It is no secret that the United States and the world were unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. approach—hoping we could track and trace the virus—fell short in the face of asymptomatic human-to-human spread. Our belief that we would have the right countermeasure in our strategic national stockpile at the right time was wishful thinking.
But these problems may not have been failures of technology so much as a failure of imagination about the right ways to use technology to cope with the devastating health, economic, and political effects of a deadly pathogen. Before the next pandemic, which will surely come, we should examine the failures of 2020 so as to prepare ourselves for a better response next time. What we see is that the failed approach relied on government solutions. Moreover, it is apparent that one technology—blockchain—is well-positioned to fill the gaps that 2020 exposed.
Blockchain is the technology that enables Bitcoin and other crypto assets to operate. It works by using computer technology to “distribute trust.” No one person, organization, agency, or government controls the information involved. Instead, blockchain creates a “distributed ledger,” protocols for membership, and a consensus on those protocols. Because millions of people are involved in protecting and verifying this information, blockchain is unrivaled in the security it provides.
Blockchain could make a difference at nearly every stage of a pandemic. First, blockchain could help identify the extent to which a virus has spread. …
… In many ways the story of the pandemic has been one of dated technologies and government failures. But those very challenges and failures could point the way to more advanced private-sector technologies that can do the job better in the near-certain next pandemic. We could not only get better results in the future, but we could also break out of the unfortunate pattern in which crises lead to bigger government.