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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 Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and an expert on business, policy, and emerging technologies such as blockchain, broadband, and big data. An influential figure in Internet and communications law, Werbach served on the Obama Administration's Presidential Transition Team in 2008. He founded the Supernova Group, a technology consulting firm, and organized the annual CEO-level Supernova technology conference. He created one of the most successful massive open online courses, with over 450,000 enrollments, and co-authored For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. He was named Wharton's first-ever Iron Prof in 2010. Werbach was one of the first technology scholars to focus on blockchain and cryptocurrencies. His book, The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, published on November 20, 2018, by MIT Press. Earlier in his career, he edited the influe ... More

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