Oh, Hey Blockchain, Meet the U.S. Education System
Well here we are nearing the end of 2020 and I think it’s fair to say a few ears have perked up to the idea that distributed systems might just offer something useful to society. The American Council on Education (ACE) and the Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET) have recently closed submissions for the Blockchain Innovation Challenge, and the range/quality of submissions (given what I was exposed to) was truly astounding. The commitment, both in vision and resources, across a burgeoning network of institutions and agencies has been nothing short of inspiring amid the most challenging of times. The promise to empower all learners, unlock lifelong learning, and improve economic mobility, coupled with the launch of Serenity (Ethereum 2.0) and Bitcoin stabilizing above $15k and you have a reasonable formula for backing the slope of sanity and stability without much need for hesitation.
Even with universities in shut down mode, and economic collapse and ongoing political unrest seemingly imminent for the foreseeable future, the promise of blockchain and new trust networks have offered a silver lining and beacon of hope within and beyond education. Ongoing signs of distributed system stability are simply impossible to ignore. Take note of what the Wu-Tang Clan has done for music, William Shatner for collectibles, IBM for food traceability and supply chains, Regen Network for agriculture, De Beers for diamonds, and Brave for the browser. Clearly, there are emergent projects and pilot networks proving the viability of blockchains and distributed systems across nearly all sectors of society, both in the U.S. and globally.
Even with the Gartner slope of enlightenment being defined by less than 5% of a population having fully adopted a particular technology, I’m still confident in affirming that we’re on track. Social systems (i.e. education) are bending, if not fracturing, governments are increasingly open to new institutions and value paradigms (i.e. CBDCs), and capital continues to flow into distributed alternatives. While true stability is far from assured, there’s a growing acceptance that the current extractive, game-theoretic trajectory is unsustainable and self-terminating. Entering the slope of sanity and stability with unwavering optimism may be less about certitude and more about accepting an imperative for which no viable alternative exists.
Let’s enter 2021 with the hope and promise we’ve been offered. There are challenges, but amid endless difficulty, there is also the promise of something altogether different and new; systems for which greed and corruption take a back seat to trust and transparency. Forward to better…together.
With this series, I hope to offer a useful look at the intersection of a nascent technology and legacy bureaucracy. There’s a growing network of people and machines aiming to (re)define notions of trust and value, and seed a new distributed landscape of equitable opportunity for all. I hope you’ll join me in playing matchmaker (or devil’s advocate) as we collectively gaze upon and shape this exciting new relationship.