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CHAPTER V - Conclusion


Developing effective new ways to manage digital assets—to neutralize their threats and liabilities while unleashing their enormous latent potential—is a formidable challenge because it is a systemic challenge. Piecemeal, incremental approaches that deal with only one or another facet of the problem—technology design, law, regulation, economics, individual rights—are not likely to be successful. That is because the free flow of digital assets on which open electronic networks now thrive is an unprecedented, inescapable reality that requires new ways of thinking and inventive new infrastructures and institutions. We may need to reconceive structures of law and governance. The old, familiar systems for thinking about this new reality and regulating it seem almost destined to be inadequate.

That is why it is so important to start a larger discussion about this urgent topic. The need to find better, more responsible and cost-efficient ways of managing digital assets will only intensify as new technologies and networking opportunities expand. A new path forward will either begin in the conventional venues of government, business, law and social communities—or the inadequacies of existing systems will eventually result in a crisis that produces catastrophic harms and a loss of social trust.

The point is that a new, more focused and ecumenical discussion about digital assets is urgently needed. It is most likely to yield results if it consists of cross-cutting conversations that bring technologists into dialogue with policymakers, and both of them into deeper conversation with businesses, peer communities, leading nonprofit institutions and the public. Such dialogues will be important not only to devise workable, holistic solutions, but to establish the legitimacy of any envisioned new framework for managing digital assets. That will require a greater convergence and consensus among constituencies than now exists. Fortunately, as this conference demonstrated, the rudiments of constructive solutions are already at hand as well as the enthusiasm to explore them further.

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