Earlier this week, IBM issued a “Blockchain Statement of Principles” aimed at guiding the technology giant’s work in the sector. The introduction to the document pointed out that—like other major technological innovations such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing—blockchain “has the capacity to delivery good and not so good outcomes alike.”
In an effort help create a set of ideals to direct the company’s actions as blockchain moves into the mainstream, IBM has articulated five guiding principles: open is better; permissioned doesn’t mean private; governance is a team sport; common standards are common sense; and privacy is paramount.
The first principle—open is better—asserts that strong, broad communities of open source contributors and organizations must be nurtured by blockchain networks. The goal here is to bolster innovation, reduce the time it takes for the technology to mature and lower costs.
The second tenet—permissioned doesn’t mean private—is IBM’s recognition of how blockchain must be approached against the background of fiduciary and regulatory compliance. In short, the company believes that enterprise blockchains must make permissioned and trusted access a cornerstone.
By asserting that governance is a team sport, IBM seeks to counteract the potential for undue concentrations of influence. The firm outlines that the responsibility for running network nodes and validating transactions should therefore be distributed between no fewer than three trust anchors.
“Common standards are common sense” looks to build upon the potential for a true blockchain ecosystem. IBM notes that enterprise blockchains should have their architecture based in common standards. Doing so, the company states, would thwart vendor lock-in and promote interoperability.
Lastly, by stating that privacy is paramount, IBM seeks to address the data residing on a blockchain. The company notes that such data should always belong to its creator in order to protect individual and corporate information—and that any APIs should use this same permissioned access programmatically.
Taken altogether, IBM is looking to guide its own work in the blockchain space against a backdrop of good outcomes (such as blockchain’s capacity to help food retailers track and contain salmonella outbreaks) as well as bad ones (such as blockchain’s use by cryptocurrency swindlers utilizing pump-and-dump ICO schemes).