The Singapore Writers Festival 2018 just wrapped. It was a wonderful 10-day feast of significant ideas and powerful writing. I was honoured to have been invited to deliver a lecture on the social impact on the nascent technology known as blockchain, and its underlying philosophy of democratizing and socializing value of all kinds. I gave examples of innovative blockchain projects that try to do good things— such as giving one billion refugees their own digital identity; freeing money to uplift poor communities; stewarding one's own carbon footprint and managing one's reputation (social credit or "digital word of mouth"). I also cautioned about this particular technology's ability to commodify and exploit many aspects of the human being, to rigidly insist on crowdsourced "truth", to erode personal privacy and eliminate the basic "human right to be forgotten". Viewed through the lens of blockchain, the ancient Nguni Bantu proverb "I am who I am because of who we all are" suddenly seems to become less wisdom and more a dire prophecy.
(Photo by Shing Tay)