blockchain and its ability to be a big disruptor in many different areas. Blockchain has many applications in politics, and here are some areas that could see this disruption sooner rather than later that blockchain companies should pay attention to.
Voting is probably the singular most important political act that we all do. This right of the people is foundational to modern society and the constitutional republic that we live in.
That being said, I’m not going to pretend that voting is made widely available enough to be a true distillation of the will of the people, and many factors could play into this. However, voting using blockchain, one proposed solution, could prevent direct (but notably not misinformation campaigns), smattered cases of voter fraud and also likely allow a result to be delivered as quickly as possible.
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Some blockchain companies are tackling this at the moment, and we could see a massive change this decade. One such company is Voatz, which aims to make voting more accessible and secure for everyone. Being able to securely vote from your phone is something that technologically isn’t far off; it just needs support. Watch this space.
Misinformation, political spectacles and misrepresentation of the truth are playing an increasingly impactful role in our daily lives. Even when the facts are true, the spin of a story can completely alter the way the news consumer reacts. Call it what you will, but perhaps the only thing that Americans can agree upon nowadays is that we would all like a society that does better at distinguishing facts from fiction, and the truth from made-up stories blown out of proportion. While it’s quite a bit easier for me to write that than it is to actually do it, there are some promising areas of exploration that are already making strides. And of course, you know me, I think blockchain companies will have their roles to play.
Information markets are an interesting non-blockchain technology that has begun making its way into blockchain. To put it simply, an information market is a market that offers users the ability to “buy stakes” in future events. Making money aside, what they actually act as are aggregates of information related to the outcome of a certain event. If a news headline causes the market to react, that means that given its algorithms and inputs, the market believes this news is significant. If it doesn’t move much, the headline was likely noise and drummed up to kick up controversy.
Polymarket is one blockchain information market available at the moment. It offers information markets on tons of different topics, from Covid-19 to politics to cryptocurrency. Information markets can increase trust and clarity by helping show people what news is important and correct or not. My main fascination with these markets is that they can often act as truth aggregators. In the future, rather than taking out an expensive insurance policy, you could simply put that money in an information market that predicts an outcome that would normally cause your insurance to kick in.
In my opinion, one of the main things holding back blockchain’s significant impact is the country’s general resistance to change. I imagine that most people would be in favor of allowing people to vote on their phones should the underlying system be incredibly secure and trustworthy. However, the adoption of any technology into how we vote has been met with resistance. What I, and others, believe is that this change will only come about if the technology has other applications and can become a normal part of our lives, say if the technology had more day-to-day uses or more opportunities for intrigue and fun.
Ultimately, the blockchain field is evolving over time, and as technology develops, more companies are building on it. Once the technology becomes well-tested and easy to integrate, it can move to the mainstream. We have seen it with TV, the internet, smartphones and other breakthroughs. And we’re getting closer to that stage with blockchain. For example, U.S. postal services recently filed for “a voting system that can use the security of blockchain and the mail to provide a reliable voting system.”
With each step (like the one mentioned above), we’re getting closer to the overall adaption of blockchain technology. It just won’t happen overnight. To prepare for the blockchain wave, businesses should start thinking about how this technology might affect their industry and start developing internal labs, workgroups, etc. to have a better grasp of what’s coming. My advice for those companies that are hoping to just sit it out would be to consider investing in discovery and not stay complacent.