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The Promises and Politics of Blockchain Technologies: Research Roundup July 2018

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*The Research Roundup is a semi-regular list of outside research we have found interesting and think is worth sharing. The views and conclusions of the papers’ authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone affiliated with TPI.*

While we are partial to the work on blockchain by TPI’s own Sarah Oh and Scott Wallsten, “Is Blockchain Hype, Revolutionary, or Both?” and commend it to everyone, it is but part of a fascinating, growing literature. In this month’s Research Roundup we survey some of the newest and most interesting work on blockchain.

In his work “Taking Blockchain Seriously” and the introduction to the special issue in which it was published, titled “the Politics of Blockchain,” Robert Herian calls for critical analysis of blockchain technology and the legal and regulatory tensions associated with its use across sectors. He notes its growing uses in both the public and private sectors and its far-reaching implications for the organization and benefit of work, social interactions, and communities and individuals. Seeking neither to praise nor vilify blockchain, Herian instead focuses on its potential to ensure democratic accountability and the roles that legal and regulatory action will play in realizing that potential. Click through for more detailed descriptions of these pieces and other recent articles.

 

Taking Blockchain Seriously

The Politics of Blockchain – Introduction to Law & Critique, Issue 29, Volume 2

Liquidity and Market Inefficiencies in Cryptocurrencies

Exploring Blockchain Technology and its Potential Applications for Education

Blockchain Government: A Next Form of Infrastructure for the 21st Century

Descriptions of papers below are edited abstracts from authors

 

Taking Blockchain Seriously

Robert Herian

In the present techno-political moment it is clear that ignoring or dismissing the hype surrounding blockchain is unwise, and certainly for regulatory authorities and governments who must keep a grip on the technology and those promoting it, in order to ensure democratic accountability and regulatory legitimacy within the blockchain ecosystem and beyond. Blockchain is telling (and showing) us something very important about the evolution of capital and neoliberal economic reason, and the likely impact in the near future on forms and patterns of work, social organization, and, crucially, on communities and individuals who lack influence over the technologies and data that increasingly shape and control their lives. In this short essay I introduce some of the problems in the regulation of blockchain and offer counter-narratives aimed at cutting through the hype fueling the ascendency of this most contemporary of technologies.

 

The Politics of Blockchain – Introduction to Law & Critique, Issue 29, Volume 2

Robert Herian

A number of reports, commentary and academic studies during the last three years have revealed and demonstrated a growing trend in blockchain infrastructure applications extending from an original position with cryptocurrencies (e.g. Bitcoin) to many different social, cultural, economic and political arenas. Underpinning this trend is the growth of a ‘blockchain ecosystem’ via an ethics of neoliberal political economy which is driving forward numerous post-cryptocurrency concepts and use-cases rooted in, for example: re-imagining and strengthening the legitimacy and transparency of big data; solving issues of trust online by fostering new post-trust worlds; creating harmony between individuals as consumer/citizens by rendering the line between business and government (commerce and State) porous; and decentralizing and disrupting ‘old’ or legacy networks and institutions of power in order to regenerate them. The aim of this supplement is to explore and critique this ‘blockchain ecosystem’, the politics it tries to hide, and the legal and regulatory ramifications it inaugurates. The challenge is in part to understand the tensions faced by law and regulation in defining blockchain within the ongoing networking, digitalization, and data-fication of the social.

 

Liquidity and Market Inefficiencies in Cryptocurrencies

Wang Chun Wei

This research examines the liquidity of 456 different cryptocurrencies and shows that return predictability diminishes in cryptocurrencies with high market liquidity. The results show that whilst Bitcoin returns are showing signs of efficiency, numerous cryptocurrencies still exhibit signs of autocorrelation and non-independence. These findings also show a strong relationship between the Hurst exponent and liquidity on a cross-sectional basis. Therefore, the authors conclude that liquidity plays a significant role in market efficiency and return predictability of new cryptocurrencies.

 

Exploring Blockchain Technology and its Potential Applications for Education

Guang Chen, Bing Xu, Manli Lu, and Nian-Shing Chen

Blockchain is the core technology used to create the cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin. As part of the fourth industrial revolution since the invention of steam engine, electricity, and information technology, blockchain technology has been applied in many areas such as finance, judiciary, and commerce. The current paper focuses on its potential educational applications and explores how blockchain technology can be used to solve some education problems. This article first introduces the features and advantages of blockchain technology following by exploring some of the current blockchain applications for education. Some innovative applications of using blockchain technology are proposed, and the benefits and challenges of using blockchain technology for education are also discussed.

 

Blockchain Government: A Next Form of Infrastructure for the 21st Century

MyungSan Jun

Today, more than 100 blockchain projects created to transform government systems are being conducted in more than 30 countries. What leads countries rapidly initiate blockchain projects? The author argues that it is because blockchain is a technology directly related to social organization; Unlike other technologies, a consensus mechanism forms the core of blockchain. Traditionally, consensus is not the domain of machines but rather humankind. However, blockchain operates through a consensus algorithm with human intervention; once that consensus is made, it cannot be modified or forged. Through utilization of Lawrence Lessig’s proposition that “Code is law,” the author suggests that blockchain creates “absolute law” that cannot be violated. This characteristic of blockchain makes it possible to implement social technology that can replace existing social apparatuses including bureaucracy. The author concludes by suggesting five principles that should be considered to when blockchain replaces bureaucracy.