Worldwide | Department of Global Communications (DGC) | Cathy Mulligan for 'UN Chronicle’
We are at a unique moment in history: our society is in transition from an industrial economy to one defined by a new set of technologies, ranging from digitalization to nanotechnology.
Among the latest waves of digitalization is blockchain - a technology that many say promises to redefine trust, transparency and inclusion across the world.
Blockchain, however, is a relatively immature technology and can create as many problems as it solves. What it has offered so far is a series of key insights into emerging technologies and how we can approach them in a rapidly changing world.
Digital technologies have been transforming our economy and society in several waves since the 1960s, beginning with the digitization of many business processes, followed by the capturing and sharing of large amounts of data, and finally driving a mobile phone revolution that has placed computational power into the hands of just over 60 per cent of the world’s people.
Previous Waves of Digitalization
We are now in a liminal period for digital technologies. Nearly all the benefits of having access to computing power were previously kept inside corporations. Information technology was primarily about following the same business processes in place since the 1950s but doing so faster, more efficiently and more securely.
With the broadscale distribution of computing power across the globe, however, something shifted. Many of the technologies driven by the distribution of computational capacity are about radically redefining how those business processes, our economy and our society are defined in the first place.
In effect, placing the power of digital into so many hands is having a significant impact on all aspects of human existence.
Decentralization and Blockchain
Blockchain is one of the technologies enabled by the worldwide distribution of computing capacity. Put simply, blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions, e.g., for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, are timestamped and recorded chronologically and publicly.
About the author:
Cathy Mulligan, Member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, wrote this article for an issue of ‘UN Chronicle’ that focuses on new technologies and their potential benefits for humanity as well as their expanding use in advancing the 2030 Agenda.