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Blockchain’s Backers Gather to Push Governance for Technology

  • Better oversight could hasten growth, as it did for internet
  • ‘None of that exists, or it’s very embryonic,’ organizer says

Some of blockchain’s biggest backers, including people with ties to IBM and JPMorgan, will gather Wednesday to work on the biggest issue hobbling the technology behind digital currency -- the absence of grown-up governance.

While growth of the internet was fostered by bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Governance Forum and the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, the blockchain technology that makes the bitcoin digital currency work lacks such support.

“There’s a vacuum,” said Don Tapscott, co-author of the book “Blockchain Revolution” and a meeting organizer. Along with his son and co-author Alex Tapscott, he is hosting the gathering at his family’s summer compound in Lake of Bays, Ontario, and says it could lead to the creation of a new organization.

A dozen supporters from the software industry, including the heads of the Linux Foundation and the Hyperledger Project, will take part in the three-day meeting. Because the technology underpinning bitcoin first found favor with libertarians, the development of blockchain and the resolution of disputes have largely been accomplished through democratic efforts, such as member voting.

Now that companies in finance and other industries are looking to adopt blockchain -- essentially a new kind of a database for recording transactions -- more standards-setting organization is needed to speed up development and resolve any issues, such as how to deal with attacks like the recent hack of the crowd-sourced venture fund DAO.

“For digital currencies, none of that exists, or it’s very embryonic,” Tapscott said. “So we decided we are going to make some progress here.”

People attending the three-day session are there as individuals, as opposed to representing their organizations, Tapscott said.

They include Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation; Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the Hyperledger Project, a blockchain supporter group that includes International Business Machines Corp., Airbus Group SE and JPMorgan Chase & Co.; and Ana Lopes, board member of the World Wide Web Foundation. Participants with blockchain industry ties include former deputy White House press secretary Jamie Smith, now chief global communications officer of BitFury Group Ltd, and Joseph Lubin, founder of startup Consensus Systems.

“The goal is to try to come up with insights and concrete actions to moving forward,” Tapscott said.

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