THE World Science Forum (WSF) Jordan took place in the Middle East for the first time, from November 7-10. It was the largest-ever gathering of scientists in the region and brought together over 3,000 delegates from over 120 countries, under the theme “Science for Peace.”
The forum could not have ended in a better way with a global call for actions to science and society to build a future that promises great equality, security and opportunity for all and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler for fair and sustainable development.
For the first time at the WSF, young scientists played key roles on several plenary sessions and invited to be speakers in parallel sessions. Most importantly, just one day before the official opening of the WSF, on November 6, over 30 top young scientists from around the world (including myself) were requested to participate in the Young Scientists Leadership Workshop under the theme “Avoiding the Weaponisation of New Technologies,” sponsored the Global Young Academy (GYA), the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), the World Association of Young Scientists (WAYS), the International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA) and Unesco.
The workshop began by allocating participants into groups based on their preference and expertise in one of four subject areas around the theme of ‘De-weaponisation’, namely: i) Biotechnology/genome editing/superhumans (bionics), ii) Artificial Intelligence, iii) Cybersecurity and, iv) Biochemical threats (dual use biological warfare).
During this section of the workshop, participants explored specific questions using a number of collaborative tools for creative problem solving, with an eye on how the tools employed can enhance cross-cultural collaboration and, importantly, what the moderators called ‘cultural dexterity.’
Participants were asked to think about questions such as: how do you appreciate different types of diversity? How can you creatively solve a problem taking diversity under account? How do you use creative processes and tools for collaborating with diverse groups? How do you communicate for shared understanding?
At the end of the session, and after a series of practice rounds and refinements, a rapporteur for each group presented their findings and recommendations in a 2-minute pitch to create its own future working group for the Forum. From a motivating and stirring number of pitches including ‘How to avoid bio-threats’, ‘How to protect from the misuse of CRISPR’ and others, the winning pitch was on ‘Cybersecurity’, and in particular a recommendation to establish an international body to regulate e-currencies such as bitcoin.
Towards the end, the bitcoin topic was picked to be the winner. To elaborate more on this topic, in 2007, a new decentralised currency idea came out called Bitcoin. The value of bitcoin went from US$0.00 in 2009 to over US$8000 in 2017. Currently, there are around 1,110 cryptocurrencies and during the first half of 2017, transactions surpassed the US$325 billion mark, which is pretty impressive for something a lot of “financial experts” deem to be a niche market.
Therefore, many governments around the world are starting to share lots of concerns regarding these transactions due to the fact that some of these transactions may be used for nefarious purposes such as funding organised crimes, terrorism, bribery, or rogue regimes. The solution derived from the workshop is to propose an establishment of a global expert group called “World Cyber Security Organisation (WCSO),” in order to perform 3 main goals:
1) Investigate the social, legal, political technical, and economical aspects of cryptocurrencies
2) Produce an annual report that provides guidelines on how government can deal with these cryptocurrencies and legislate them in a way that help embrace these currencies and increase awareness around the globe
3) Propose research projects to both help solve more complex issues of cryptocurrencies and to help train highly qualified scientists in this field increasing the pool of experts which are currently very limited at the moment.
It is believed that if all of these are executed correctly, cryptocurrencies and block chain technology can provide economic freedom for public with a globally stable currency system that can operate independently from countries and it is more or less immune from economic failure or instability.
All of these can be executed with high-level trusts and transparencies through the establishment of the WCSO.
For many countries around the world, this initiative in itself is a big leap forward, as it shows how cryptocurrency is maturing in current world. With scaling solutions and new use cases coming to individual ecosystems, many interesting things are on the horizon and Thailand should not miss this opportunity to be a part of this initiative.
WIBOOL PIYAWATTANAMETHA is a Director at Advanced Imaging Research Centre, Departments of Biomedical and Electronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL)