Welcome to the United Nations | Department of Economic and Social Affairs

 

Introduction

The rapid emergence of blockchain technologies, often compared to the rise of the early Internet, presents revolutionary opportunities and challenges to the future of modern society as we face the 21st century world of ubiquitous connectivity, decentralized networks and interconnected devices. At its core, the emergence of blockchain technologies represents the possibility of decentralized immutable records, where tokenization and zeroknowledge proofs offer the transformative potential for P2Pbased economic and social coordination, granular control of identity, reputation and data, disintermediation of third party intermediaries and central authorities, and new opportunities for enhanced governance and participatory networks. Yet, in the first few years of these nascent technologies, the public and political discourse surrounding these technologies have been colored by private economic interests and journalistic sensationalism. The fundamental lack of understanding of these technologies has impaired exploration, innovation and deployment at unacceptable cost to society.

The blockchain discussion is gaining great political momentum as it lies at the very nexus of the core issues we face in the 21st century: Internet policy (identity, trust, reputation, privacy and security), the Internet of Things (and corresponding implications for responsive architecture, smart cities, selforganizing and autonomous entities), government and corporate accountability, challenges to traditional oversight mechanisms and the adaptation of legal paradigms to distributed architecture, emergent monetary/economic policy and challenges to loss of sovereignty of central banks, financial inclusion and fair access for the developing world, new metrics of value for information economies that transcend GDP measures of market growth, deployment of P2P commonsbased production, and local coordination and scalable development of new social and incentive structures. Indeed, many legislators around the globe are currently scrutinising the opportunity to elaborate and adopt legislation on blockchain technologies such as Bitcoin, Ripple, Stellar and Ethereum. In view of the confusion and sheer complexity surrounding the various ways to approach these multifaceted, multidisciplinary technologies, it is vitally important to address blockchain policy issues through a multistakeholder approach.