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Blockchain and the Neutrality of Technology

Wed, 12 Jun 2019, 05:09 am UTC

Governments are fickle things. Within a given country, the direction of progress may zig and zag, depending on the particular leadership of a given moment and the rate of turnover from one administration to the next. A congress, parliament, or presidency may put into action certain policies that have long term goals, only to be reversed, dismantled, or contradicted by their predecessors. Of course, this should be a natural part of a healthy political scene. Government efforts should reflect the changing will of their specific populations and moments. However, this can and does stymie the more linear advancement of technological innovation.

Unlike semiconductor circuits or memory capacity, government efficiency does not follow Moore’s law. Instead, it is the product of in-fighting and complicated, often unpredictable social forces. And beyond the scale of individual nations, the international political scene only gets more complicated, as nations not only change and develop according to their own particular needs but also interact with one another in confusing, and sometimes even capricious ways.

The Trump Presidency is a paradigm of this confusion. The current administration has thrown decades-long domestic policies and norms to the wayside in order to pursue its own political ends. Familiar defense and trade alliances have been thrown into question, saturating with fear and doubt the American (and thus, global) economy.

Most recently, the White House set severe restrictions on the Chinese tech giant Huawei. The U.S. had made its position on Chinese tech known for some time. In January of this year, Trump’s government charged Huawei with financial crimes. However, it was not until Trump’s most recent prohibition in what has been described as a “technological cold war” that the technology itself has been made to suffer. One of the biggest smartphone sellers in the world, Huawei devices will no longer be able to access U.S. software, including Google's Android infrastructure, which is an integral component of Huawei's mobile operating systems.

This new policy restriction will impact a number of sectors and communities as it addresses some of the biggest corporations of our global economy. The primary tax, however, may prove to be levied on innovation itself.

A fundamental spirit of openness and cooperation can still exist between scientists and technologists amidst tense international relations, but ultimately political regimes have the power to disrupt those channels of innovation. This certainly characterized the cold war of the previous century between the United States and the Soviet Union. In that era, the so-called "iron curtain" strictures deterred many fields of scientific inquiry, as they split laboratories along the lines of political blocs. Moreover, emphasis on cultural and financial support realigned the notion of scientific endeavor itself, not as a self-evident good, but as a means of asserting geopolitical supremacy. The precious resources of time and intellect were spent disproportionally on weapons technology - symbolic feats of strength, and insubstantial demonstrations of nationalistic excellence. In this time, the world saw a dangerous and precipitous escalation of its nuclear arsenal and a cartoonish space chase that demanded simple goals of high visibility, like sending a small fleet of dogs to the moon.

A cold war in our age of high technology would be more than stagnating, it would be devastating. National contests threaten the potential for progress, as well as the contemporary norms of our everyday lives. As our societal systems have achieved unprecedented efficiency, we have come to depend on them more than ever before. A malicious and purposeful attack has the potential to threaten the lives and wellbeing of entire nations via a single point of failure. Our identities, our modes of transport, our food supplies have become vulnerable in powerful new ways. Briefly stated, in cyber warfare, every attack has nuclear potential.

Blockchain poses a vital solution to these encroaching issues. Many people in the crypto space talk about the mollifying effects that a separation of money and state will have on world economic and political landscape. By removing state sanctions from the ability of individuals to transact, so the idea goes, special interest money will no longer ungird politics, which too often results in unjust laws and favoritism, and politics will no longer arbitrate economic empowerment. Yet, there is another, perhaps even more crucial separation at work in decentralized technology: the uncoupling of technological development from national agendas.

Blockchains have the capacity to reassert the neutrality of technology, as a new kind of resource that belongs not to those who may leverage it, but rather to those who may benefit from it. Decentralized operating systems prioritize their users over their service providers. In effect, this poses a number of concrete benefits. Personal data may be encrypted with private keys instead of being stored on centralized servers, which act as singular points of failure. Particular apps that are deemed important public services or social networks may be located on a decentralized app store. Communication may become peer-to-peer, and irreversible in order to nullify oppressive censorship. Lastly, governance itself can be maintained by transparent open source communities, organized in accordance with associations that they freely choose.

For our team at Cypherium, these recent developments touch home as we have developers from all around the globe working on our network, including both China and the United States. The entire aim of Cypherium’s Java Virtual Machine (CVM) has been to encourage adoption of decentralized technologies in as many sectors and legacy systems as possible. The CVM is compatible with the JVM of Google’s Android OS, which enables it to run Android applications. Our choices have always sought to widen the available of blockchain technology for the future, and adoption seems to be the only way to ensure that the hope of neutral accessibility succeeds.

-By Sky Guo, CEO and Co-Founder at Cypherium

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