Research Topic

Blockchain for the Global Commons

About this Research Topic

This Research Topic will explore the extent to which Blockchain technologies can be mobilised to support the governance, protection, restoration and regeneration of our global commons.

There are three broad types of global common pool resources: common heritage domains (like the High Seas, the ...

This Research Topic will explore the extent to which Blockchain technologies can be mobilised to support the governance, protection, restoration and regeneration of our global commons.

There are three broad types of global common pool resources: common heritage domains (like the High Seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica, and outer space regulated by international law); resources that are under national domains but ranked as global concerns (such as rainforests, national waters, and indigenous cultures); and shared resources that serve common interests and which can justify a common effort from the community to manage and govern (such as digital resources, the world wide web infrastructure, or global financial system).

The problem with common ownership, or shared resources that are rivalrous but non-excludable, is the social dilemma of free riding. Individuals are free to choose between depleting or conserving a scarce resource, between using polluting or non-polluting means of manufacture or disposal, and between participating or not participating in a group effort towards some common goal. These potential social dilemmas can degrade the common pool resource (CPR).

According to Ellinor Ostrom the challenges which accompany managing CPRs via a global governance structure have been identified as follows:
1. ‘Scaling up problems’: When many participants are involved in managing a CPR, it is increasingly difficult for the members to organize and to reach agreements on rules and their enforcement.
2. ‘Culture diversity challenge’: Finding shared interests and understandings can become more difficult when there is a wide cultural diversity of participants.
3. ‘Complications of interlinked CPRs’: Since the world is getting more and more interconnected and interdependent it will become increasingly difficult to manage resources in an adherent fashion.
4. ‘Accelerating rates of change’: Population growth, economic development, capital and labour mobility, together with technological change pose new challenges on our learning ability.
5. ‘Requirement of unanimous agreement as a collective-choice rule’: Since most governance schemes concerning global resources are negotiated treaties with a voluntary assent, governments can hold out for special privileges before they join. This strongly affects the policies that can be adopted.
6. ‘We have only one globe with which to experiment’: With a local commons, it is possible to move on to better pastures when a tragedy occurs, but with global commons there is no such escape clause.

Blockchain technology is recognised to have a unique set of characteristics – distributed, encrypted, (often) public, and immutable – which confer certain affordances among users, most notably a high degree of trust in the data network. Where transactions are agreed beforehand and their terms enshrined in smart contracts, parties have confidence that terms are adhered to. Blockchain technology creates new forms of trust since the system keeps track of all transactions among users. What role, then, can Blockchain technologies play in scaling up local level solutions to address the tragedy and sustainability of the global commons? How can they support activities to enable sustainable management of the global commons, through systems of governance, transparent decision-making, smart contracts, and decentralised mechanisms and incentives for collaboration, cooperation, consensus and trust?

Could Blockchain applications bring effective management to the sustainability of the global commons? This collection welcomes studies that, non-exhaustively, focus on:
• Game theory, mechanism design, and polycentricity or nested hierarchical networks;
• Global institutional design and architecture for resolving coordination failure between country-to-country international relations in areas like trade, money, finance, law, security, sustainability, human rights, scientific research, space exploration, etc;
• Bottom up cooperation and coordination of global citizens to protect both global and local assets: trade, money, food security, regional sustainability, local human rights, individual sovereign data, food security, decentralized democracy and governance, community independence from global forces etc;
• Economic development and industrialization of the global south and its relation to global outcomes;
• Scaling up CPR solutions from the local to planetary level through application of Blockchain technologies;
• Global governance, polycentricity, and semi-autonomous decision making, automatic stabilizers;
• Heterogenous ‘multi-chain’ consensus, fractal chains (e.g. Holochain), and other blockchain hybrid mechanisms that address the global commons dilemma;
• Global supply-chain provenance, tracking, verification, and transparency;
• Global commons monitoring, data distribution, auditing, funding;
• Extension of property rights, creating ‘exclusion’ options for global assets that were previously thought to be non-excludable;
• Case studies of blockchain implementation that relate to a global commons;

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.


Keywords: global commons, sustainability, sustainable management, common pool resource, global public goods


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Manuscript
30 September 2020 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Manuscript
30 September 2020 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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