Businesses, governments – various entities can benefit from decentralization. However, even criminals may derive some use from decentralized operation modes and various cryptographic primitives. The goals and objectives of those three categories of organizations are different, so the way blockchain traceability can be used also varies. I’ll look at predictive markets, DAOs …and crypto anonymity.
Businesses and blockchain traceability & transparency
Businesses (for-profit organizations) owned by groups of shareholders often value the transparency of the way the organization is run. Those organizations aren’t led by a single person, but by an elected group of directors. The most fundamental feature of businesses governed by smart contracts is that all of the transactions and decisions are stored in a publicly verifiable ledger. This sort of businesses can be called a DAO (a decentralized organization). No director can refute the decisions they make, as their cryptographic signatures can’t be forged (direct accountability).
In DAOs, shareholders or members also have a direct and immediate impact on the direction of growth and future decisions. All costs or expenses in organizations like that are accountable, including employee remuneration. In an environment like that any gender, religious, political or other biases can’t exist.
Governments and prediction markets
Governments run in a decentralized mode are a form of a larger DAO. There are some thought experiments to organize governments in the form of a futarchy. In a futarchy, the legislative branch bases on the results of prediction markets. Prediction markets are sort of like betting or voting systems, and they proved to be an accurate way of extracting value from the wisdom of crowds. Any citizen participating in nation-wide prediction markets can have an immediate impact on the bills passed. What’s more, they can easily see the impact of those bills on their own welfare. That’s probably the best form of traceability that exists!
As the decisions are transparent (and the assets/value allocation is transparent) the money allocation to projects/bills is unbiased, and the money is assigned to objectively the best contractors. We won’t see any shady connections between government representatives and their families or friends.
Criminal organizations – blockchain traceability vs. anonymity
Speaking of shady. There’s something we should be aware of. Criminals can also use the blockchain in creative ways, sadly. For example, let’s look at markets that trade in illicit goods or those offering nefarious services. The objective is to tangle up all the dealings and transactions conducted to hide both the nature and the parties to the transaction. Seems like something that just won’t work on the blockchain? Wrong. Distributed systems include, most importantly, the full anonymity of the transacting parties. These are paired with encryption algorithms of the data exchanged by the parties. This allows such organizations to reach their objectives.
Cryptocurrency systems where you can’t see the parties to the transaction or the actual amounts (but with full guarantee of the actual value transfer!) are perfect tools for organizations that value their… privacy. If those parties get caught, the deniability of the transaction is a vitally important feature. (Un)fortunately, that’s what some of the more complex cryptocurrency systems can offer. Those are the problems regulators should definitely research.
Blockchain for different needs
To conclude, various organizations have different needs. Distributed and blockchain technologies are not one-size-fits-all techniques. They can combine and match these technologies in different ways. Prediction markets won’t work for all, and neither will an anonymous crypto system. The goal is to end up with features that suit the needs of a given organization. As we can see, they can sometimes provide an answer to contradicting needs, such as both transparency and deniability.
Just so you know, I’m organizing a workshop on Stellar soon, check it out. Also, if you’re wondering how traceability (or any other feature I wrote about) can work in practice, say, in your company, write to me using the box below.