This Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for technology and the endless opportunity it gives us to reinvent ourselves and right our mistakes. Technology has done so much for my family and for me, whatever challenges we face today I couldn’t be convinced to turn back the clock.
My great-grandfather ran a cheese factory in Athens. His son, George, went to engineering school, which was his ticket out of Greece and around the world. George’s daughter, Rosemary, my mother, has found endless challenges and opportunities in math and engineering, spending her career as a computer programmer and research director.
Paul Brody is EY’s global blockchain leader and a CoinDesk columnist.
My father started his career as a nuclear physicist, and he and my mother both went to the linear accelerator at Stanford and later to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. My first real job was a year in Nigeria with the country’s leading private cellular network operator.
Read more: Choose who we trust -Paul Brody
For me, blockchain has already been so much more than smart technology or a place to build a career. It’s an opportunity to transform the way businesses operate, create immense value and reset the distribution of power in the global economy. We have been in the information technology revolution for fifty years, and we have digitized much of the world’s economic activity, but mostly in very small, company-sized silos.
Even the best companies in the world spend between 5-10% of their income on administration, an expense largely due to the challenge of matching different types of data and business rules that are all digital somewhere, but not in the same systems. . None of this makes the world a better place.
Blockchains will allow us to link all these systems between companies. And once it becomes simple for businesses to work together, we in turn will change the structure of entire ecosystems, because then networks of small businesses can operate as efficiently as large businesses.
So far, digital economies have proven time and time again to be win-win (or almost) drivers. Centralized intermediaries take an overwhelming share of the benefits created by building digital networks. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Public blockchains have some of the same characteristics as highly centralized systems: network effects mean they become more valuable as more and more people join. The difference, and the opportunity for us, is to redistribute the benefits of digital transformation to network participants instead of a centralized operator.
As with any new technology, there is room not only for new ideas and new products, but also for new ways of doing business, new ways of dealing with people, and new opportunities for people. It is no coincidence that women and minorities invaded information technology in its infancy. The industry was built on gray matter and the competitive advantage came from getting it where it was available, no matter who it came from.
For those of us who sometimes feel like outsiders, the appeal of math and engineering is even simpler: it’s more objective than subjective. Your numbers add up or not. Your code works or not. Great software engineering skills are not a popularity contest, and you can earn respect based on your work, not your experience. Progress is uneven and imperfect, but it is always progress.
Everywhere we go, bad old ideas try to follow us. My mother likes to tell a great story about how, when she was working in Switzerland in the early 1970s, the human resources department explained to her that if a husband and a wife both worked in the same organization, the wife was not allowed to earn money. more than her husband, they would therefore have to reduce her salary.
It’s hard to believe this sort of thing happened in living memory, although I’m sure my kids will be amazed that their two fathers were not legally married when we had them.
New technologies can never match the hype with which they arrive. Television has not democratized education. The Internet was a decentralized network that ushered in a new golden age of monopolies. It was supposed to empower disenfranchised people but seems to have instead given a megaphone to privileged extremists. No matter. Thanks to the endless revolutions brought by new technologies, we continue to have new opportunities to correct our mistakes and make things better. This is something to be thankful for.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the global EY organization or its member companies.