The world is changing at an unprecedented pace. Technological advancement has nearly reached critical mass. Just eight years ago an enigmatic figure named Satoshi Nakamoto wrote the White Paper outlining an idea for a decentralized currency, which would function through cryptographic protocols and a distributed network. Shortly after he wrote this paper, he went about making it into a reality. The outcome was the first major cryptocurrency: Bitcoin.
Bitcoin has risen in popularity in just over the last few years. Many people have invested in startups and use Bitcoin in everyday transactions. Those who have had the opportunity experiment with it are realizing the scope of its value and potential.
Bitcoin was not the only exceptional development, though. It was just one of many applications derived from the technology it is built on. This tech is known as the blockchain.
The blockchain is a decentralized public ledger that keeps record of all transactions ever placed by taking advantage of diverse computer networks and their facility for working with complicated algorithms. The blockchain unlocked new ways of thinking not only about technological development, but also socio-political arrangements. For a deceptively simple idea, it can potentially reorganize the fabric of society.
Some developers have begun coding blockchain functionality for peer-2-peer agreements, or smart contracts, which include titles, deeds, loans, trusts, and anything similar imaginable. Ethereum is one example of these smart contract platforms, but it is still in its infancy. This is the description of Ethereum on its website:
“Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.”
Most people have not fathomed where this could lead and what new developments it will bring to bear. These decentralized contracts represent another facet of disruptive technology. They will show the world that the parties involved in a contractual arrangement should have the only say in those arrangements unless otherwise specified.
Redundant intermediaries like super-national banks, attorneys, and government regulators will be expelled from the arbitration and agreement processes. A more free, sprawling, connected, diverse, and trusting society can be built as a result of this change.
A New Vision for the Helping Professions
One especially unique idea this is already evolving from smart contracts is subtle, but staggeringly mind-blowing in its social and political implications. It is called cryptological counseling. This is a new vision of the helping profession and psychotherapy, because it will aid professionals to withdrawal from their current oppressive environment.
Counseling, psychology, and psychiatry are heavily regulated, bureaucratically entrenched professions. Like most fields in the medical or counseling industry, they are crippled by the State. They are funded and guarded by an authoritarian Ivory Tower. Their gatekeepers are ubiquitous, and they only allow a chosen few into the profession, which hamstrings unorthodox or innovative people.
But society has a way to free this community. It has peer-2-peer, decentralized, and disruptive devices. These tools can accelerate the growth of the helping professions by thrusting them headlong into the marketplace, where they can expand unencumbered by bureaucratic doctrine and anal retentive gatekeepers. This escape from institutional conformity and use of smart contracting are indeed the crux of cryptological counseling.
A New Therapeutic Alliance
With the emergence of smart contracts and distributed agreement technology, it will now be possible to complete the fundamental requirement for a counseling relationship outside of the institution; it means, for the first time, an honest and private client-therapist relationship can exist without fraud or risk of lawsuit.
Beforehand, client-therapist confidentiality was based on control rather than therapy. Mental health professions have been under State authority, so counselors have had to act in the capacity of policemen. They have had to tattle on clients, and respond to court’s summons for alleged abuses.
The sheer complexity of ethical dilemmas besieging them has been entangled in a near inescapable Gordian knot. Counselors have had to walk on eggshells. If their client hurts someone, or if the State sees them as abusive, the counselor could easily be scapegoated for his client’s actions and held accountable.
The Tarasoff rule is one example of how counselors can be held accountable for a clients or non-clients actions:
“For nearly three decades, the Tarasoff rule has been controversial among mental health professionals. This rule, which has spread to many states, originated in the California Supreme Court’s decision in Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (17 Cal.3d 425 ). In Tarasoff, a patient told his psychotherapist that he intended to kill an unnamed but readily identifiable woman. Subsequently, the patient killed the woman. Her parents then sued the psychotherapist for failing to warn them or their daughter about the danger. The California Supreme Court rejected the psychotherapist’s claim that he owed no duty to the woman because she was not his patient, holding that if a therapist determines or reasonably should have determined ‘that a patient poses a serious danger of violence to others, he bears a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the foreseeable victim of that danger.'”
New blockchain protocols could free counselors to work without fear of this legal persecution, yet also help them maintain ethical rules based on digital agreements and arbitration. And these would change from individual to individual without needing involvement from State machinery.
However, this also means that people would have to start fighting to erase antiquated laws. They must begin making changes or eliminating licensing and State controls completely. The way that this will manifest in the future has yet to be seen. The last thing the counseling or medical professions want is a repeat of what Uber has been constantly battling as they innovate beyond the system.
Other Innovations & Future Possibilities
Smart contract technology will also create new ways for counselors to display their portfolio, records, credentials, and expertise. It will revamp how therapy is done. It will do wonders for the profession.
But these changes imply that the asphyxiated environment they currently work within would be disrupted, and the field would be loosened from the grip of bureaucracy. All the ways that smart contracts will help the profession have yet to be revealed, but everyone can certainly start imagining the possibilities.
But one question remains: how does one apply cryptological counseling in its current form?
Part two of this series will help answer this question.
Know of other applications for smart contracts? Share and comment below!
Images courtesy of digitalliteracy.us, rightbrainedaerobics.com, school-counselor.org, managedmain.com
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