Blockchain and the New World of Work
Published on September 27, 2019
Rohit Talwar – Futurist Speaker
By Rohit Talwar and Alexandra Whittington
How might blockchain technologies impact the future workplace?
Blockchain and the Future of Work
A new world of work is on the horizon. Specifically, the development of blockchain technology has created new opportunities to rethink how and where we work. How has blockchain impacted the workplace so far, and where is it going in the near future? This chapter explores how blockchain might play a role in the new world of work.
Blockchain is the distributed ledger technology that provides the transaction platform for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Essentially, blockchain is a financial transaction tracker, but that isn’t all it does. Smart contracts are one of the most common examples of blockchain being used for non-currency purposes. A smart contract represents tasks that can be executed without human intervention. An example would be a smart contract for the shipment of tangible goods. New office furniture could be ordered using a smart contract that releases payment via blockchain once the delivery of the furniture is confirmed via Internet of Things (IoT) sensors located within the product itself that verify its physical location. Once the conditions of the contract are met, payment is made instantaneously. The advantage is the automation of many business processes. The disadvantage is the displacement of people who once did most of the jobs to complete the process described above.
Blockchain for Workplace Education and Training
Eventually, blockchain ledgers might replace CVs as the best and most immutable representation of one’s professional, educational, and training history. This would prevent people making fraudulent claims and protect against identity theft. For example, as a database of transcripts and credentials, blockchain-based education credits are universal, transparent, and easily verified. Human Resources could make use of such a blockchain to offer company webinars, wellness counseling, and explain employee benefits to new hires, and enable the firm to track who has completed each training module.
Learning about non-traditional subjects could also be managed with blockchain technology. There could be emphasis on numerous areas of learning besides work-related topics, including personal development and mental health. In fact, one type of course that might be offered in a co-working or flexible working environment could involve new employee orientation to the space with safety, environmental, legal, and ethical training related to the job role or guidelines for use of the facility. Proof of training completion would be stored in blockchain for future reference. Already, a company called EchoLink, a training and skill verification start-up, has developed a blockchain token akin to Bitcoin. By applying the blockchain concept to hiring, EchoLink has created a global digital currency designed exclusively for confirming job candidate work history, education, and skills.
Blockchain is a Catalyst for Future Jobs and Industries
As a catalyst for new jobs, blockchain’s key capacities make it possible to imagine positive future job roles like food supply chain tracking, counterfeit prevention, and certification of cruelty-free consumer products. For example, blockchain is bringing transparency to the food industry with distributed ledgers that verify everywhere a piece of produce has traveled along its journey to the market. Is it possible that eventually it will be someone’s job to track grocery orders on the blockchain, ensuring that food hasn’t been tampered with or traveled through ethically dubious routes? As the blockchain industries grow, they will extend their reach into the business community. The industrious city of Berlin is home to a location called Full Node, a new co-working space devoted exclusively to blockchain experimentation, community education events, and hackathons. Full Node is one example of the emerging need for workspaces dedicated to creating clusters of blockchain innovation and raising public awareness for blockchain technology.
Blockchain is Essential to Emerging Future Business Models
A start-up called Primalbase allows lifetime universal membership to co-working spaces via a sharing economy blockchain model which permits coin owners to experience peer-to-peer workspace arrangements. The model allows for completely automated and anonymized real estate transactions Airbnb-style, but transactions are one hundred percent machine-to-machine. Smart devices using a combination of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain would most likely form the basis of a real-life decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). These entities have no human workers or bosses, just a chain of smart contracts triggering—and being triggered by—one another to achieve digitally-enabled tasks across the organization. Eventually, blockchain could allow for co-working and flexible office space that can automatically invoice and collect tenant fees via pre-agreed conditions enabled with a smart contract.
The future of work rests not just upon blockchain; other exponential technologies like AI and IoT are amplifying the smart objects and systems context that characterizes the workplace of the future. Blockchain may disrupt the future workplace in several ways, having many effects on an office and its inhabitants. Decentralized technologies such as blockchain may in fact create some of the best opportunities for flexible working in the future. The most important point for business leaders to remember is to use technology in the service of humans, and not the other way around.
- What is the potential of blockchain to automate existing inefficient workplace processes and activities?
- How well understood is the disruptive potential of blockchain technology in your organization?
- How might blockchain enable a more human focus in the future world of work?