Brian Forde, previously active for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told Forbes in an interview that digital currencies “have immense potential to improve human welfare,” particularly as regards banking and security.
“[B]ecause [they are] an open-source protocol for innovation, a wide range of services and products can be built by entrepreneurs and non-profits on top of it,” he explained.
Forde was speaking while attending the Atlantic Aspen Ideas Festival, having recently become MIT Media Labs’ new director of digital currency. Despite no longer being directly involved in a governmental capacity, the prospects for Bitcoin’s underlying technology cannot be overestimated, he said.
“If you think bitcoin is just for money transfer, that’s like thinking the internet was only built for email – today we know that internet is used for so many more applications. The true innovation that bitcoin solved was the elimination of the ‘double-spend.’”
It is this ability to provide irrefutable confirmation of a transaction event which for Forde opens the doors to a practically infinite horizon of mainstream uses.
In terms of banking, the ability for the world’s 2 billion unbanked adults to transform their lives via the simplest of methods – for example an SMS transfer and loans service – is within reach, he says. Adding:
“Without a connection to the financial support services that typically accompany formal bank accounts, the unbanked have very limited access to the savings and borrowing mechanisms necessary to drive broad-based economic growth.”
Staying within the bureaucratic realm, here too lie prime opportunities for optimization. “Today we practice a lot of authentication theatre,” Forde continued. “Your government issued identity, for example, starts out in a database of a government agency. It’s then printed out in the form of a social security card, driver’s license, birth certificate or passport.” He stressed:
“US$24 billion in identity theft occurs annually because corporations treat your social security number as a user name and a password.”
The blockchain, by contrast, provides the support required for a streamlined form of identification and authentication. Forde knows as well as anyone however that for the promise, practical demonstrable progress is some way off.
“Similar to CEOs of large companies and non-profits, I’ve found officials in governments around the world interested to learning about the technology and how they can apply it to address the social issues affecting people in their communities,” he noted.
Under Forde’s leadership, MIT took over funding of three Bitcoin core developers in April.
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