Last week I attended a roundtable put on by CIGI in Toronto titled “Regulating Blockchain & Distributed Ledger Technologies: Challenges and Opportunities for Canadian Innovation”. Speakers included key people from industry, government and academia. I've distilled my notes about speakers' thoughts and my own reflections into 18 questions. Please note that the roundtable was conducted under a rule of not crediting speakers - the thoughts below are mostly not my own.

  1. When we talk about regulation, what are we talking about? (Smart contracts, industry standards, technical standards, regulations, acts, common law, etc.?)
  2. What are the benefits of blockchains right now? What will the future benefits be? What might the downsides be?
  3. Who should be trusted? Banks? Bitcoin exchanges? Programmers?
  4. Do parties that require trust also require government-created rules?
  5. Will we still have banks in 30 years? What about other intermediaries?
  6. Who will take a cut of future blockchain transactions? Which intermediaries? Government authorities?
  7. Will government authorities take a cut of transactions directly? (i.e. X% of each transaction goes to the CRA)
  8. Governments have an impulse to regulate. Will new regulations mean giving up the benefits of blockchain or giving up Canada's place in the global market?
  9. What are the implications of "programmable trust"? Will we have a future where government functions are transferred to private interactions (i.e. smart contracts) administered through blockchains?
  10. What role is there for the (Canadian) government to play as a partner rather than a regulator?
  11. Which activities should be governed by criminal law and which by a lighter touch (fines, AMPs, etc.)?
  12. Is a lack of a regulation in the blockchain space a "gap" in the law or an opportunity for entrepreneurs?
  13. Can regulatory "gaps" be filled with common law and economic behaviour rather than government-prescribed rules? Are there any gaps that cannot be filled by private actors or court-created law?
  14. Should blockchain developers be expected to assist government in their traditional roles of law enforcement and taxation?
  15. Are the differences between "public" and "private" blockchains important to regulators?
  16. What are the jurisdictional challenges to a decentralized global economic system enabled by blockchains?
  17. Is there a breaking point in which blockchain benefits (in the form of talented humans making these systems) migrate to less regulated countries?
  18. What can be done to ensure that "good" regulations are made by the federal and provincial governments?