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This week, the largest gathering of women technologists in the world will convene for the 19th Annual Grace Hopper conference in Orlando. A mathematician and pioneering computer scientist who spent most of her decades-long career shipping code for the United States Navy, Hopper was instrumental in advancing the idea the programming languages could one day more closely resemble common English.
“It’s much easier for most people to write an English statement than it is to use symbols,” Hopper once said. In doing so, she articulated what became a core value for many of us working in technology, that accessibility and diversity can foster collaboration and, by extension, innovation. Hopper was also right, by the way. In the early 1950s, Hopper developed what eventually became COBOL, a programming language that is still prevalent today.
The easier it is for more people to work together, we believe, the faster they can work and the more we can accomplish.
When IBM Blockchain leadership team first set out to begin articulating the principles that would guide our work with IBM Blockchain, we knew that we needed to take these values to heart. From the steam engine to the early days of the internet, humans have often encountered new ideas with a mix of excitement and trepidation. That’s particularly true now. The current era of unprecedented and rapid technological transformation is also an era of declining trust among people. Perhaps more than ever, the organizations leading innovation have a great responsibility to do the right thing, particularly when dealing with a technology as transformative as blockchain.
With that in mind today we’d like to announce a new report from the IBM Institute for Business Value which builds upon the five guiding principles we first outlined in May. When blockchain leadership at IBM first began developing blockchain solutions for the enterprise world, we knew we needed to outline the principles that would ensure our work upholds our core values around enabling privacy, trust and collaboration.
Our first core principle, not unlike the principle articulated by Hopper, is to foster diversity and open source innovation. This has been an IBM priority from the get-go, writing and donating the first million lines of code for what eventually became Hyperledger to The Linux Foundation so it could continue to flourish with the support of a vast ecosystem of contributors. Hyperledger now has more than 275 participants, including IBM, who are developing open source blockchain technologies for businesses.
We knew we needed to go further. Our second principle holds that all IBM Blockchain solutions are designed around the principle of trust and permissioned access that support the regulatory requirements of most enterprises. For blockchain to grow up and become an integral part of the business world, entities engaged on the blockchain needed to be able to tell who they were doing business with.
Thirdly, we knew that for the nascent community to thrive, participant organizations on these blockchain networks — all strong believers in collaborative and distributed governance — needed to be able to proactively build these “rules to change the rules” right from get-go. Our fourth principle is that all of our partners must focus on interoperability of networks, so that the enterprise blockchains of today can use common industry standards and build policies and data models that can eventually be leveraged by all.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the organizations participating on these blockchain networks value data privacy, making sure to distinguish data that should be off-chain from the data that should be on-chain. Since no single participant “owns” a blockchain network like Hyperledger, it’s crucial that participants who own their own data should still be able to determine how that data is used and who is able to access it.
To reaffirm these principles and talk about the latest ways they are manifesting themselves in the work of IBM, I am joining policymakers and lawmakers at the Grace Hopper Celebration 2019 in Orlando, Florida to discuss these and other considerations that are top of mind. Catch my team and me at the Speakers Corner at the same event as we share how we’re putting these principles into action on some of the blockchain projects that are going live right now.