Distributed Futures Forum: Chain Of Custody - Guildhall, London

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
By Now&ZYen

The last forum of 2015 was held at the Guildhall complex of the City of London Corporation. Dinner itself was in the Aldermen’s Dining Room. But to earn dinner, our team of twenty participated in a discussion led by Professor Michael Mainelli, “Quis Custodiet: The Chain Stops Here? – Systemic Issues In Custody”. Michael gave the group much to ponder. He began the talk with Juvenal’s quote from Satire VI on Feminine Virtue and ended with the 1934 film The Captain Hates the Sea in which a former prostitute (Wynne Gibson) married to a millionaire orders a gin fizz at a society gathering, unwittingly revealing her lowly background. Along the way Michael touched on standards, the conflict surrounding the Bocksbeutel wine bottle and Portugal, Ikea’s logistics, risk-reward-certainty, and identity-messaging-trading-mutuality. It was a thoughtful lead into chain-of-custody systems.

Following a short break we returned to share our current in-trays. This section of our meetings is always helpful as people understand what keeps folks awake at night and helps people to establish direct contacts. One topic of interest was estimating the computing capacity in future. This was followed up a day or so later by this interesting piece, “Computing Beyond Moore’s Law", in the IEEE’s Computer (December 2015).

After our round-robin on hot issues, there were two excellent presentations on diamonds and timber. Leanne Kemp, Chief Operating Officer, Everledger, came over from Australia to give a talk, “Deep Dive Into Diamonds: Tracing Our Way To Success”. Leanne was very engaging and full of tales about why her work, using blockchain technology to track diamond certificates and custody, is so important to nations. She was also full of interesting anecdotes about the scale of the problem. Not insignificant.

Ben Gunneberg, CEO & Secretary General, PEFC, flew in from Geneva to present, “Chopping & Changing: Lessons From The Timber Trade”. Ben explained the complex, yet ultimately successful, 1999 origins of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. 16 years later 10% of the world forests are certified and 60% of total certified area is PEFC. Ben explained that PEFC sought to track that supplies are legal: wood is harvested in compliance with local legislation and international agreements; from well managed forests: safeguarding environmental, social & economic values; traceable: the raw material supply chain is verified from the forest to the finished product. He gave an overview of a complex system involving consumers, private procurement, public procurement, finance, private commitments, and legislation.

Interestingly, with other participants having chain-of-custody experiences, including a guest over from ISEAL Alliance in Germany, we are able to point out a recent, relevant paper – "Smart Data - An Exploration Of Technology Innovations For Sustainability Standards Systems", ISEAL Alliance (October 2015)

After a traditional pre-dinner cocktail, a Diamond Fizz since you ask, our during-dinner speaker was Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist and an expert in energy, intelligence and cyber-security issues. He has covered Central and Eastern Europe for more than 20 years, witnessing the final years of the last Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet empire, Boris Yeltsin’s downfall, and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. He is also a senior vice-president at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

From 1992 to 1994, Edward was managing editor of The Baltic Independent, a weekly newspaper published in Tallinn. He holds a BSc from the London School of Economics, and studied Polish at the Jagiellonian University, Cracow. He is married to Cristina Odone with three children. “The New Cold War” (2008) was his first book. Deception”, about east-west espionage, was published in 2011. “The Snowden Operation” was published as an e-book in 2014.

After a charming and erudite presentation, the group spent most of its time discussing his latest book, “Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security And The Internet”. Edward shared his thoughts freely, and passed around the first Estonian electronic ID card, issued as “0…001” to a certain Edward Lucas, non-native of Estonia. Anyone can go to an Estonian embassy and purchase one. Obviously, such a card is of most use in Estonia, but Edward explained why it is actually useful to non-natives. This led to a great discussion about identity systems and the roles of governments.