Consumers’ Research, founded in 1927 and the oldest consumer research group in the United States has released a whitepaper surrounding something very contemporary; Bitcoin and the blockchain. Centering around a financial conference located in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire’s White Mountains last summer, the whitepaper covers discussed topics from a workshop held with leading Bitcoin industry insiders.
A similar conference happened in the same place as in 1944 where matters were discussed about what would happen with the world’s economies and society as a whole if responsible and more sustainable monetary systems were collectively setup. The result of this latest gathering is a 97-page piece of work that is both in-depth and vast in its coverage of the current state of affairs and future potential of Bitcoin and the blockchain technological application.
Joe Colangelo, the executive director of Consumers’ Research released the whitepaper last Friday at the North American Bitcoin Conference which took place in Miami, Florida. The whitepaper starts off by giving a broad background on Bitcoin and the blockchain technology behind it, allowing a lay person the ability to grasp the technical distinctions surrounding how it works on a high-level. It then goes on to define the goals of the whitepaper, articulate use-cases for Bitcoin and give an honest look at the risk and upside of various scenarios.
Colangelo wrote in his preface that the 3 main goals of the paper were to:
- “Serve to inform those new to Bitcoin and block chain technology of opportunities they may not have considered previously”
- “Better inform members of the Bitcoin community of potential hurdles that may impede their ability to effect change, which they may not have realized.”
- “Serve as a primary document for how industry experts viewed Bitcoin and block chain technologies in the year 2015.”
The editor and primary author, Kyle Burgess along with Joe Colangelo who is co-primary author brought together a wide range of Bitcoin and block chain industry experts to weigh in on the breadth of issues set forth in the whitepaper as contributing authors. Some of the contributing authors and workshop participants overlapping were:
- Alicia Carmona, Identity 2020
- Michael J. Casey, MIT Media Lab/Digital Currency Initiative
- Patrick Deegan, Open Mustard Seed & Personal BlackBox
- Jinyoung Lee Englund, Digital Currency Council & FE Ventures
- Eric Martindale, Blockstream
- Victoria Van Eyk, ChangeTip
One of the most prominent mentions on the contributing author list was Nick Szabo, a smart contracts pioneer and a man once rumored to be the secret identity of Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto. In the paper he writes of his main recommendations for smart contracts moving forward:
“Lobbying, advocacy, and education will help developers get out in front of onerous regulations. Organizations such as Consumers’ Research, CoinCenter, the Digital Currency Council the Chamber 48 of Digital Commerce all work to address regulatory challenges and the Bitcoin community should reach out to them with their concerns.”
Coincidentally, the whitepaper was released in a period where much public speculation and criticism has been levied against Bitcoin. Though some large financial institutions have made some version or other of block chain technology their cutting edge darling, there has been no shortage of public dismissal of Bitcoin by finance executives, particularly at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.
This whitepaper serves as a compass for both regulators and Bitcoin industry insiders to steady their aim on the main and agreed upon issues at hand for Bitcoin and block chain technology. The opportunity analysis breaks down into three sections – blockchain 1.0 (currency and payments), 2.0 (Smart Contracts, Programmable Assets, Decentralized Autonomous Entities, and Proof of “X”) and 3.0 (non-economic applications).
Colangelo noted on how he hopes opportunities for Bitcoin and block chain will be perceived:
“Goals exist both on a large, strategic scale such as human empowerment, and also on a more tactical scale, such as specific opportunities or use cases. Since many of these specific opportunities fit within multiple overarching goals, the first section will address overarching goals and tie specific opportunities to each of them.”
“The diversity of viewpoints represented by the authors of this paper means that the authors, and ultimately the signers, cannot endorse the idea that the realization of the enumerated goals are in themselves worth the cost of disruption, or that such a realization is in itself a goal worth pursuing. At the core of Bitcoin is the ability to send money faster around the globe, improve property rights, and enable people who have never met to fully trust one another.”
An overarching theme associated with many of the opportunities presented in the paper were challenges or “threats” that could be ahead including incumbent resistance, negative cultural reaction, criminal exploitation, transparency and market demand. The paper goes on to address the severity of each thread and make a recommendation on how to address each one.
The paper concludes with an exhibit that illustrates “Game Theory and Collaboration: A thought experiment with Decentralized Autonomous Organizations.” This section highlights a major part of the philosophy behind Bitcoin and the blockchain which have made it so popular and polarizing for so many people.
What this paper may serve as is a larger collection of some of the most achievable, yet bold ideas that industry leaders and enthusiasts are championing through Bitcoin and the block chain. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of every single application of business, government, social uses for Bitcoin and block chain, it gives the reader, at a considerable level of depth, the ability to parse through what’s exciting and challenging about this experiment.