How Blockchain Can Save Westeros: Dragonchain and Game of Thrones
Though the world of Westeros and our own could not be further apart, they both have similar fundamental pain points: lack of transparency, bad information, and the absence of trust. With the end of Game of Thrones fast approaching, we explore how the influence of blockchain, or an in-setting equivalent, could have changed major events and elements of the setting. Just as we’ve seen in the Seven Kingdoms, a lot can change when Dragons are brought into the fray.
...Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons
Blockchain Identity and Smart Contracts
One of the most common sources of conflict and plot progression in Game of Thrones is character identities. Presented in hidden family ties, the pursuit of higher ranks, and efforts to join certain groups and alliances, identities drive a large portion of the action and are a major area that blockchain could change.
One of the characters that most could have benefited from blockchain identity is Arya Stark in the early seasons, who simultaneously needs to prove parts of her identity, while keeping other elements private. For her personal safety, she needed to manage her identity as Arry, the debt that Jaqen H'ghar owes her and her status as a vassal of Tywin Lannister, while also keeping her relation to the Starks a secret. Dragonchain’s factor-based identity solutions would allow her to publicly show whose protection she was under, while also obscuring her lineage.
A more recent scenario in which self-sovereign identity could have helped our characters can be seen at the beginning of the final season. Jon Snow has discovered his heritage, but his only sources of proof are word of mouth and an obscure hand-written record. To stake his claim to the throne, he needs to be able to prove his parentage, but is unable to produce evidence to support this claim. If Jon was able to use blockchain and self-sovereign identity, he could easily show the proof he needs to the appropriate parties, with the assurance that it hasn’t been doctored or forged.
Another major example of identity in Game of Thrones is seen in the Night’s Watch, which has a number of rules and conditions surrounding membership. Breaking one’s vows is punishable by expulsion, but there is a lack of effective mechanisms for reporting and punishing members that break their laws. With the use of blockchain, the Night’s Watch could create smart contracts that activate whenever the terms of membership (i.e. not being married, not owning land, etc) fail to be met. They would be able to program both the conditions under which the contract is invoked, in this case failing to uphold their code, and also the action performed by the contract-revoking membership in the Night’s Watch.
The north remembers
Blockchain Immutable Ledger
Game of Thrones’ medieval setting and technology force the characters to rely on hand-written documents and word of mouth for record-keeping, which is repeatedly shown to be a challenge. Documents are stolen, falsified, and destroyed and all too often, the only character with a key piece of knowledge dies before they are able to share it. Through the use of blockchain’s immutable ledger capabilities, the inhabitants of Westeros would not only be able to make key information permanent and resistant to tampering, but also transparent and readily-available.
A plot point that would have greatly benefited from blockchain and immutable ledger is Jon Snow’s parentage. He is introduced to us as Ned Stark’s son, born out of wedlock to a mystery woman. Ned is the only party that knows who the mother is, but is not able to tell Jon before they part ways. Had Jon’s birth record been put on the blockchain, this information would have persisted and remained accessible, no matter how many characters tried to cover it up.
With the amount of drama surrounding noble families, tracking parentage is probably the most obvious use case for immutable ledger in Game of Thrones. However, there are plenty of other changes it could bring about, like improving Dothraki customs. It is explained that the Dothraki measure their victories in battle by the number of bells they have taken from fallen opponents. By putting his wins on the blockchain, Khal Drogo wouldn’t always have to travel with dozens of bells, and could have a more precise and accurate tally of his battles that anyone could see.
Power resides where men believe it resides
Tokenization and Fractionalizing Digital Assets
The eponymous Iron Throne is at the heart of the conflict in Game of Thrones, since ownership means control over the whole setting of Westeros. The series establishes a very all-or-nothing power dynamic, in which the ruling family holds supreme military, economic, and political power. Though it wouldn’t make for a very action-packed resolution, the succession conflict could see a more peaceful ending through the use of blockchain and tokenization.
As it stands, control over the Iron Throne gives rulers authority over the Seven Kingdoms, ownership of King’s Landing, military leadership and a host of other privileges. All the rights and powers are concentrated into the ruling family, but blockchain-based fractionalization could assist in splitting them up between multiple parties. By tokenizing the different elements that come with rulership and giving them to different noble families, the power structure in Westeros could become less centralized and reach a conclusion that all the families might be able to agree on. Turning these roles and responsibilities into tokenized assets would also assist in quantifying them; the more granular and defined these boundaries are, the easier it would be to determine if they are being abused or overstepped.
On a smaller scale, the use of tokenization could also assist in managing all the titles and ranks that permeate the setting. Whether it's the Hand of the King, a maester or the khaleesi, titles play a significant role as both character motivations and the spark for important plot points. By attaching ranks to tokens, characters would be able to provide tangible proof of their standing that can’t be forged like a document. By issuing titles as a tokenized asset, the entity designing and awarding them would be able to set parameters like the timeframe during which they are effective, whether they can be passed down etc.
Though the future of Westeros is grim and uncertain, the future of blockchain has a lot of potential. To see real-world applications of blockchain technology, be sure to check out our use cases.