The Blockchain Ethical Design Framework for Social Impact

There are dramatic predictions about the potential of blockchain to “revolutionize” everything from worldwide financial markets and the distribution of humanitarian assistance to the very way that we outright recognize human identity for billions of people around the globe. As developers take on building these types of solutions, the social effects of blockchain can be powerful and lasting.

With the potential for such a powerful impact, the design, application, and approach to the development and implementation of blockchain technologies have long-term implications for society and individuals. This paper outlines why intentionality of design, which is important with any technology, is particularly crucial with blockchain, and offers a framework to guide policymakers and social impact organizations. As social media, cryptocurrencies, and algorithms have shown, technology is not neutral. Values are embedded in the code. How the problem is defined and by whom, who is building the solution, how it gets programmed and implemented, who has access, and what rules are created have consequences, in intentional and unintentional ways. In the applications and implementation of blockchain, it is critical to understand that seemingly innocuous design choices have resounding ethical implications on people’s lives.

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