The management of critical global resources – water, vegetation, fisheries and the internet itself – has been a key focus of our research over the past decade. When we use the word, blockchain, we mean stewardship, which involves collaborating, identifying common interests and creating incentives to act on them. We do not mean government, which involves legislating and regulating behaviour and punishing those who misbehave. Since the end of World War II, state-based institutions have administered most of the world’s important resources. Two of the most powerful – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – were born at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. The United Nations and other groups under its umbrella – the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization – received a wide berth to exercise their monopoly on global problem-solving. These organizations were hierarchical by design, because hierarchies were the dominant paradigm during the first half of a war-torn century.
In our previous research, we determined that the stewardship of the internet of information was relatively simple compared to what this nascent internet of value would need. True, the internet has been a vast “network of networks” with intricate issues of standards and other governance challenges. But we all use basically the same coherent platform globally. On it rests the world wide web and countless other applications. Blockchain, at least at this stage of its development, is more balkanized and complex. The economic stakes are higher. “This is very different from the somewhat hippy style that the open-source, free software internet movement had,” Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab said. “We’re going a little too fast in promising our investors a functioning infrastructure. … Many companies are raising money as if they’re ready for production. ... These guys are all under the microscope, under the gun. Many of them are heavily funded and it’s really hard.