This is an excerpt from the Members’ Report TRANSFORMATION OF TRUST, published by the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies. If you are interested in becoming a member of CIFS, get in touch with us here.
Trust is changing. Citizens’ faith in established institutions is in decline and new technologies are emerging that will change how trust is facilitated and maintained in the digital age. In this interview from the CIFS Members Report TRANSFORMATION OF TRUST, Professor and Head of the European Blockchain Centre Roman Beck shares his thoughts on what blockchain technology will mean for the future of trust.
Some claim that blockchain is the new technology of trust. What is your take on this?
Roman Beck: “Trust itself is a highly complex concept. Uncertainty is the root of distrust, and the greater the uncertainty, the greater the trust gap. I essentially see blockchain as a technology that can eliminate uncertainty and, hence, blockchain enables trust through transparency and immutability. So yes, ultimately, you can say that blockchain is transforming trust.”
Can you tell us about how this is changing more than just how we transfer money?
Roman Beck: “The first buzzwords that naturally come to mind when talking about blockchain are Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. In a way, Bitcoin served as a proof-of-concept for what is possible with blockchain, but it can be used for many nonfinancial tasks, such as casting votes in elections, sharing of health data securely or helping to manage supply chains better. Some industries will experience more significant change than others; however, there are vast opportunities across most industries.”
“There is huge potential in combining blockchain with other advanced technologies, such as AI, IoT and 3D printing, especially in autonomous systems. Take autonomous vehicles, for example, where blockchain can be the technology that removes uncertainty and ensures that cars can trust each other, by running seamlessly underneath. If the cars can trust each other and don’t get in each other’s way, it means that it is easier for people to trust autonomous cars.”
How important is distribution in relation to trust? Is the future of trust distributed?
Roman Beck: “The future will be centralised, decentralised, distributed, hierarchical, all kinds of things. It will be mix of approaches, not just a decentralised future. One of the things that speaks in favour of increased distribution of trust is that those who are tech-savvy may entirely question why they should pay a middleman for a service, when they can access a more efficient distributed blockchain solution for a fraction of the price, and it is more secure and transparent.”
“The majority of us do not care if the provider of a service is distributed or centralised. Most of us do not want to pay for something merely because of the fact that it is distributed. Rather, we would likely opt for a distributed solution if we think that it is better. However, there are those who do not believe in having a central market maker such as a central banking institution, simply because they do not trust the idea of centralised institutions. In the end, the customer will have the power to decide.”
How do you see this development impacting society and social structures over the next three years? five years? ten years?
Roman Beck: “There is a lot of hype, but we still do not completely understand how this is going to change society and how we live our lives. In terms of timing, I believe that three years is more likely than five or ten years to see mainstream application of blockchain solutions.”
“Increasingly we will see a blockchain-powered internet and networks based on blockchain. These developments are already on the horizon – we do not need a crystal ball to predict this. A vital detail is the human aspect and the role played by people’s trust in the technology. People are a limiting factor and if fears surrounding a lack of control and distrust are present rather than trust, the role blockchain will play in our lives may be halted.”