All of this is a sign of a micro-economy in trouble, as Muhammad Salman Anjum, an investor who eats dinner alone by himself in the buffet hall each night, explains. He has a pragmatic take on all these beautiful young women having blockchain exhaustively explained to them by schlubby-looking guys who can’t believe their luck. ”One of the elements in blockchain is about fundraising the ICOs. So you can guess why they are here—to pamper the investors. Because it’s tough now.”In 2017, Salman says, it was relatively easy to raise funds for a nine-figure ICO. Now that crypto prices have crashed, demand on “the supply side of the ICOs is booming, and the demand for the investors is shrinking.” Since the actual mood at this moment is conservative-going-on-terrified, these glamorous models seem to have been hired to give the ship—and the passengers’ selfies—the glitzy appearance of the boom times of 2017.One of the ways men bond is by demonstrating collective power over women. This is why business deals are still done in strip clubs, even in Silicon Valley, and why tech conferences are famous for their “booth babes.” It creates an atmosphere of complicity and privilege. It makes rich men partners in crime. This is useful if you plan to get ethically imaginative with your investments. Hence the half-naked models, who are all working a lot harder than any of the guys in shirtsleeves.The cruise’s panelists all tout decentralization’s promises of shared responsibility, community, and freedom, but the version I see here means that nobody knows precisely who is responsible for all of this. It’s nobody’s specific fault that we’re trapped on a floating live-action walkthrough of how un-trammelled free-market capitalism can be bad for women, given that money and power are things women tend to have less of.
Human communities of every era have had to solve the problem of social order. For this, they developed governance and legal systems. They did it with the technologies and systems of belief of their time.
Athenians of the Classical period believed that all citizens had the right to participate in the lawmaking process and as jurors in popular trials. They used a sophisticated piece of civic technology called kleroterion for random selection of jurors and avoiding manipulation of the system. Modern justice systems were created in the 17th and 18th centuries, at a time of consolidation of nation states.
These systems worked fine for many years, providing rule of law for industrial development and economic prosperity. But in early 21st century, they started to reach their complexity limits. The advent of the Internet and the creation of a global, digital, real time economy started to show the cracks in legal systems built in an era of paper contracts, horse transportation and national jurisdictions.
In today’s global economy, a large and increasing number of transactions are conducted online across jurisdictional boundaries. Clients from different countries hire contractors from all over the world for building software and other services. Investors from different countries participate in crowdfunding campaigns from everywhere. In their book Digital Justice (2017), experts Ethan Katsh and Orna Rabinovich-Einy estimate that disputes arise in 3 to 5% of online transactions, totaling over seven hundred million in 2015 alone.
Existing dispute resolution technologies are too slow, too expensive and too unreliable for an online real-time world. Even alternative methods like online dispute resolution (ODR) have failed to address this problem. ODR promised to bring resolution to this new type of disputes, but in the end it just streamlined existing court procedures, without really bringing an innovation.
Cars, not faster horses
Henry Ford famously said (although some people doubt the veracity of this): “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” A better justice system may not come from further streamlining existing processes but from fundamentally rethinking them from a first principles perspective.
In the last decade, we have witnessed how collective intelligence could be leveraged to produce an encyclopedia like Wikipedia, a transport system like Uber, a restaurant rating system like Yelp!, and a hotel system like Airbnb.
These companies innovated by crowdsourcing value creation. Instead of having an in-house team of restaurant critics as the Michelin Guide, Yelp! crowdsourced ratings in users.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention of Bitcoin (and the underlying blockchain technology) may be seen as the next step in the rise of the collaborative economy. The Bitcoin Network proved that, given the right incentives, anonymous users could cooperate in creating and updating a distributed ledger which could act as a monetary system. A nationless system, inherently global, and native to the Internet Age.
Cryptoeconomics is a new field of study that leverages cryptography, computer science and game theory to build secure distributed systems. It is the science that underlies the incentive system of open distributed ledgers. But its potential goes well beyond cryptocurrencies.
Kleros is a dispute resolution system which relies on cryptoeconomics. It uses a system of incentives based on “focal points”, a concept developed by game theorist Thomas Schelling, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics 2005. Using a clever mechanism design, it seeks to produce a set of incentives for randomly selected users to adjudicate different types of disputes in a fast, affordable and secure way. Users who adjudicate disputes honestly will make money. Users who try to abuse the system will lose money.
Kleros does not seek to compete with governments or traditional arbitration systems, but provide a new method that will leverage the wisdom of the crowd to resolve a large number of disputes of the global digital economy for which existing methods fall short: e-commerce, crowdfunding and many types of small claims are among the early adopters.
Political institutions are the result of trying to solve the practical problems of social coordination. Human communities of all times developed the institutions better suited to their problems, their technologies and beliefs. Athenians of the Classical period built their court system on their belief of citizen participation and the technology of kleroterion for random selection. The founding fathers of the United States built American courts based on the best knowledge of the political theory of their time.
In a time of globalization and digitalization, cryptoeconomics may become the pillar for building the institutions of the Internet Age.
The cryptocurrency movement is the spiritual heir to previous open computing movements, including the open source software movement led most visibly by Linux, and the open information movement led most visibly by Wikipedia.1991: Linus Torvalds’ forum post announcing Linux; 2001: the first Wikipedia pageBoth of these movements were once niche and controversial. Today Linux is the dominant worldwide operating system, and Wikipedia is the most popular informational website in the world.Crypto tokens are currently niche and controversial. If present trends continue, they will soon be seen as a breakthrough in the design and development of open networks, combining the societal benefits of open protocols with the financial and architectural benefits of proprietary networks. They are also an extremely promising development for those hoping to keep the internet accessible to entrepreneurs, developers, and other independent creators.
This is the website of the CoHuBiCoL research project, for which Mireille Hildebrandt received an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council, enabling to set up a team of both lawyers and computer scientists, to conduct foundational research into computational law. The site will be updated as we go along. Note that the official starting date is January 2019. We will investigate how the prominence of counting and computation transforms many of the assumptions, operations and outcomes of the law. The research targets two types of computational law:artificial legal intelligence or data-driven law (based on machine learning), andcryptographic or code-driven law (based on blockchain technologies).
Date Written: June 7, 2017
The idea of artificial legal intelligence stems from a previous wave of artificial intelligence, then called jurimetrics. It was based on an algorithmic understanding of law, celebrating logic as the sole ingredient for proper legal argumentation. However, as Holmes noted, the life of the law is experience rather than merely logic. Machine learning, which determines the current wave of artificial intelligence, is built on a data-driven machine experience. The resulting artificial legal intelligence may be far more successful in terms predicting the content of positive law. In this article, I discuss the assumptions of law and the rule of law and confront them with those of computational systems. As a twin paper to my Chorley lecture on Law as Information, this should inform the extent to which artificial legal intelligence provides for responsible innovation in legal decision making.
Tracing bitcoins has long been easy in theory: The blockchain’s public record allows anyone to follow the trail of coins from one address to another as they’re spent or stolen, though not always to identify who controls those address. But that tracing becomes far dicier when Bitcoin users put their coins through a “mix” or “laundry” service—sometimes in the form of an unregulated exchange—that jumbles up many people’s coins at a single address, and then returns them to confuse anyone trying to trace their path. In other cases, users bundle together their transactions through a process called Coinjoin that gives each spender and recipient deniability about where their money came from or ended up.For companies like Chainanalyis, Coinfirm, and Ciphertrace that offer to trace stolen or “tainted” coins—and who generally don’t make their methodology public— that leaves limited options. They can either treat any coin that comes out of a mix that includes tainted coins as fully “dirty,” or more reasonably, average out the dirt among all the resulting coins; put one stolen coin into a mix address with nine legit ones, and they’re all 10 percent tainted. Some academics have called this the “haircut” method.But Anderson argues that haircut tracing quickly leads to enormous parts of the blockchain being a little bit tainted, with no clear answers about how to treat an infinitesimally unclean coin. Often the fraction can be so small it has to be rounded up, leading to artificial increases in the total “taint” recorded.But when Anderson mentioned this problem in January to David Fox, a professor of law at Edinburgh Law School, Fox pointed out that British law already provides a solution: An 1816 precedent known as Clayton’s Case, which dealt with who should be paid back from the remaining funds of a bankrupted financial firm. The answer, according to the presiding judge, was that whoever put their money in first should take it out first. The resulting first-in-first-out—or FIFO—rule became the standard way under British law to identify whose money is whose in mixed-up assets, whether to resolve debts or reclaim stolen property.
Wow. Aside from the fact that there should definitely be a movie made of these escapades (The Anti-Social Network?), the DAO debacle spotlights something very important. It is past time to acknowledge that governance of public blockchains is happening, by actual identifiable people, and that these people’s actions impact consumers.
In other settings, such as a corporation, we call the people who take comparable actions officers, directors and controlling shareholders. Along with these titles, we burden them with fiduciary duties because we recognize that others trust them to make good decisions on their behalf. We should treat those that govern public blockchains the same way.
Throughout the DAO episode, the Ethereum core developers have made critical decisions that impact Ethereum users. These include political choices (Should the blockchain be immutable? Should we treat the code exploitation as theft?) and technical choices (How do we write the code to take back the funds?).
The powerful miners of Ethereum, in voting for the hard fork by running the new software, made similarly critical choices for the network.
With millions of dollars of other people’s money on the line, these were enormous decisions for this small group of people to make. This exercise of power makes them look an awful lot like fiduciaries of ether holders, and maybe even of investors in the DAO. Notably, the core developers and big miners have been making similarly consequential decisions since the blockchain’s creation — the hard fork drama just makes this more transparent.
Treating the core developers and big miners of public blockchains as fiduciaries would set a clear standard for performance, make them accountable for actions that significantly impact other people, and ensure that they take their creation and operation of these public systems seriously.
By Dr. Martin Gramatikov, Senior Justice Sector Advisorand Georgi Chisuse, ScalatorCryptocurrencies, and its underlying blockchain technology, are everywhere today. Bitcoin’s revolutionary breakthrough provoked intensive research into the potential adoption of backend technology into a multitude of fields. Essentially, blockchain is a secure digital ledger which can record almost anything which has value – coins and financial transactions, ID documents and ownership titles, votes and shares, property and contractual rights, positive and negative reviews. It is clear that blockchain technology will transform and probably disrupt many areas of the law in the months and years to come.Based on mutual consensus between all participants and automatic authenticity checks, the decentralized blockchain technology has shown tremendous potential for building independent systems. Thus, the autonomy as well as the transparency of those systems would guarantee a broader access to justice to everyone involved.But is it going to remain a technology geared towards the needs of big business such as banks, insurance, the fintech sector and investors? Can blockchain help the billions of people who need the law for protecting their basic justice needs?Throughout the years, HiiL has asked tens of thousands of people around the world about their justice needs and experiences with access to justice. We find that worldwide, large numbers of women and men encounter legal problems that might have a legal solution. At a global level, people most often need accessible and fair justice journeys for: crime, land problems, disputes with neighbors, family problems, employment and money-related disputes. Problems around ID documents (i.e. birth, citizenship, marriage and death certificates) and welfare benefits are common among the most vulnerable groups.The answer to our question is – Yes, blockchain technology has huge promise for the justice needs of the people. Countries like Estonia, Ghana, Honduras, Ukraine, Sweden, the Indian state Andra Pradesh and Georgia already experiment with registering land titles and ownership rights using blockchain. There is a great hope that this will make land transactions more affordable, transparent and secure.In the field of family justice, there are already examples of e-marriage and marriage certificates encoded in public and private blockchains. The fields most likely to be innovated using blockchain are inheritance, dowry, and prenuptial agreements. Benefits of such innovation include smart contracts which can help women to secure and enforce their rights.Employment is about livelihood. Millions of people need protection against exploitative practices, unfair dismissal, unpaid wages and dangerous working conditions. Employment contracts and their clauses can be registered in a blockchain. Complex schemes of intermediaries can be hold accountable through transparency. Data can be exchanged with labour inspectorates and watchdogs. In Brazil, a startup called CreditDream works on decentralized blockchain applications for universal access to credit.Undoubtedly, there is a great potential for blockchain technologies to deliver just and fair solutions to millions and even billions of people who need justice. The creativity of the industry will lead the way. But there is a need for visionary leadership which steers innovation towards people’s most prevalent and pressing justice needs.