The blockchain is still in its infancy. There is still a need for more regulation and many more questions that need to be answered before widespread adoption.

“What the blockchain does is provides trust in the ledger, trust in the transactions… it doesn’t eliminate the need for trust, you got to trust the blockchain, you got to trust that the entire system is worthwhile and trustworthy and part of that involves law and regulation and governance,” says Kevin Werbach Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School.

According to Professor Werbach these issues of trust will take many years to be resolved. “We are still pretty early. Basic questions about the technical maturity of the technology are still uncertain in terms of scalability, the user experience on most of these systems is still fairly low, and all of these legal and regulatory questions are still very early.”

Summary

How the blockchain—a system built on foundations of mutual mistrust—can become trustworthy.

The blockchain entered the world on January 3, 2009, introducing an innovative new trust architecture: an environment in which users trust a system—for example, a shared ledger of information—without necessarily trusting any of its components. The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is the most famous implementation of the blockchain, but hundreds of other companies have been founded and billions of dollars invested in similar applications since Bitcoin’s launch. Some see the blockchain as offering more opportunities for criminal behavior than benefits to society. In this book, Kevin Werbach shows how a technology resting on foundations of mutual mistrust can become trustworthy.

The blockchain, built on open software and decentralized foundations that allow anyone to participate, seems like a threat to any form of regulation. In fact, Werbach argues, law and the blockchain need each other. Blockchain systems that ignore law and governance are likely to fail, or to become outlaw technologies irrelevant to the mainstream economy. That, Werbach cautions, would be a tragic waste of potential. If, however, we recognize the blockchain as a kind of legal technology that shapes behavior in new ways, it can be harnessed to create tremendous business and social value.

Ripple sat down with Kevin Werbach, author and Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to discuss his teaching, research and new book, The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust.

Read their interview here.