Digital 3 - the frontier to a new era of economic infrastructure

Digital 3 - the frontier to a new era of economic infrastructure

Keynote speech by Distinguished Professor Jason Potts at D3 launch – 26 October 2022

We are currently living through a revolution. A tech revolution! 

This revolution is due to a supercluster of digital tech, sometimes called web3, but it's broader than that.  We call it D3.  It's not steam engines or plastics or flying cars or colonies on Mars.  It's not an industrial tech revolution or a space age tech revolution.

It's the same thing that’s behind this image for instance, made by one of the new generations of natural language input AI systems.


Image: triptych painting of ‘French revolution', 'industrial revolution' and 'digital revolution', in style of Lucian Freud ​

This tech supercluster including crypto, blockchain, cloud, AI, IoT, 5G, VR/meta is a digital tech stack.  It is more than just the next gen ICT or better-faster-cheaper computers.

It’s not just software eating the world (although it kind of is).  It's where we’ve put them, how we've arranged them, what they’re now doing and who they’re doing it to.


This revolution is the refactoring and upgrade of the economic operating system.

At the core of this tech revolution are the benefits of common knowledge and agreement consensus - about administrative facts. 

  • It automates payments, contracts and verification. 
  • It is distributed ledger technology - ledgers, books accountants write in.  
  • It's the least sexy tech revolution ever.

These are our technologies of trust, and disruptive innovation in these technologies happens on a millennial scale. And it just did - we’ve just industrialised trust!

And that industrialisation (thank you Satoshi) massively lowers the costs of trust.  

Remember, demand curves slope downward. When costs fall, prices fall, and we consume more of something. When we lower the costs of trust, cooperation and coordination becomes cheaper and that’s a very good thing.

Computers and the internet (ICT) did this for communication. And what did we get? A lot more communication – at global scale.

Blockchains do this for trust. Think of it this way:   

  1. When we agree on institutional facts such as intersubjective facts of identity, ownership, exchanges done and promises made; and
  2. When common knowledge works at scale such as that base layer of writing or record keeping/updating; and
  3. When that becomes completely digital, and it puts ‘a digital girdle around the earth’- we have a foundation for a new computable economy.

We then join up all the digital technologies into a full stack of digital economic institutions and will have a fully 21st century economy with tech driving P2P cooperation instead of tech driving industrial production.

These are the elements and modules for a new operating system for the global economy and that is the revolution we are going through right now - a computable economy.  A full stack digital economy.

That deep disruption is what D3 is built to guide us into.


So, what have we done? What is our current state?

At the Blockchain Innovation Hub (BIH), we were not only the first Business School Blockchain Research Centre in the world, but also among the very best. We built a world class research centre that was ranked second in the world by Coindesk in 2021.

We have pioneered new fields such as institutional crypto-economics, crypto-democracy and web3 governance.

We have built an expert, agile, high-performing interdisciplinary team that delivers deep industry and public engagement. I want to say battle-tested but think of hobbits not soldiers.

Our band of misfit scholars have gone on some awfully big adventures together since being plucked from the dales in 2017.  We have learnt a lot about how new tech gets into the world, seen some things you wouldn't believe and even fought some monsters!


We have applied our rapidly learned knowledge to help start-ups, solve industry problems and guide public policy and we are proud to be useful or ‘industry engaged’ as we say at RMIT.

We are education focused having built the most comprehensive suite of business school course offerings in the world, from short courses to Master’s degrees thanks to Professor Stuart Thomas and Dr Darcy Allen.


Where are we going? What is our future state?

We have started with blockchain, and yes, it's right there in the title of our innovation hub that's now one of the pillars of D3.

Over the past five years we’ve built out a deep body of knowledge and experience about how that technology works in business and society.  How to innovate with it and we are very proud of what we've done there.

But next, we want to push that knowledge, understanding and research capabilities, into specific domains. Our ambitions are towards integration and consolidation and new areas of applied focus. Knowledge with action.

We’ve begun to develop new fields of research we believe will be important and useful for Australia and beyond and our next steps are to consolidate our industry experience and academic leadership, to develop fields and applications.

For example: we are working on:

  • Blockchain for economic development (DeFi)
  • Blockchains for social good/ charities/ volunteers (NFTs, tokenomics)Stablecoins and CBDCs (Digital Finance CRC)
  • Web3 marketing (NFTs, social tokens)
  • Web3 strategy
  • New property rights (NFTs, registries and data DAOs)
  • Linking digital and physical economy (hardware, NFTs)
  • Designing crypto tax law
  • Fighting crypto crime
  • Foundations (private provision of public goods) (DAOs)
  • Web3 governance (with ADMS/ DERC)
  • Decentralised Science (DeSci)
  • New measures of the digital economy
  • Quantum computing and blockchain geopolitics

BIH help build useful things for the digital economy which perhaps look like separate problems and domains. 

They draw on a range disciplines such as economics, law, accounting and finance and touch on a range of verticals such as payments and trade, creative industries, business services, insurance and health.   But they are not separate – just different aspects refactoring the Economic Operating System.

Digitising all the parts and economic modules, enables a computable economy.  

An economy is a computer.  It is an operating system of rules consisting of some aspects of either/all of:

  • human behaviours
  • habits and norms
  • laws and legislation
  • organisational instructions
  • market institutions
  • code

An economy is a stack of rules for economic calculation/computation.  But until recently, most of that computation was analog – slow, costly and fragmented.

Amazon is amazing for many reasons, but one is simply that it's a search engine for things in markets.  All great platform businesses are like that. We need the whole economy to be like that.

What web3 tech or this supercluster is bringing, is a massive architectural shift in how an economy computes, and how it can do this at global scale.

This is what it means to tokenise all the things. To make capital computable, composable. To make infrastructure computable. To make innovation computable.

When the web3 tech revolution is over, we will have completely refactored and upgraded the operating system for the global economy. That is what we're doing here. That’s what D3 is built for.



We are working on the integration of blockchain with the full digital tech stack and developing a comprehensive theory and practical understanding of the supercluster.

It is a fast-moving technology and business space of cryptocurrencies, tokens, DeFi, NFTs, DAOs and the incredible advances in new ML models and applications to virtual economies (AR/VR/metaverse) and integration with real economies.

The frontier is economic design – the ability to build your own economy.

The supercluster is the convergence of these tools, toolkits and toolsets.   Our purpose is to understand how to use them well, to understand their properties and to teach these.

These powerful design tools are not just for business but also for clubs, groups of people with a common project, civil society, charities and platform organisations including universities! These are tools to keep track of facts and to design incentives.

D3 is fundamentally inspired by a design school.  A business design institute for the new era of composable economic infrastructure. For building local, on-demand digital economies whenever a group of people want to come together to cooperate to create shared value.




Author:  Distinguished Professor Jason Potts

More information on Digital3 

27 October 2022


27 October 2022


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.