Listen to the entire session through the audio podcast.


You can view Prof. Dr Vasilis Koulaidis' slides here.

You can view Martin Hamilton's slides here.

You can view Prof. John Domingue's slides here.

For centuries we have recorded knowledge, scientific claims, and decisions in traditional ways. Pen and ink records locked away for safety, or more recently USB sticks of details encrypted and stored; protected ‘cloud’ entries perhaps.

However, a new decentralised mechanism has emerged that protects information securely, ensuring that facts remain unalterable and decisions tamper-proof. It is the underpinning structure that allows us to buy and sell with digital currencies – ‘blockchain’ has arrived.

Although designed to secure digital money transactions, innovators are already exploring new kinds of transactions that need securing from interference. There may now be a way of securing unalterable facts to keep them secure from mis-interpretation or hiding their existence. Newer blockchain platforms enable immutable facts to be processed and created with no humans in the loop whilst ensuring validity and enhancing trust.

Perhaps too the critical track record of important decisions can also be stored, tackling the scourge of tactical forgetfulness or wilful misrepresentation. All with no central control authority and no single owner.

However, there are potential problems associated with internationally available, unalterable information.

  • Would all international regimes be equally tolerant of an individual’s diversity?
  • Who owns the data that builds into information?
  • What happens to truth if facts are unalterable, even if proved wrong over time?
  • What are the ethical principles, including privacy, that should underpin the development and use of this technology?
  • How will academic enquiry be treated under a blockchain environment?
  • And what exactly is the role and purpose of a university in a blockchain dominated field?

Our panel of world experts will debate these points and more. They will look critically at what is possible, what is already happening, and what you need to know about the potential opportunities and threats. This is not a technical exploration of the workings of Blockchain. The session focuses on how it is, and can be, used.

You will find the session provocative, challenging, and fascinating.

More importantly, perhaps we may find that the search for unalterable truth is as much a curse as a blessing.


Prof. Dr Vasilis Koulaidis - Vice-President for Development, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

Martin Hamilton - Futurist, Jisc, UK

Prof. John Domingue - Director of The Knowledge Media Institute, Open University, UK 

Natalie Smolenski - SVP Business Development, Learning Machine, USA