There are numerous sustainable global innovations being developed right now and the emergence of Blockchain is one of them. Michael Kolenbrander is a Blockchain Solution Architect at Capgemini. In this article, he tells us what Blockchain is exactly, why this technology will be so valuable for our future, and how humanity is on the brink of technological advancements and new possibilities that have the potential to change the world we live in.
What contributions can Blockchain as a system make for our future?
Blockchain technology delivers an important basic ingredient for that in the form of reliable and transparent information. Right now, we depend on digital information for many things in our daily lives. Instead of creating information in one place and then (manually) copying it to a lot of different places, using blockchain technology, huge networks of computers will work together via the internet to create, exchange, record, validate and process the information.
That information might include financial transactions, the stages of a contract, registries for identification or property, or other valuable information, such as scientific research findings, product origins, election results, medical records, or the locations of transport vehicles. This technology ensures that all users have the same information, and that this information is correct and up-to-date, without the need for extensive checks or a middleman.
Other processes can also be automated based on the information stored in a blockchain. This opens the door to interesting new applications, such as so-called ’Smart Contracts’ and reliable ways to coordinate self-driving cars, freight transportation and clusters of drones by computer. Blockchain technology opens possibilities for a collaborative information infrastructure that can be driven by technology.
Blockchain technology opens possibilities for collaborative infrastructure.
How does this transformation safeguard a sustainable future?
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” was a quote often used by my science teacher. Sustainability can also be presented in measurable parameters. Through recent technological innovations in the area of sensors and artificial intelligence, for example, we are now able to collect and analyze more information than ever before. How do we measure ‘sustainability’ in this case? We need to take into account the complex interconnectivity between all sorts of processes. That is where information technology offers us an advantage.
Can you give an example of your newest, most innovative designs with regard to Blockchain and Sustainable Development?
One of the projects I designed for Capgemini is the Whiteflag application. A white flag has been used for decades to make communication between parties in conflict situations possible. Whiteflag is a communication network aimed at protecting people and organizations active in conflict areas from the effects of misinformation and a lack of information. To do this, we use blockchain technology to create a decentralized network that allows users in conflict or disaster areas to communicate and share information in a safe and verifiable way.
One of the most powerful tools in conflictresolution is communication.
Communication is one of the most powerful tools for conflict resolution. The Whiteflagnetwork offers an open infrastructure for this. The digital Whiteflag protocol is neutral and has no owner, which makes it an open network that all parties active in a conflict or disaster area can use. That includes military units, armed factions, peacekeeping organizations, neutral parties such as journalists and non-governmental human rights and aid organizations, civilians, refugees, and others. The Whiteflag prototype is being developed for the Future Force Conference at Capgemini’s innovation center, in collaboration with the Royal Dutch Air Force’s AIR center for innovation. Later this year, Capgemini will be starting a pilot with several international partners and together they will work toward a global launch of the network.
What does the social and technological transformation to a sustainable society and future look like?
The intention with which the technology is used is, in this context, at least as important as the technology itself. This will help determine what the future will look like. To paraphrase Jacque Fresco (The Venus Project, author of Designing the Future and other books), we often speak of the technological advancement of human civilization, but for as long as we have existed, we have not yet actually become civilized. Technology can be a catalyst for a transformation to a truly sustainable society. It is important in that respect to always consider the bigger picture within which these transformations take place.
Never before in history has mankind had the potential to communicate with each other and organize globally, in real time.
What does the ideal future look like?
Personally, I don’t think that an ideal future can be described as something finite. The world around us will always continue to evolve, and so will human culture, as well as the technological possibilities. From that perspective, you could view social and technological development as synergetic and ‘emergent.’ There is no fixed, concrete ideal, because it will continue to change as we evolve.
The current generation is living in a unique moment in time. Never before in history has mankind had the potential to communicate with each other and organize globally, in real time. We also have, by way of the internet, a worldwide, seemingly inexhaustible database of knowledge and information that is accessible to everyone.
The processes of technological development that used to take several decades now take only a few years, and that tempo seems to be getting faster. Think how fast the mobile phone and internet emerged, and how fast things are developing in quantum computing, humanoid robots and flying cars.
Consensus between people is needed, in addition to consensus between computers.
This is to a certain extent, of course, part futurology. It surpassed science fiction a long time ago. The future keeps getting closer, and it is our responsibility as human beings to shape it. For this, there is consensus between people needed, in addition to a consensus between computers.