What is YOUR Future at Work?

How to Predict the Future of Work
(Photo by Wyron A)

What is the future of work? More importantly, what is YOUR future at work?

These are questions my Columbia University colleagues and I have been discussing with increasing frequency as we design our research projects, as well as courses for our students. Because the more we understand emerging trends, the better we can equip our students for a brighter future at work.

But how to identify and interpret emerging trends?

Many years ago, a colleague at my law firm told me that he was leaving his seemingly secure place on partner track to work for a small venture capital fund. He said that the fund’s founder had “noticed” that as baby boomers were getting older they were also getting more invested in fighting their aging. So that founder decided to engage in their fight by investing in the new wellness industry. Over the next few years, he invested in companies that made supplements and other healthcare items and then he shifted into organic wellness products. The founder was well ahead of the curve, thanks to his ability to understand the logical outcome of current trends.

Emerging AI and Automation trends

If you look past the hype about AI, you will see that many businesses are changing the way they work as they explore the potential of this technology. In the process, we are also seeing some shifts in employment patterns emerging. With AI and automation comes dislocation. Unfortunately, according to a recent report on Automation and Artificial Intelligence by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, the negative impacts of automation and AI are going to hit some groups harder than others:

  • Routine physical and cognitive tasks are most likely to be automated. This has tough implications for people in office administration, production, food preparation, and transportation roles.
  • Smaller, more rural areas will be harder hit by automation than the largest cities. (The higher the level of worker education, the less likely those workers are to lose ground to automation.)
  • Men, youth, and under-represented groups will be most negatively affected by automation.
Education is your insurance for your future at work

The authors of the report propose several policy approaches to mitigate the negative impact of automation. In addition, they recommend some crucial actions for organizations and individuals that come straight out of the playbooks of knowledge management and organizational learning. In their view, the most important thing we can do is promote a learning mindset by taking the following actions:

  • Invest in reskilling incumbent workers
  • Expand accelerated learning and certifications
  • Make skill development more financially accessible
  • Align and expand traditional education
  • Foster uniquely human qualities

Clearly, the keys to employment success and security are to keep ahead of automation through education and to double down on the things that humans do better than machines.

Join us to learn more about the future of work

My Columbia University colleague, Dr. Ed Hoffman, will be speaking about the Future of Work on Thursday, May 2, at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. After his presentation, Ed, our colleague Jordon Sims, and I will lead an interactive discussion with the audience on the issue. For more information on Thursday’s session, see this post by Ed Hoffman: The Future of Work: Intangibles, Machines, and Cultures of Excellence.

If you are in Washington, DC on Thursday and would like to join us, go to https://dc.alumni.columbia.edu/hoffman for more information on how to attend.

We look forward to seeing you there.


A Different Way to Practice Law

Session Description:  Lyman Thai will give us an inside look at the business model, KM, and legal tech approach of Atrium, a full-service corporate law firm that uses modern technology to give startups a legal experience that is fast, transparent, and price predictable.

[These are my notes from a private gathering of senior knowledge management professionals from large law firms. The participants come from law firms around the world.]

  • Atrium’s Mission. To accelerate our clients’ growth through world-class legal advice and frictionless transactions.
  • Atrium’s Structure. They have a lawyer-owned, lawyer-run law firm that complies with ethical requirements regarding law firm ownership and management. They have a separate limited liability company, LTS, that houses their technology and product development operations.
    • LTS is a Delaware corporation and has venture capital funding.
    • Their practicing lawyers are encouraged to invest in the tech company so they are all aligned.
  • How they are different from other firms.
    • Two-entity structure
      • The law firm and LTS are independent but aligned.
      • Economic arrangements: Partners enjoy the economic upside of the law firm’s operations. All employees enjoy the economic upside of the operations and success of  LTS.
      • Parity of Personnel: the lawyers are not subordinated to the technologists; the technologists are not subordinated to the lawyers.
      • Lawyers tend to practice the way they were taught. This often includes inefficiencies. When lawyers have to explain their processes to their software developer colleagues, this tends to expose inefficiencies that now must be fixed.
    • Fixed-price model.
      • this is forcing model that helps expose inefficiencies. Once fixed, this gives the law firm a competitive advantage
      • it creates a friendlier working environment for clients
    • Tech to streamline legal services
    • Role specialization
    • Starting with startups
      • Startups tend to provide rapid and frank feedback, which helps Atrium improve.
      • Atrium has adopted shorter sales cycles for legal matters and legal tech.
  • Atrium’s Values. These guide who they hire and what they do.
    • Win with Integrity
    • Elevate the game = this focuses on mentoring and feedback. No one is too high or too low offer and receive feedback so they can improve their performance.
    • Rethink the cake  = question assumptions, reason from first principles not just from precedent.
    • Own your own role, own the whole
    • A-team or fail = regardless where you sit, you are part of a single team (One Atrium) so everyone values and supports “their togetherness.”
    • Delight every client
  • Rethinking the Cake Leads to Process Improvements.
    • The cake story:
      • little girl is baking a cake with her mother and notices that the mother cuts off the edges of the baked cake in a particular way.
      • little girl asks why and the mother responds: I don’t know. It’s how grandma always did it.
      • little girl then asks grandma why. Grandma responds: when your mother was a little girl I had the wrong-shaped cake pan so I had to cut the baked cake into the right shape.
      • moral of the story: question assumptions, keep asking why.
    • Specialized business units
    • Standardization galore
    • Project Management — they use Asana to manage products
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • law firms typically have an NPS of 25
    • tech firms typically have an NPS of 35
    • super-tech firms typically have an NPS of 60
    • Atrium’s current NPS is 61 and they are working to improve this
  • Their Approach to Products
    • Legal Apps (Workflow) — their engineers develop apps built around common legal workflows
    • Core (Collaboration) — they have created an SaaS platform for internal and external users
    • Data Platform (Documents) — Data services layer for processing documents, extracting metadata, and make the resulting insights available to their lawyers.
  • Build/Buy Decision
    • they are happy to buy tools that solve 80% of the problem
    • they build tools when these tools would give them a competitive advantage — actually, an unfair advantage!
  • Client Facing
    • They want to be as client facing as possible. So they solicit a lot of client feedback and suggestions.
    • Last quarter, several clients asked for a way to simplify and expedite their internal hiring processes. So they created a client-facing legal app that satisfies this client request.
    • They are creating a “single source of truth” for legal documents — a way of storing documents for clients and allowing clients to search within documents

Blockchain Challenges

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Working closely with the UK Ministry of Defense, BAE Systems, ATOS and The Metropolitan Police, Ralphs’ company, ByzGen, designs and builds bespoke prototypes, proofs of concept and pilots.  He shares his real-world challenges, both technical and organizational, as well as tips for others starting to use distributed ledger technology.

Speakers: Marcus Ralphs, CEO, ByzGen Ltd.


[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Realities.
    • Commercial challenges:
      • Institutions (especially government) prefer low-risk, small-scale change. They have a hard time
      • Getting government to provide budget for an initial project.
      • Limited (non-existent) standards
      • Accreditation — how can we trust?
        • How can you trust a vendor to ensure that their code and coders are doing what the vendor claims?
        • Do you have enough security to encourage trust? Private permissioned blockchains are more likely to engender trust than public chains.
      • Let’s wait and see — what are others doing? Is there any evidence of success elsewhere?
      • De-risking through muscle memory
        • he partners with established players because this spurs a higher level of trust on the part of the government. Government is likely to trust a small startup.
      • Benefits aren’t clear or measurable –at this point, there is so little, easily available evidence of commercial success.
  • How to Address the Realities? Think in terms of capability and benefit.
    • Reduce risk
      • data breach
      • IP leakage
    • Improve data assurance
      • that the version available is the latest version and is the same throughout the network
      • behavioral change making every action with the core data tracked and attributable
    • Increase efficiency
      • reducing back-office overhead
      • reducing human touchpoints — these touchpoints add error and inefficiency
      • reducing cycle time significantly
    • Enable “trust” in disparate networks — accept that some of these networks will be divergent and some may even be in conflict. So you have to find ways to drive trust across these networks nonetheless.
  • Taking the First Steps.
    • Identify the real world challenges — what’s not working across your system?
    • Quantify the challenge (risk, efficiency, opportunity cost)
    • Define what “success” looks like
      • what does good look like for you
    • Select a solution provider
      • what part of your requirements are mandatory — speed, security, scalability?
      • the right solution provider will help the client analyze effectively their challenges and definition of success.
    • Ensure / enable stakeholder engagement — this may mean asking the client to put money on the table even for a proof of concept so that you can gain access to the stakeholder
    • Think big, start small, and scale quickly
      • paying for a proof of concept is small money, scaling is big money
      • when thinking about scalabiity and ROI, make one spend and then get multiple uses out of it
    • Resource properly
  • Examples:
    • They are helping a financial services consulting firm significantly expedite its process for completing security checks on potential consultants.
    • MInistry of Defence and the Cabinet Office need to expedite and ensure their personnel vetting process.
    • They want to use blockchain to manage design IP for highly secure, collaborative projects.

Smart Contracts 101

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Smart contracts are based on a computer protocol intended to digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract. They allow the performance of credible transactions without third parties, and are trackable and irreversible. Their potential in real estate, law, intellectual property, and many more places is amazing. Private blockchains have also been suggested for business use. Hear more from our speakers and see if this technology has an application in your organization.

Speaker: Hugh Logue, Director & Lead Analyst, Outsell

[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Smart Contracts.  They are not smart and may not even be legal contracts. Vitalik Buterin (one of the founders of Ethereum) says that a better name for them might be “persistent scripts.”
    • Example: you buy a car and the financing contract says that if you miss a contract, the dealer can repossess the car. Before the smart contract, the dealer would have to physically repossess the car. With smart contracts (plus today’s computerized cars), you miss a payment and then the car refuses to start for you. Only the dealer (or the dealer’s delegate) can start the car.
  • How Smart Contracts Work.
    • Coding contract — the parties to the contract agree to a set of if-then statements that kick into effect upon the occurrence of a triggering event.
    • Triggering Event — when the triggering event occurs, the persistent script (if-then statement) takes effect and self-executes. It can do this without any human intervention.
    • Regulation
  • Smart Contract Advantages.
    • Scalability — self-executing without manual checks. So you have thousands, millions of contracts operating at once.
    • No intermediaries required — the contracts operate autonomously
    • Trust — it is coded into the contract
    • Unambiguous — the contract involves machine readable binary code rather than legalese
    • Auditable — there is proof of performance. It’s not one person’s word against anothers.
  • Disadvantages of Smart Contracts.
    • Scalability — if you have not included a “stop” function, the self-executing function could be triggered (at scale) without any way to stop it.
    • No intermediaries — so who do you sue when something goes wrong?
    • Trust — so what happens when there are security breaches or scams?
    • Unambiguous — it is written in binary code not human language. So it is easily machine readable but not easily readable by a judge in a dispute.
    • Currency – at this point, smart contracts work only with cryptocurencies
  • What is driving the popularity of smart contracts?
    • the internet of things
    • disintermediation — Amazon and others are pushing out the middleman in transactions
    • mainstream companies are offering blockchain services — SAP, oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Amazon.
  • How can Governments Support Blockchain.
    • understand that blockchain does not just mean cryptocurencies
    • establish standards for smart contracts
    • create legal certainty
    • provide R&D funding
    • modernize ID systems and public records
      • one good use of smart contracts is wills, trusts, and probate. If a death is a matter of public record, then probate could be expedited.
      • this cannot happen if the relevant public records are not accurate and digitized.
    • launch official cryptocurrencies linked to real currencies
    • experiment!
    • Examples:
      • Sierra Leone is experimenting with blockchain supported voting
      • Estonia has created a an digital ID system on the blockchain
  • Use Cases.
    • Proving property rights: Hernando de Soto (Peruvian economist, president of the Institute for Liberty) posited that proof of fomal property rights could unlock approximately $10 trillion of capital.
      • with reliable proof of property rights, property owners can then obtain mortgages to help fund imporvements to their property.
      • smart contracts could then be written using the subject property as collateral
    • Legal Industry could use blockchain for
      • know your client (KYC)
      • tracking filings
      • dispute resolution
      • probate and wills
      • repetitive contracts
      • intellectual property
    • Insurance
      • flight insurance: Fizzy by AXA uses flight delay data from air traffic control. When your flight lands, Fizzy automaticaly pays the passenger the agreed amount for the delay. The passenger will not have to make a claim.
      • Car insurance: in the large  number of cases where the parties involved don’t dispute the facts, a smart contract could immediately pay the claim.
      • Natural disaster insurance: use weather data to trigger an automatic payment
    • Supply Chain Logistics
      • non-linguistic sensory data (GPS, temperature, weather, etc.) can be managed by smart contracts
  • Smart Contract Startups to Watch.
    • Blockstream partnership with PwC
    • ChromaWay
    • Consensys
    • Clause
    • OpenLaw
  • Private vs Public Blockchain.
    • Public
      • everyone can see, may need permission to write
      • greater transparency
    • Private
      • need permission to see, may need permission to write
      • greater privacy
      • one or more entities control

Intra-Preneurship & Learning

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Organizations can use game design techniques to fully engage customers, partners, and employees. When it is well-implemented, gamification can transform a work culture by cultivating deep emotional connections, high levels of active participation, and long-term relationships that drive knowledge-sharing, learning and business value. Enterprises can utilize strategy games, simulation games, and role-playing games as a means to teach, drive operational efficiencies, and innovate. Find out how organizations have embraced social collaboration using playful design to reap tremendous value; grab tips and tools to build a learning culture; and learn how to engage your community!

Speaker:Phaedra Boinodiris, Member IBM Academy of Technology (Blockchain, Games, Watson, Design), IBM

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Serious Games
    • Serious games are her business. They are games for a serious purpose, not just fun. (Although, they should be fun as well.)
    • She works at IBM, bringing the power of serious games to improve business and learning.
    • Use serious games to gather mindshare and to work through challenges BEFORE you have boots on the ground.
    • Be aware of the ethical implications of the games your create and/or play.
  • Start by Shifting Mindset.
    • If you want intrapreneurship or entrepreneurship, you must start inside. You may need a mindshift into a growth mindset, into opennes, into experimentation.
    • Use games to create entrepreneurial mindset. You can do this in the youngest classrooms.
    • Shift education to learner-centered: help them develop a true sense of agency and then provide tailored learning opportunities in their context.
    • Learner agency is critical for developing an entrepreneurial mindset: entrepreneurs are learning all the time. How? By trying new things and, iinevitably, failing lots of times.
    • Enable digital engagement through games — IBM has created AI that supports personalized learning.
  • Focus on STEAM not STEM.
    • STEM = Science, Technologing, Engineering, MATH
    • STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, Math
    • The focus on the arts — culture, history, literature, etc. — allows us to add empathy and deep understanding into the mix.
    • Design thinking develops and relies on empathy. This in turn draws on STEAM rather than STEM.
    • Even when designing a chatbot, be sure to design in empathy.
  • Create New Business Models.
    • Blockchain
      • Blockchain illustrates how a new way of working together opens up new possibilities
      • Use blockchain for microcredentialing
        • as you learn things and get certifications, those certifications get added to your blockchain. This creates your immutable record of learning.
        • so this becomes your transcript and may even become your resume
    • Pair micro-credentialing with AI: as a student increases in learning, AI can interpret that data and then provide targeted learning or employment opportunities for that student via blockchain
    • Dallas County Promise:
      • Dallas County has developed a  new path to college program to increase the numbers and equity of students graduating from college.
      • They are using micro-credentialing and customized-learning to improve student outcomes.
      • For more information, see: http://dallascountypromise.org/.
    • Gamification done wrong:
      • “Don’t slap a point system on an onerous work process and then call it a game. That’s NOT a game. It’s chocolate-covered broccoli!!!
    • Don’t treat tech like a neutral and benign blackbox:
      • IBM just created a Watson-powered Harry Potter sorting hat.
      • She rigged the system so all her children were sorted into Slytherin.
      • When they protested, she pointed out that they must remain skeptical and questioning of technology.
      • Be clear about how tech can be use and abused. Be clear about how it affects your choices and outcomes.

The Blockchain as a New Architecture of Trust

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Companies and organizations are popping up every day to enter the blockchain technology revolution.  Others have been experimenting with the technology for many years. Hear from an academic who studies blockchain applications.

Speaker:  Kevin Werbach, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Blockchain and the Architecture of Trust.
    • His new book (by this title) will be available on November 20, 2019.
    • Here’s the Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2D7JWaC
  • Trust Architectures.
    • Peer-to-Peer:
      • works well in close-knit communities
      • not scalable
    • Leviathan:
      • this concept comes from Thomas Hobbes
      • trust in government as a backstop
      • we are willing to engage in private transactions, documented by contract, knowing that we can run to the courts (the government) to help us enforce those contracts
    • Intermediary:
      • we trust the platform (e.g., Uber) that intermediates our transaction (with the driver)
    • Blockchain
  • Blockchain = Distributed Trust.
    • Trust the system without (apparently) trysting any actor within it.
    • This trust is based on a consensus derived from a history of consistent behavior across a network without central control.
    • You can trust the promised value exchange without having to trust any particular actor within the system
  • Blockchain’s Value Proposition.
    • Trust Minimization
      • No dependence on the state
      • No single point of failure — you can trust the entire system without worrying about individual participant
        • when a single organization or actor controls the information  and that actor is breached, you have a single point of failure.  Think Equifax, think FaceBook.
    • Trust Expansion
      • Avoid reconciliation
        • currently, everyone keeps their own books and must create processes for settlement and reconciliation between each party’s books.
          • this runs the risk of duplication and error
          • this leads to increased cost and effort
      • Automated execution
        • smart contracts enable automated action, thereby reducing the cost and effort of human intervention
      • Integral auditability
  • Three largely distinct blockchain phenomena.
    • Cryptocurrencies — transactions asnd decentralized apps
    • Distributed ledger — tracking and accountability
    • Cryptoassets — trading
      • currently, Wall Street is swallowing up cryptocurrencies and creating new, decentralized markets to trade these assets.
  • Why Blockchain for Government?
    • Environment:
      • low trust in governments
      • governments tend not to have vast resources to invest so they have to use open source software and shared infrastructure
    • Requirements:
      • it’s critical that we develp strong security for government applciations
        •  it is an attribute of blockchains that they are designed at their core to be secure
      • blockchain provides transaction transparency that enables monitoring and accountability
        • it is an attribute of blockchains that they are designed at their core to be transparent
    • Benefits:
      • blockchain creates the opportunity for “government as platform” that can support a wide range of other applications and operations
      • it can spur economic development
      • it signals that the government is “tech-savvy”
  • Accurate Recordkeeping.
    • This is a central aspect of blockchain
    • It is a really hard problem to solve
    • Cook County in Chicago is trying to use the Bitcoin Blockchain to support their land title registry. In turn, this will support decisions by mortgage providers.
    • Delaware has changed its laws to allow companies to issue their shares on the blockchain.
    • The World Food Program is using blockchain to track which refugees in a Jordanian refugee camp are receiving benefits.
      • they use biometrics to validate identity.
    • Streamlined compliance
      • helps gather in one central place information that normally is housed in a variety of repositories.
    • Berkeley City Council has launched a pilot program for issuing city bonds on the blockchain.
    • West Virginia is experimenting with secured voting absentee voters.
  • Do you need a blockchain?
    • Can the assests involved by digitized securely?
    • Are the assets or activities outside the control of a single entity?
      • if not, then the transaction should be viewed as centralized within that organization, therefore, you shouldn’t need to centralize again on the blockchain.
      • one exception: some companies are using the blockchain to reconcile among the various ERP systems used by each of their divisions
    • Do you want to share data wihtout giving u p control?
    • Are you mre concerned about attacks (security) than crashes (availability?
    • Doe you want an immutable record of transactions?
  • Immutability isn’t always a good thing!
    • if it looks like a legitimate transaction, it cannot be undone — even if fraud/theft is involved.
  • Werbach’s Triangle. It is hard to have all three:
    • Trust
    • Scalability
      • if you optimize scale,  you sacrifice trust and get Facebook
    • Decentralization
      • Vlad’s conundrum:  if you take decentralization seriously, you have to give up on regulation (at least at the extreme edge)
      • Vlad = Vlad Zamfir (Ethereum)
  • What’s its future?.
    • go where the smart folks are going
    • go where the most interesting experimentation is happening

Bait to Plate: World Wildlife Fund and Blockchain

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Title and Description: WWF and Blochain — Rewriting the Rules for Conservation

World Wildlife Federation – New Zealand

Cook is leading the implementation of blockchain traceability into the tuna longline sector, starting in Fiji. This innovation is revolutionary to combating IUU fish sales, illegal harvesting, fisheries mismanagement, lack of data collection and will redefine the way fisheries are managed in the future and set a new standard for sustainability within the resource. Their project is not only introducing technology into a cottage industry, but it is introducing the most advanced technology on the current market which is all being lead by an NGO. Hear about the hurdles and successes.

Speaker: Bubba Cook, Western and Central Pacific Tuna Program Manager, Oceans Practice, World Wide Fund for Nature

Slides: 1100_Cook.pptx

[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • 7 Ways the Blockchain can help the environment.
    • Environmental treaties
    • Nonprofits
    • Carbon tax
    • Changing incentives
    • Supply chains
    • Recycling
    • Energy
  • Cook’s team focused on the seafood supply chain.
    • they have created a blockchain-enabled provenance solution that provides value-added services for all players in a supply chain.
      • it introduces transparency and reliability across the supply chain
      • it tracks sustainability standards across production > processing > distribution > retail > consumption phases of the process
        • tracking the movement of physical goods
        • digital data capture
        • decentralized ledger updated in real time
  • Tuna Blockchain Pilot in Fiji.
    • Initially, all the participants were unknown to each other — it involved small players and small Fortune 500 companies such as GlaxoSmithKline.
    • Goal: to create a transparent and fully traceable supply chain
    • They tracked a high value tuna production — not regular canned tuna
    • Method — Bait to Plate
      • RFID tags used to capture inofrmation throughout the supply chain
      • Put the RFID tags on the fish when it brought on the fishing vessel
      • The data registers automatically with various devices positioned on the vessel, the dock, and the processing facility.
    • During the supply chain, you can collect additional data at each point of the process within the supply chain such as temperature (an indicator of quality)
    • The consumer can scan the RFID tag to see the entire journey of each fish
  • Vision of the Future: Pacific Tuna Case Study.
    • an effortless, virtual shopping experience tailored to your personal preferences so that you can purchase slave-free fish.
    • your smart fridge will know when your fish is about to spoil and can (through smart contracts) purchase fresh fish from the supplier, who will deliver it to you via drone or driverless car.
  • Reaction of the industry.
    • The retailers support this. They cannot afford the reputational risk of carrying fish that do not meet sustainability standards or are produced with slave labor.
    • The reputable fishing companies want their fish to stand out from illicitly obtained fish.
    • The middlemen are less supportive.
  • For more information. See wwf.org.nz or panda.org

Malta’s Innovative Legal Response to Blockchain Technology

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description: Malta Digital Innovation Authority & Legal Framework

Ganado has been heavily involved in the drafting of new legislation required for the development of Malta as a financial center, including the revision of the law relating to trusts and the law on legal persons and foundations, as well as on netting, securitization and aviation.  His most recent publication is Legal Personality for Blockchains, DAOs & Smart Contracts.

Speaker: Max Ganado, Senior Partner, Ganado Advocates mganado@ganadoadvocates.com

Slides:  1100_Ganado.PPTX

[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Focus on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)

    • distributed
    • encrypted (private)
    • audited
  • Focus on Smart Contracts
    • These contracts are composed of smaller executory contracts expressed as a series of “if then” statements (i.e., If this happens that that must happen)
    • Used for determining consequences of flight delays, for example. So if the flight is delayed, you automatically get the agreed financial award.
  • How to approach regulation?.
    • Where there is risk to investors and consumers, make the regulations mandatory
    • Where there is a need to support innovators and investors, make the regulations voluntary
  • Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act
    • provides an enabling structure for digital innovation
    • creates an administrative authority to provide oversight for digital innovation
  • Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Act.
    • caters to the voluntary application for certification of DLT/Smart Contracts and the registration of systems auditors nd technical administrations
    • issues certifications of validity
  • Virtual Financial Assets Act.
    • Mandatory law: addresses cryptocurrencies — token issuance and intermdiation services
    • regulates exchanges and wallet providers
    • created a test to determine if the financial asset is security, money, something in between, or a utility that is not subject to regulation.
      • if it is “like money” then it is deemed a virtual financial asset and is subject to this law
    • why implement this law? It provides more certainty in an uncertain situation.
  • Is a DLT platform a legal entity?
    • It looks a lot like a partnership that creates, stewards, and uses a key asset = their software.
    • Should the government grant legal personality to this entity?
      • option 1 = use existing legal forms
      • option 2 = vary some rules in existing forms
      • option 3 = design a completely new legal form
  • Legal Organization Qualities.
    • Activities
      • Legal Organization: Centralized
      • Blockchain: Decentralized
    • Governance
      • Legal Organization: has a governing body (e.g., board, annual meeting)
      • Blockchain: has some element of governance embedded in it
    • Accountability & Auditability
      • Legal Organization: governed by applicable
      • Blockchain:  may have accounting and auditability embedded in it
    • Legal Personality?
      • Legal Organization: depends on legal form chosen and registration with government authorities
      • Blockchain: No — it’s just a piece of software!
  • Impacts of Legal Personality.
    • Capacity to contract, to carry out contract, to comply with legal obligations
    • Liability: the right to own assets and liabilities, the ability to limit liability, PLUS recourse for liabilities
  • Proposed Solution.
    • They created a variant of a foundation — a new type of purpose foundation (similar to a civil law foundation BUT not limited to charitable purposes.)
    • The cells within the platform must be bankruptcy remote
  • Are Smart Contracts Treated as a Legal Person?
    • Simple smart contracts will not be considered a legal person with the benefits of legal personality.
    • However, if the contract has broader impacts on society then this complicates the analysis and may give rise for the need for legal personality.
  • Distributed Autonomous Organizations.
    • How are they governed? By people OR by technology?
    • Then you need registered auditors who can periodically monitor and certify operations.
    • What compliance regulation do you need to curtail misuse such as money laundering?
  • Bankruptcy Considerations.
    • Put the software in a bankruptcy-remote (i.e., bankruptcy protected) cell and then treat that software as an asset for which you have fiduciary responsibility
    • Create an asset cell that can pay damages in the event of bankruptcy. It contains
      • insurance
      • sinking fund
      • guarantee/support fund
    • Interpose between these two layers an administrative layer that manages governance and financing.
  • Smaller Countries are Racing to Regulate this Area. They can be more nimble to create legislation but need to balance this with their desire to create an attractive regime that will draw in more economic opportunities to their countries.

What Thought Leaders and Analysts Say about Blockchain #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session  Description:

As with anything new, seeing the woods for the trees around blockchain technology is challenging. It may not even yet be at the peak of the hype cycle, and clearly there are already exravagant clains for its potential competing with damning dismissiveness of it as as inefficient and nothing new. This panel of analysts and experts help us see our way through the noise to get at the signal. Just how much difference can blockchain technology make? Where is it likely to make the greatest impact? And how can we ensure that positive impact is maximized?


[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Andrew Young: Blockchain for Social Change.
    • Slides:  0930_Young.pdf
    • He works at the Governance Lab at New York University
      • Their website: http://www.thegovlab.org/
      • See their blockchain websiteblockchan.g
    • They define “blockchange” as the use of block chain to enable social change.
    • They have just launched a new website and resources for blockchange, which includes current projects underway:  https://blockchan.ge/curatedexamples.html
    • Decisions made at the design phase of a blockchain can
      • Permissionless blockchain  — anyone can read it or write to it
      • Permissioned blockchain — only selected people can read it or write to it
      • Public blockchain — available to anyone
      • Private blockchain — available by invitation only.
    • Three types of use cases:
      • Track and trace intangible objects
      • Identify
        • They have released a field report on the use of blockchain for identity
        • Identity is essential for life and for all blockchain transactions
          • 1.1 billion people currently lack a verifiable identity
        • The lifecycle of identify
          • provisioning a new identify
          • authentication of that identify
          • administration
          • authorization
          • auditing/monitoring
      • Smart Contracts = a set of “if this, then that” rules encoded in a blockchain
    • They have created a Periodic Table of Blockchain
      • cross-cutting challenges
        • user interfaces are not uniformallygood
        • technical inefficiencies
        • incentivizing use
        • risks
        • legal and policy uncertainty — e.g., digital signatures are not considered valid in all jurisdictions
        • measuring impact
    • When should I develop a blockchain?
      • Is there a clear problem definition?
      • Are there information asymmetries that would incentivize use of blockchain transparency?
      • Are there existing reliable data and technology
      • Are there feasible and credible alternatives
      • Does the ecosystem support blockchain — do you have the right partners and intemediaries with the right level of coorpation
      • Capacity — do government and business leaders have the technological know-how to manage this change
    • How to manage a blockchain:
      • Governance legitimacy
      • Ethically sound
      • Focus on solutions to actual problems
      • What’s the ecological footprint?
      • Can this be synchronized with existing intitiatives?
      • Is there sufficient interoperability and open standards?
      • How can you secure first block accuracy?
  • Jonathan Lehman: Blockchain in Government.
    • Chief Strategy Officer of the Government Blockchain Association around the world
      • 40 working groups
        • Example:
          • Cybersecurity and authority to operate (Stratus Cyber)
          • Blockchain as a service (Simba Chain)
          • lottery programs
          • energy management
          • organ and blood donation
          • digital identity management
      • 90+ chapters around the world
      • 6000 people attend meetups every month
    • Blockchain offers distributed trust, reputation, and confidence
      • it can reverse the concentration of organizational power
        • peer to peer
        • frictionless
        • more secure
        • more trusted
        • smart contracts
        • decentraclized autonomos organization (DAO)
        • decentralized applications (dApps)
      • result = traditional institutions can resist or embrace the change:
        • governments
        • financial and insurance sector
        • global private sector companies
    • What is required for a paradigm shift to blockchain?
      • generally accepted standards
      • decentralization, trust, reputation
      • incentive-based solutiosn (not zero sum)
      • personal self-sovereign identify (borderless world)
      • banking the un-banked (2 billion people are waiting for this ability to join the global economy)
  • Hugh Logue: Smart Contracts.
    • Director & Lead Analyst, Outsell
    • His interest is in using technology to open up access to justice (access to legal services). (He was a barrister (litigator) in an earlier phase of his career.)
    • He has written a book on this. It will be published by the American Bar Association (to be published in 2019.)
    • His focus is on smart contracts. He believes that the demand for smart contracts will explode.
    • Why the increased demand for smart contracts?
      • The Internet of Things will allow transactions without human intervention.
        • Example: if a driverless car discovers that its parking place can provide energy at a competitive price, it could purchase the necessary energy then and there via a smart contract.
      • The shortening of supply chains
        • thanks to Amazon and others, consumers have become used to purchasing directly (or almost directly) from the manufacturer. They no longer need a middle man.
        • increasing use of smart contracts will reduce the need for middle men
      • The increase of trusted blockchain partners
        • large companies are comfortable working with established vendors (e.g., IBM, SAP, etc.) and may not be comfortable working with new blockchain platforms such as Ethereum.
      • Expedite legal processes (and reduce their costs)

Blockchain for the Non Geek #KMWorld

I’m attending the new BlockChain in Government conference that is running alongside the KMWorld Conference. Euan Semple is chairing these sessions.

Session Title and Description:

Speaker: Euan Semple, Director, Conference Chair, & Author, Euan Semple Ltd

[These are my notes from the new Blockchain in Government conference, which is part of the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • The Hype Cycle.  We are in the hype cycle of blockchain and there is so much noise about it — especially with respect to cryptocurencies. More quietly, organizations are working on smart contracts and other ways of using blockchain technology to find solutions to persistent problems.
  • It isn’t just another slow database. It’s a ledger.
    • It is a permanent record of transactions identified by and aggregated by a specific hash. Each new transaction is assigned a hash and added to the blockchain bearing that hash. The detail and data relating to each transaction are held outside the ledger.
    • The ledger is held in identical form in multiple places. Therefore, each change to the blockchain is replicated in multiple places and cannot be changed (or corrupted) in one place without raising an alert in the other places.
    • This transparency and constancy helps engender trust. This displaces institutions and professionals who previsously were trusted to authenticate and keep transactional records.
  • The ideology of algorithms. We are allowing a group of geeks to shape society through the algorithms they write without society’s oversight or input. This means they can embed in their code their biases and blindspots. If the rest of society treats the output of these algorithms as value-neutral or omniscient, then society blindly acquieses to this new shape of society.
  • Immutability. One of the pillars of trust is immutability. However, as some parts of society are beginning to assert “the right to be forgotten,” how does that square with a permanent, immutable record?