T-Labs promotes new levels of trust via blockchain technology at the 2018 re:publica conference in Berlin

Blockchain technology has the potential to evolve human and machine trust to its highest levels.

This week at the re:publica 18 conference in Berlin, T-Labs added to the dialogue its ideas on how #trust can reach new levels via distributed ledger technology (DLT).

Driven by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, re:publica 2018 focused on one of the central problems of our digital society: The trust in the major internet companies that facilitate our daily lives is vanishing at a rapid pace. On the one hand, we are all dependent on the Facebooks and Googles of this digital world; but on the other hand, their core business models rely on selling our personal data — a model that they cannot always control.

Beyond this current dilemma, though, is the basic question: how can we improve trust in our digital society?

The Oxford Dictionary describes trust as the “acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation” or “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something”. As our world becomes more complex through globalization, trust becomes multi-dimensional in both our local and global communities alike. The meaning of trust evolves as we become globally digitalized and the internet is taking a more important role in our society. Ironically, our trust in trust must evolve too, and with blockchain technology we have the digital tool set, including cryptographic algorithms, to enable this evolution.

So how did trust evolve in our society?

Trust has evolved over time as humans have evolved their groupings from small family units to cities full of millions. Going back to the ancient times, forager bands could only develop trust within families and thus sapiens could only form limited meaningful relationships — meaning they could not trust strangers. The cognitive revolution solved this problem with the invention of shared myths.

Later, through the monetary revolution, money became the universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised. With money, people were able to trust complete strangers, even without sharing a common language.

Nowadays, the ecosystem of internet-powered digital platforms enable trust in our globalized society. However, with personal data becoming the most valuable resource the power of these platforms over our society is alarming. Can blockchain become a solution by enabling a society in which trust is decentralized and independent of intermediaries?

Increasing trust via disintermediation of centralized systems

These digital platforms control our data and monopolize the economic rents, meaning that the actual producers of digital values are not taking an active part in any revenue sharing model on the Internet. Blockchain has a high promise to disintermediate the power of such platforms and enable holistic and fair revenue sharing establishing a healthy distribution balance between rich and poor.

For T-Labs, the main takeaway from re:publica 2018 is that blockchain, as an enabling technology, inherently holds the potential to change the way we perceive trust. This in turn leads to a more efficient trust interaction in our society resulting in an evolved distribution of economic rents. In fact, throughout human evolution it has been shown that with rising levels of trust economic flow increases and prosperity for the entire society will be created.

hashstaX, provided by Telekom Innovation Laboratories in partnership with numerous blockchain startups, enables a unique blockchain ecosystem that fully supports ideas of disintermediation, bringing our society towards redefining the ownership of trust on the Internet. hashstaX combines different distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) into an enterprise-grade operating stack to enable blockchain-agnostic development of business-relevant decentralized applications.

The task is now to pragmatically apply this technology.

Dr. Alexandra Mikityuk, Nicolas Stichel, John Calian