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The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust

Kevin Werbach

How the blockchain—a system built on foundations of mutual mistrust—can become trustworthy.

The blockchain entered the world on January 3, 2009, introducing an innovative new trust architecture: an environment in which users trust a system—for example, a shared ledger of information—without necessarily trusting any of its components. The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is the most famous implementation of the blockchain, but hundreds of other companies have been founded and billions of dollars invested in similar applications since Bitcoin’s launch. Some see the blockchain as offering more opportunities for criminal behavior than benefits to society. In this book, Kevin Werbach shows how a technology resting on foundations of mutual mistrust can become trustworthy.

The blockchain, built on open software and decentralized foundations that allow anyone to participate, seems like a threat to any form of regulation. In fact, Werbach argues, law and the blockchain need each other. Blockchain systems that ignore law and governance are likely to fail, or to become outlaw technologies irrelevant to the mainstream economy. That, Werbach cautions, would be a tragic waste of potential. If, however, we recognize the blockchain as a kind of legal technology that shapes behavior in new ways, it can be harnessed to create tremendous business and social value.

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About the Author

Kevin Werbach

Kevin Werbach is a leading expert on the legal, business, and public policy aspects of the Network Age. He is an associate professor of legal studies at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he was named the first “Iron Prof” for his gamification research. He co-led the review of the Federal Communications Commission for the Obama Administration’s presidential transition team and served as an expert adviser to the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. For nine years he organized Supernova, an influential executive technology conference. Werbach was previously the editor of Release 1.0, Esther Dyson’s Monthly Report, and served as Counsel for New Technology Policy at the FCC in the Clinton administration, where he helped develop the US government’s internet and ecommerce policies. Follow him on Twitter at @kwerb. ... More

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