Innovation in America, and Silicon Valley in particular, has never waited for permission. The ease of starting companies, the low barriers to accessing capital, and (of course) the existence of an open and free internet on which anyone can build anything have all been major contributors to the vitality of Silicon Valley and the wider tech industry, which permeates nearly everyone’s daily life. The most successful companies of our time — Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and more — didn’t have to ask anyone for permission to innovate. They didn’t have to explain their businesses and get special licenses. They just came up with an idea and built it.

This is important.

This was the original launch post on Techdirt for the Copia Institute, on the first day of our 2015 Inaugural Summit.

A month ago, I gave a little preview of the news that we, the team behind Techdirt, were launching a new think tank and network of innovators called the Copia Institute. That launch is happening today, with our event in San Jose, and I wanted to just provide a short post on why we’re doing this, and why it’s so important.

The word “copia” is Latin for abundance — and over nearly two decades of following, researching and writing about the innovation industries, over and over again, we see that it’s the story of abundance. Of an abundance of information, certainly, but also of the role that abundance plays in everything that we do. Businesses, business models and government policies that were all built for a world of scarcity run into trouble when suddenly plopped into a world of abundance. And we see it happening every day. There are the obvious ones that we talk about all the time around here: music, movies, news and software. But it goes way beyond that. A switch from a world of scarcity to one of abundance is going to impact nearly every other industry as well: manufacturing, finance, healthcare, energy and education among others.

Blockchain technology is the distributed database that underlies digital cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Various consensus algorithms can create distributed ledger systems to achieve a verifiable public record of transactions, replacing trust in people or institutions with a trust in mathematics. All of these technologies provide an extremely useful solution for keeping a reliable record of digital information — a practical answer to the theoretical conundrum known as the Byzantine Generals Problem. Keeping track of digital tokens in order to prevent double-spending is the most obvious application, but blockchain technologies allow for any kind of transaction without a requirement for a trusted third party, intermediaries or centralized authority. Hundreds of digital currencies based on blockchain technologies are valued in the billions of dollars with over 100,000 merchants accepting bitcoins, but the applications extend beyond digital cash.

This case study examines the impact of blockchain technology’s impact beyond just its use for digital currencies like Bitcoin.