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Tapscott on Blockchain and the Fourth Industrial Age

  • By Andrew Deichler
  • Published: 11/29/2017

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Attendees of the first ever MindShift Breakfast at AFP 2017 got to hear from Don Tapscott, one of the world’s top experts on distributed ledger technology (DLT). He provided a look at how blockchain could reshape treasury and finance in the very near future.

“I don’t think that there’s ever been a more interesting or transformational time to be a CFO, a treasurer or a financial planner,” Tapscott said. “There’s a new paradigm in technology that is emerging. This paradigm will bring about very profound changes in everything to do with the way that we plan and manage financial assets. I think it will lead to profound changes in the corporation and the nature of the firm. And it will bring about some big changes in society—about how we achieve trust, how we function, and how our economy operates.”

At the heart of this new paradigm are treasury and finance professionals. “You have an opportunity to lead this thing,” he said.

Tapscott sees the world entering its “fourth industrial age,” and the catalyst for this new era is blockchain. “I believe this technology represents nothing less than the second era of the internet,” he said.

The internet is typically seen as a platform for exchanging information, Tapscott noted. However, in truth, when you send information over the internet, you’re really sending a copy of that information. “If I send you something over the internet—an email, a PDF—I keep the original,” he said. “But as people in the financial business, what you really care about isn’t information. You really care about assets—things of value that belong to somebody, like money, bonds, stocks and intellectual property. And for assets, copying them is a terrible idea. If I send you $100, it’s very important that I don’t still have the money.”

The way we have managed this “double spend” problem over the years has been through intermediaries—banks, governments, credit card companies, etc. But what if there was a way to cut out the middleman? “What if there wasn’t just an internet of information? What if there was an internet of value?” Tapscott asked.  

Blockchain is that internet of value, Tapscott stressed. I can allow anything of value to be managed, stored, protected and transacted in a secure and private way. “Blockchain is the biggest innovation in computer science in a generation,” he said. “It is going to bring about very profound changes, because for the first time ever on this planet, people globally can trust each other without an intermediary to do all kinds of value exchange.”

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