The Morning Note — The Divergent Parts of a Blockchain System

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21 August 2018

The Divergent Parts of a Blockchain System

As we move towards Friday’s riff delving deep into the connection between blockchain and living systems; today we will continue the journey by looking at the four key elements that make up a living system.

That is, any living system.

Firstly there are divergent parts — these are individual parts that make distinct, divergent contributions to the system.

These parts are then connected to both each other and to a particular context. They are in a dynamic relationship with one another.

The connections between the parts then forms a convergent whole. One that cannot be made sense of by just looking at the behaviour of the individual parts. It is the interaction between the parts that creates something useful and meaningful.

The final and most important element of a living system is self-integration. A thriving living system, requires the process of divergence, relationship and convergence to be self-organizing and as Michelle Holliday described ‘set into motion by life itself’. This is the most critical and hardest element for any living system, and one the blockchain industry needs to give some deep thought.

Today’s intention is to explore the first element — divergent parts.

Using the framework of a living system, it’s easy to intuitively understand the role diversity plays in making it all work — without the individual parts, there is no way of forming dynamic relationships. There are no roles to play. No connections to foster. There is nothing to rub together, nor integrate.

This leads us to the question of diversity: What is it? Why does it matter? And what does it mean? Let’s start by looking at some definitions.

showing a great deal of variety; very different.
1. the state of being diverse.
2. “there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports” a range of different things.

Put simply — diversity is the inclusion of a range of different ‘inputs’. In the context of blockchain, these ‘inputs’ cover three key areas:

  1. Diverse Thinking — a range of different perspectives drawn from a range of different lived experiences. These perspectives need to cross gender, race, culture, belief systems, age and ability. They need to be reflective of the global communities we live within.
  2. Diverse Industries & Value Chains — a range of solutions from different companies, industries and regions who are able to communicate and share digital assets with each other seamlessly.
  3. Diverse Application — whether its security, tokenisation, governance, data management or smart contracts — the application of blockchain can be diverse. And of course — the more diverse the thinking, industries and value chains — the more diverse the applications and innovations.

Here is a quick explanation of what we mean by each key area:

1. Diversity through Inclusion of Minority Groups

We have known for a while that more diverse workforces lead to higher revenues and more creative teams. However, though millions of dollars have been funnelled into diversity and inclusion programs of all proportions, the tech and finance sector remain very white, heteronormative industries:

  • Only 5% of the tech industry workforce are made up of Black and Latinx workers
  • Those who do not have a degree are finding it difficult to be hired (at IBM — a company actively working to hire skilled workers without degrees — only 10% to 15% of new hires don’t hold traditional degrees)
  • And 1 in 10 women experienced unwanted sexual attention, while LGBT employees were most likely to be bullied and/or experience public humiliation

These are systematic issues that are difficult to address for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the diversity problems of each minority group is different. It is not a one size fits all solution that is required — we are talking about diversity here, so the solutions will therefore, of course, be diverse.

We ourselves are exploring how to address these issues in the conference and thought leader space; one where leadership, role modelling and mentoring have the potential to start new conversations around how we can progress the blockchain ecosystem through nurturing the inclusion of minority groups. Our belief is it’s the conversations that are important. Through conversations come stories and through stories comes empathy. And empathy, like blockhcain, has the potential to change the world.

Here are three articles we recommend you read as you explore what diversity means to you, both in life and in the context of blockchain. Our intention is to start conversations that lead to meaningful progress — for everyone.

2. Diversity through sector involvement — Blockchain to blockchains: Broad adoption and integration enter the realm of the possible

The idea that blockchain has significant potential not just for business but in society has been gaining traction. With this comes an interest in the technology from people outside the fintech world, and therefore the potential for mainstream uptake and application is becoming a reality in different regions, companies and sectors.

For example, as outlined by Deloitte in their Tech Trends 2018 Report:

  • Europe’s largest shipping port, Rotterdam, has launched a research lab to explore the technology’s applications in logistics.
  • Utilities in North America and Europe are using blockchain to trade energy futures and manage billing at electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Blockchain is disrupting social media by giving users an opportunity to own and control their images and content.
  • Blockchain consortiums — including the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, Hyperledger Project, R3, and B3i — are developing an array of enterprise blockchain solutions.

Blockchain solutions from diverse companies and industries will allow the integration of multiple blockchains in a value chain. As Deloitte points out, for organizations whose ‘use cases’ turn on blockchain ecosystem diversity and scalability, the potential benefits of integration are clear:

‘More partnerships within a blockchain ecosystem can drive greater value and boost blockchain ROI. Likewise, interoperability can make it possible to customize and enhance blockchain solutions without rendering them obsolete.’

What we do know is the more people who understand the feasibility of blockchain for each industry, the greater chance for industry uptake which is when commercially viable solutions can be deployed, and at scale. It is at this point, the potential impact of blockchain might start to be realised.

Access Full Deloitte Report Here

3. Diversity through Application

With the participation of different companies and sectors, the diversity of application for blockchain will naturally open up. This speaks to the ‘dynamic relationships’ element of a living system which we will explore more fully in the coming days.

The premise however is simple — the more diverse perspectives offered through participation of more diverse companies, industries and regions will lead to the greater likelihood of serendipitous connections, relationship and pattern forming, mastery and innovation. Given the right environment, the applications for blockchain will diversify and have the potential to grow exponentially.

Some early examples of the problems blockchain is solving through multi-sector application include:

Is your Picasso real?

Forgery is rife in the art world. Buyers and sellers are often deceived as to the origin of works and who previously owned them. Blockchain can be used both as a way to guarantee both the artworks’ provenance and sellers’ ownership, as well as a way of raising funds from investors

Is your election secure?

Rigged elections and distrust around traditional voting methods might be a thing of the past. Voting via blockchain could eliminate voter fraud, boost turnout and make it more convenient for citizens to vote while abroad.

Are your donations getting to those who need them?

Fraud, corruption, discrimination, and mismanagement of money intended to reduce suffering is not uncommon. Blockchain could be used to transform the way charities are created and regulated, as well as boosting transparency and trust.

Smoothing supply chains

Lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains is a major challenge for companies relying on multiple suppliers. As we know — blockchain provides consensus — this means the potential of no dispute in the chain regarding transactions, because all entities on the chain have the same version of the ledger.

Are you who you say you are?

Identity theft is a terrifying and all too common experience. Using a blockchain ledger to manage identities would make it almost impossible for malicious actions without leaving an obvious digital trail.

These applications are just the beginning… As we begin to understand what it means to embrace diversity — in all its forms— meaningful progress, innovation and thrivability should follow in spades.

Time will only tell.

The Morning Note
We are always on the look out for the hearty stories and pithy ideas underpinning the future of blockchain. If there is something you’d like us to include in The Morning Note, please email and we will be sure to take a look.