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The Future We Want – Why I Am Passionate About Blockchains

June 19, 2017 Alexander Renz, Director, New Mobility Lab

Back in December 2000 I had my first meeting in my new role to help SAP develop a future vision and strategy for supply chain management. Together with Albrecht Diener I met Steve David, the then CIO of Procter & Gamble, who introduced us to his vision of a Consumer Driven Supply Network powered by a next generation Auto-ID technology and agent-based optimization.

My next trip was to meet the Director of the MIT Auto-ID Center, Kevin Ashton in Cambridge, MA. Kevin is credited with inventing the term “Internet of Things” back in 1999 and has played a key role in shaping it. Next to the MIT Auto-ID Center, Steve David also introduced us to Stuart Kauffman from the Santa Fe Institute, the godfather of complexity science. Together with brilliant minds like Bill MacReady, Tony Plate, Fred Seibel, Brian Birk and Brian Potter we looked at swarm intelligence and how ants and termites organize themselves, how birds flock and how schools of fish protect themselves from predators. Ever since I was fascinated by the notion of smart, connected things and a future of autonomous, self-organizing systems.

The challenge we faced was that we did not really have the underlying infrastructure to manage such systems. How do you manage a global network of smart, connected objects? How do you give them an identity? How do you steer the behavior of these independent economic agents in a way that leads to a somewhat optimized outcome for the entire system? How do you enable transactions between these smart objects? How do we create a record of transactions in a world of distributed systems? And how do you keep such a system secure? We could not really find a satisfactory answer to these problems at the time.

When I discovered blockchain technologies almost 15 years later, I felt like I finally found this missing piece. Blockchains or more generally distributed ledger technologies promise to deliver the backbone for the Internet of Things. In the not too distant future, we might have fleets of electric robot taxis swarm out like ants to look for passengers. Distributed ledger technologies will play a critical role in this emerging Machine-to-Machine economy.

We have done projects with world leading companies to explore the potential of the technology. The more we learn, the more excited we are about its potential to change the world for the better. We believe that distributed ledger technologies are critical to shaping our collective futures. Thanks to people like Rob Wolcott, Yossi Vardi, Maurizio Rossi and Plamen Russev we have become part of a global ecosystem of innovation. In our many discussions at events such as DLD, KINglobal, webit, 4YFN, Kinnernet, Autonomy and TU Detroit more and more people seem to agree that we need to make sure that technology serves us as humans. We all need to make sure that we create a future where humanity, life and the planet can thrive.

We aim to create a platform to empower more people to understand the technology and its key concepts and implications. In the next weeks and months, we will share more and more of our thinking around blockchains and distributed ledger technologies.

· We will make the technology and its key underlying concepts and implications understandable to a larger audience.

· We will share our passion for a world where people and things have digital identities that can be shared and trusted across a network.

· A world where our data is no longer compromised by storing it in large honey pots of data that attracts hackers.

· We will explore why distributed ledger technologies are critical to securing the Internet of Things. We will explore the role of blockchains in machine learning and artificial intelligence, autonomous robotic systems and the emerging Machine-to-Machine Economy.

· We will examine new business models and how we as humans can thrive in this future.

We want to build a future we all want to live in. I hope you will join us on that journey. We all must play an active role in shaping the future, or somebody else will create it for us. A future we might not like. Let’s create the future we want!

Alexander Renz is Director at the New Mobility Lab, a not-for-profit organization with the charter to raise awareness and scale knowledge related to distributed ledger technologies in the New Mobility ecosystem. New Mobility Lab is a platform for sharing real world experiences and executing pilots and proof of concepts across the public and private sector. To learn more, click here.