How Blockchain could cure cancer

Charlie Caruso
May 21, 2018 · 5 min read

Important Disclosure: I’m not suggesting Blockchain is a silver bullet. For cancer, for fiat, for anything. At least not right now.

But the “right now” isn’t what excites me about Blockchain — what excites me is it’s potential.

For me, Blockchain represents the cornerstone technology hurdle we needed to commence the paradigm shift required to transition from the old (& increasingly dysfunctional) world — to the new.

Competition vs. collaboration. Closed source vs. open source. Protectionism vs. Globalisation. Centralisation vs. Decentralisation.

The “new way” represents a preference to work together, unified in resources and thought under a shared vision & conduct protocol; designed to facilitate greater speed, efficiency and effectiveness in reaching a common goal.

For this to work in any meaningful way, such a concept would require a great deal of trust. In fact, it needs an evolution of the idea of “trust” — a need for the eradication of human flaws associated with the concept of “trust”.

It requires a trustless technology, one that eliminates the need for lawyers, arbitration, intermediaries and conflict resolution procedures. A transparent ledger able to execute and automate “smart contracts” that enable harmonious transactions to enact a seamless mutually beneficial value exchange.

What’s wrong with centralisation?

Facebook is centralised.

The centralisation of power & data has ultimately corrupted those in charge and eroded its value. The power and the insatiable need to increase it, has allowed revenue to take priority over the communities best interest, and the lack of transparency in the boardroom and for decision makers has allowed it to happen. Google (while reasonably unscathed from the recent Cambridge Analytica fallout), has equal if not more centralised power.

Banks are centralised. Government is centralised. In fact, all the power in the world today exists in the hands of very few centralised power brokers.

Until Blockchain — centralisation was our only option.

There are tons of great articles around that will give you the 101 on what Blockchain is, this article isn’t one of them.

I wanted to share one of my favourite “ahh-haa!” moments I’ve had on my own “how will Blockchain make the world a better place?” journeys.

Past cynical me once asked a colleague “Could Blockchain cure cancer?” Of which my attempt to answer my own question seeded about a million thoughts in my brain that have been buzzing ever since. So I thought I’d share why I’m excited about Blockchain’s potential and how I foresee its potential role in curing cancer.

First, we need to accept something that might be uncomfortable or contentious.

Cancer is an economy.

Cancer employs millions of people, from researchers to medical practitioners — from all the millions of cancer non-for-profit organisations to a decent chunk of the radiology industry, and that’s not to mention big pharma.

If someone discovered a cure for cancer tomorrow — just think about the economic impact that would have. Sure, they’d be a tonne of financial benefits (reduced costs of public expenditure on cancer patients etc.), but also think of all the oncologists who’d be out of work. What about all those expensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments that would no longer be required?

I’m just putting it out there — there are some very powerful, centralised organisations who are financially motivated to continue to profit from the treatment of cancer. These organisations would place “Cure for Cancer” in the threat section of their SWOT charts. That may be controversial, but the truth is, if there are profits to be made in the provision of cancer treatments, then there are financial motivations to keep a cure at bay.

The Dysfunction.

So let me know bring your focus to the existing inefficiencies within the “cancer ecosystem” itself.

Let’s start with the not-for-profit sector.

How many breast cancer charities are there in the world? Scrap that — how many CANCER charities are there in the world?

How many of those charities work together? Share ideas? Share insight?

How many would close down to join forces with similar organisations to reach their shared goals with greater efficiencies and effectiveness?

Competing forces caused by the current operating model prohibit progression because they don’t incentivise collaboration. Charities compete with one another for donor attention and loyalty, grants, government funding and new eyeballs. More charities mean more board positions, more jobs etc. etc. But does it mean greater impact?

I believe there is a design flaw in the way we’ve designed the charity ecosystem. The advancement of social causes are handicapped by the current system charities are forced to operate in, and the Government is hardly incentivised to change this, after all, charities only exist to close the gaps left by government and their legislation.

What about the cancer research segment?

Most of us desperate to end cancer are hopeful that cancer research will present the key for the cure. But once we donate (to one of the thousands of cancer research funds), how many of us study how any research result or critical breakthrough is then commercialised?

The problem exists, there is no simple, effective way to trace the money going in to the “cure cancer ecosystem” against the overall progress of actually curing cancer.

And here is where I feel Blockchain, one day, might offer the cure.

Imagine there’s an opportunity to purchase a “Cancer Coin”?

Let’s imagine I could purchase a “Cancer Coin”.

By doing so, let’s imagine I’d acquire the right to participate & vote for how the Cancer Coin funds are distributed. In effect it would create a vast pool of funds (think BILLIONS of dollars), all transparently accounted for on the public ledger that is Blockchain. No money would leave the fund unless it was voted on by the community.

Let’s say a research department at a local university decides they’d like to apply for some funding from the “Cancer Coin” community. They’d submit a funding request for the CancerCoin community to review and approve, on the conditions they would have to provide constant progress updates.

Same process for cancer charities applying for funds to assist cancer patients. Same even for Governments looking to fund expensive public Cancer treatments.

Those holding “Cancer Coins” could enforce greater transparency and efficiencies in our collective ambition to cure cancer. We could cut through the bureaucracy, red tape, intermediaries, double handling, inefficient and wasteful spending and speed up impact and success.

We are not quite there yet, Blockchain is a new technology, and we have a long way to go.

Think how this concept could be replicated across all our social needs. What if we could have a “Carbon Coin” and create a duplicate ecosystem designed to reduce global carbon emissions. What about a “PovertyCoin” or a “ConflictCoin”.

My conceptual grasp on this theoretical centralised fund managed by decentralised community is — exactly that. Like Blockchain technology, it’s early, it’s underdeveloped, there is a lot of room for improvement and a lot more eyes and energy could make it stronger and improve it. But the potential is there, that I am certain of.

I happen to believe that potential is limited only to the applications we can humanly conceive, and I see a future, a future worth fighting for, of which Blockchain is a critical element of.

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