Why Decentralization Matters
During the first era of the internet — from the 1980s through the early 2000s — internet services were built on open protocols that were controlled by the internet community. This meant that people or organizations could grow their internet presence knowing the rules of the game wouldn’t change later on. Huge web properties were started during this era including Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. In the process, the importance of centralized platforms like AOL greatly diminished.
During the second era of the internet, from the mid 2000s to the present, for-profit tech companies — most notably Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (GAFA) — built software and services that rapidly outpaced the capabilities of open protocols. The explosive growth of smartphones accelerated this trend as mobile apps became the majority of internet use. Eventually users migrated from open services to these more sophisticated, centralized services. Even when users still accessed open protocols like the web, they would typically do so mediated by GAFA software and services.
Bush Security Advisor Warns Against Blockchain Cold War
The man who helped invent the financial embargoes that cut off terrorist funding after 9/11 is concerned that cryptocurrencies could be used to undermine his creations.
A former deputy assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush, and a former deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism, Juan Zarate is widely credited with helping create sanctions tools and financial instruments that put pressure on enemies of the state.
But as blockchain technologybegins to break down borders and empower the unbanked, Zarate is growing concerned it might also be weaponized to illicit ends.
To be clear, Zarate supports the idea that blockchain and cryptocurrencies could give "greater autonomy" to individuals, while potentially boosting "commercial activity."
Now a senior adviser at Washington D.C.-based think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Zarate was also among the technology's earliest advocates, having been an advisorto U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase since 2014.
Still, he's adamant there needs to be more transparency about how even governments might use blockchain due to the geo-political nature of the monetary system it could help reimagine.
Key to the success of the tools Zarate created, for example, was the U.S. dollar's status as the de facto global reserve currency. By creating ways to strategically cut off a nation's access to the dollar, Zarate was able to effectively restrict their ability to wage war or otherwise undermine U.S. interests.
Stateless Rohingya to get digital IDs with blockchain
Stateless Rohingya who fled Myanmar are set to receive digital identity cards using blockchain technology in a pilot project seeking to help them access services like banking and education.
The first 1,000 people to benefit from the project in 2018 will be members of the diaspora in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, decades-old safe havens for the Rohingya, who are the world’s biggest stateless minority.
“They are disenfranchised,” Kyri Andreou, co-founder of The Rohingya Project, which is organizing the initiative, said at its launch in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
“They are shut out. One of the key aspects is because of the lack of identification.”
More than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims - who are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar - have fled to Bangladesh since August after attacks by insurgents triggered a response by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist vigilantes.
The Rohingya Project estimates there are 4 million Rohingya around the world, the majority living outside their ancestral land since Myanmar excluded them from the country’s recognized ethnic groups in 1982, effectively rendering them stateless.
Blockchain, the technology behind the bitcoin currency, will be used to issue individual digital IDs to people once they have taken a test to verify that they are genuine Rohingya.
It aims to improve the stateless Rohinygas’ access to public services, such as hospitals, which is often difficult, as well as restoring their dignity, the project’s founders said.
“We are trying to put a smile on the Rohingya’s face who has been crying for decades,” said another co-founder Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya who first came to Malaysia in 2000.
“This is a ray of hope.”
Blockchain is a digital shared record of transactions maintained by a network of computers on the internet, without the need of a centralized authority.
It has gained popularity among humanitarians in recent years, with charities using it to transfer money cheaply and disburse aid to refugees.
The U.N. refugee agency said in November that the Rohingya are the biggest minority among an estimated 10 million people worldwide who are stateless, a status that deprives them of an identity, rights, and often jobs.
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