Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has described blockchain technology as part of a wave of emerging technologies that have the potential to disrupt long-standing human problems relating to healthcare, the environment, humanitarian aid, and international diplomacy. Speaking to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018, the leader of the famously blockchain-friendly Mediterranean island urged his audience to see emerging technologies as part of the inevitable march of progress instead of threats.
“Advocating Horse-Drawn Buggies over Motor Cars”
Decrying what Muscat described as efforts by some countries to wall themselves off from problems facing the whole world, Muscat stated that emerging technologies like blockchain need not be the subject of fear mongering.
In his view, these technologies form part of an “inevitable” and even desirable march of humanity toward the goal of solving several difficult existing problems like extreme poverty and war with advanced technology.
Muscat stated that common fears about the rise of new technologies creating new types of poverty or stripping people of their rights and democratic power are merely being exploited as short-term populist strategies by politicians. In his opinion, such fears are as myopic as the fears once expressed by people who advocated for horse-drawn carts not be replaced by motor vehicles.
Joseph Muscat speaking before the UN.
Going further, Muscat stated that the solution to problems, whether in conversation about technology or immigration does not come from closing doors, but comes from seeing the digital economy as an opportunity. As a result, current social contracts will have to be redrawn for countries to turn themselves into future-proof societies.
The Maltese Example
Muscat used Malta as a case in point to illustrate the power of tapping into new technologies by describing the island’s embrace of blockchain technology. He said:
“This is why in Malta we have launched ourselves as the blockchain island. By being the first jurisdiction to regulate this new technology that previously existed in a legal vacuum. Blockchain makes cryptocurrencies the inevitable future of money. [It is] more transparent since it helps filter good business from bad business. But these distributed ledger technologies can do much more.”
The Prime Minister told the UN General Assembly that blockchains could provide solutions for healthcare systems by creating frameworks for patients to have real ownership of their medical records. In his words, blockchains can also help emissions rating systems to go to the next level and ensure that all humanitarian assistance reaches its intended destination. Explaining the benefits of blockchains further he said:
“We can make sure that nobody is deprived of their legitimate property because of compromised data. Corporations will be able to become more accountable to their shareholders. States will need to move from holding information on citizens to regulating an environment where citizens trust the handling of their own data.”
Ending his speech, Muscat told the gathering of diplomats that by embracing new technologies, and doing so collectively, it will be possible to counter “regressive and reactionary politics.” In so doing, he hopes that the community will prove that dialogue and cooperation will always triumph over “division and self absorption.”