World Economic Forum sign sticking out of the snow in Davos. Clearly, the party got wild (via WEF).
Technology

World Economic Forum puts blockchain at center of ‘fourth industrial revolution’

Its new Global Blockchain Council is one of six designed to influence the growth of technologies poised to change the world

Blockchain is one of the six emerging technologies the World Economic Forum believes will change the world so dramatically that they will be a “fourth industrial revolution.”

Announced on May 29, the councils’ goal is to influence the way governments and businesses strike a balance between enabling and encouraging the new technologies while recognizing and easing the impact they will have on people whose jobs are affected by them.

Along with blockchain, the World Economic Forum believes the “most pressing technology areas” are artificial intelligence, autonomous mobility, drones, the internet of things, and precision medicine, according to a release.

Bringing together more than 200 leaders from the public and private sector, as well as academia and civil society, the councils will recommend public policy guidance and suggest rules to govern these emerging technologies. Council leaders are drawn from organizations as diverse as Microsoft, the European Commission, the World Wide Web Foundation, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“Companies and governments are not moving fast enough to anticipate social expectations in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Richard Samans, managing director and head of policy and institutional impact for the WEF.

The councils’ aim, Samans added, is to “build and maintain public trust in the technologies while strengthening the evidence base on which policy decisions are made by governments and companies. This is the first place where this kind of high-level, strategic dialogue on the governance of these technologies will take place … on an ongoing basis.”

The Global Blockchain Council will be co-chaired by Elizabeth Rossiello, founder and CEO of Africa-focused digital payments firm BitPesa, and Denis Robitaille, vice president of information and technology solutions for the World Bank.

The Global Blockchain Council was organized by the WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) Network, which describes its aims as creating pilot projects “to help shape the development and application of emerging technologies … [in order to] maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of advanced science and technology.”

The C4IR Network described blockchain technology as having “the potential to be a powerful tool for tracking and transactions that can minimize friction, reduce corruption, increase trust and empower users.”

It added that “cryptocurrencies built on distributed ledger technologies (DLT), despite still being in their infancy, have emerged as potential gateways to new wealth creation and disruptors across financial markets. [and] almost every sector, ranging from energy to shipping to media.”

The C4IR Network said DLT faces challenges “including lack of interoperability, security threats, centralization of power and unwillingness to experiment due to recent overhype.”

Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus senior editor, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about meeting and incentive travel, as well as the consumer and employee loyalty business. He also covered the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, small businesses, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson owns no cryptocurrencies.

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