Blockchain, the technology underlying Bitcoin, has been generating significant interest among different actors in recent months, with regard to diverse applications it could be useful for. Ex-professional baseball player John Paul Farmer thinks the cryptocurrency is actually the least application of the technology.
Farmer, a former shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers, disclosed recently that he is working to find new ways blockchain can be used to make more positive impact on people’s lives. He was speaking at an event hosted by the Civic Innovation Team of Microsoft in Lower Manhattan, New York.
The ex-baseball player, who now serves as the director of Microsoft’s technology and civic innovation team, said the New York event was held mainly to work out the impact the Bitcoin technology can have when it is used in new, more creative ways.
Farmer, who joined Microsoft after having served in the White House for four years as a Senior Advisor for Innovation, believes the full potential of the blockchain has not yet been tapped into in form of the popular cryptocurrency.
“I find that to be the least interesting part of what bitcoin and the blockchain can do,” he told CoinDesk, with respect to the digital currency. “I actually spend most of my time thinking about what it means when you can have an identity that can be controlled and shared in a granular way, when you have titles and deeds that can be stored and shared easily and without middlemen.”
However, Farmer did credit virtual currency for bringing more attention to the blockchain technology.
One of the speakers at the event, Chelsea Barabas, MIT Media Lab’s Senior Advisor for social impact, suggested the idea of using blockchain technology as a “canonical media notary.” This application will, for instance, serve useful purpose for uploading vital evidence to a ledger that is not under the control of a central authority thereby ensuring evidence is not tampered with.
Onename co-founder and CEO Ryan Shea said his company is exploring the idea of using bitcoin’s technology to produce official IDs for individuals without government-issued IDs. This could greatly help to make certain services and benefits available to more people while also helping to check identity theft.
Barabas explained blockchain can be better used to manage the welfare payment system. The U.S. has been using the same time-consuming, costly method for a very long time – the MIT Media Lab’s senior advisor thinks it’s time for a change. The use of blockchain technology for welfare payments will not only save time and money, but also ensure transparency of the entire process, according to Barabas.
Fathom CEO Peter Kirby disclosed his organization is exploring application of blockchain technology for central land title databases and in voting systems. Anne Kim, IDEO’s Senior Business Operations Lead, said her company is interested in using the technology to execute frictionless transactions, stating it could also be used to give citizens a say in public-funded projects.
Farmer’s team works with different sectors, including governments, startups, academics and nonprofits, with the focus being to participate, partner and produce. While the team might not have yet made a significant splash in the blockchain pool, the former shortstop said other Microsoft teams have made important progress.