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Block Chains, Crypto, and a Better World?

In this Harvard Business Review post, HBR associate editor Ramsey Khabbaz interviews Jeff John Roberts, a technology journalist, the author of Kings of Crypto: One Startup’s Quest to Take Cryptocurrency out of Silicon Valley and onto Wall Street, and executive editor of Decrypt. The questions that they discuss relate to the origins of block chains and cryptocurrencies, how they are governed (or not), their relationship to the development of Web3, their environmental impact, and what these technological developments could mean for business. Check it out.

It’s important to consider the development of these technologies, of course. After all, the market capitalization of the top five cryptocurrencies is nearly a trillion dollars,[i] although this figure changes daily. Clearly, they will have an impact on our world. But we at Design a Better World believe that technologies, in and of themselves, will not make the world better. It all depends on what you do with them, what designs are created. And if the impacts of these designs are to be good, we need to be asking different questions: What are the human problems that are being addressed? How do these designs contribute to happiness and well-being? What harm can come from their use and how can that be reduced or eliminated? Do they reduce or do they amplify inequality and injustice?

Without asking and answering these questions, we have no confidence that block chains and cryptocurrencies won’t merely continue or amplify the problems of harm, inequality, and injustice that too often prevail in our society. You can’t make the world better only by asking how technology and the designs that use them will improve business and increase profits. It’s more likely that decisions made by those with the most bitcoins will benefit most those with the most bitcoins. It has been proven over and over that the exclusive focus on self-interest will not benefit everyone. It takes both self-interest and a concern for others to make the world better. Technology can’t be designed only benefit the ‘whales’; it has to be designed to benefit the rest of us fish, too.

[i] Tretina, K. & Curry, B. (May 12, 2022). 10 of the best cryptocurrencies in May 2022. Forbes Advisor.


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