Bitcoin, the digital currency, has attracted both attention and controversy. But the most potent innovation is not the currency itself. Rather, it’s the technology that undergirds bitcoin, the distributed-ledger technology known as the blockchain that allows payments to flow through an economy in an entirely decentralized way—without banks or other intermediaries. This infant technology could change the financial system; think the Internet before browsers. It could reduce the cost and increase in the speed and accuracy of financial transactions; it could truly disrupt the banking business. Or it could fizzle. But already it is raising a host of policy questions – about financial stability, consumer protection, choking off terrorists’ finances, and tensions between established and upstart financial institutions and between regulatory agencies.
On January 14, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings explored the future of distributed ledger technology, paying special attention to the innovation’s impact on financial services and policymaking. Hutchins Center director David Wessel convened leading industry and policy experts for a panel discussion. After the session, panelists took audience questions. Earlier in the day, Brookings convened roundtable technical discussions about these issues with industry and policy stakeholders.
Learn more about the event in this Q&A in the Hutchins Center Explains series.