Swift developments in the emerging field of blockchain technology have facilitated the birth of ‘smart contracts’: computerised transaction protocols which autonomously execute the terms of a contract. Smart contracts are disintermediated and generally transparent in nature, offering the promise of increased commercial efficiency, lower transaction and legal costs, and anonymous transacting. The business world is actively investigating the use of blockchain technology for various commercial purposes. Whilst questions surround the security and reliability of this technology, and the negative impact it may have upon traditional intermediaries, there are equally significant concerns that smart contracts will encounter considerable difficulty adapting to current legal frameworks regulating contracts across jurisdictions. This article considers the potential issues with legal and practical enforceability that arise from the use of smart contracts within both civil and common law jurisdictions.
PoW 51% Attack CostThis is a collection of coins and the theoretical cost of a 51% attack on each network.
Cryptocurrency researchers from FECAP University in Brazil have shown that it would take only around $1.5 million to attack the ETC network and still pull a nice little profit. With $55 million dollars, you could effectively bankrupt the currency, netting nearly $1 billion in straight profit.If a party that controlled just 2.5% of the Ethereum hash rate switched to ETC, they’d instantly control over 51% of the total network hash rate. The attack wouldn’t even be absurdly expensive. It’d cost what you would earn mining on the ETH network with 2.5% of the hash rate, which equates to roughly 525 ETH, or $318,000.
The aim of this supplement is to explore and critique this ‘blockchain ecosystem’, the politics it tries to hide, and the legal and regulatory ramifications it inaugurates. The following essays do not portray blockchain as providing all, if any, of the answers to the world’s problems. Instead, the challenge is in part to understand the tensions faced by law and regulation in defining blockchain within the ongoing networking, digitalisation, and datafication of the social. Success in this regard will be measured in the coming months and years by the grip that regulatory authorities and governments are able to maintain on the various strands of blockchain research, development, application, implementation, and conduct—a grip, moreover, that is able to be maintained alongside the regulatory conundrums that continue to plague the wider field of network technologies which are themselves still evolving, mutating, impacting, but not necessarily benefiting community or public interest ahead of private, commercial power. Understanding the extent to which law and regulation will play a role in securing democratic accountability of these powerful and far-reaching technologies is or ought to be a key concern for blockchain scholars and practitioners of all stripes.
Smart contracts are fundamentally bad software engineering, part 666 of a never-ending series — PeckShield have been running an automatic scanner on the public Ethereum blockchain:Built on our earlier efforts in analyzing EOS tokens, we have developed an automated system to scan and analyze Ethereum-based (ERC-20) token transfers. Specifically, our system will automatically send out alerts if any suspicious transactions (e.g., involving unreasonably large tokens) occur.They’ve found a couple of beauties, which they’ve branded “BatchOverflow” and “ProxyOverflow.” These affect multiple ERC-20 tokens — which are the basis for almost all ICOs.The root cause is that smart contract coders just copy each other’s code a lot, because who needs formal methods when you can cut’n’paste’n’bodge.
Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future. Its failure to achieve adoption to date is because systems built on trust, norms, and institutions inherently function better than the type of no-need-for-trusted-parties systems blockchain envisions. That’s permanent: no matter how much blockchain improves it is still headed in the wrong direction.
The entire worldview underlying blockchain is wrong
You actually see it over and over again. Blockchain systems are supposed to be more trustworthy, but in fact they are the least trustworthy systems in the world. Today, in less than a decade, three successive top bitcoin exchangeshave been hacked, another is accused of insider trading, the demonstration-project DAO smart contract got drained, crypto price swings are ten times those of the world’s most mismanaged currencies, and bitcoin, the “killer app” of crypto transparency, is almost certainly artificially propped up by faketransactions involving billions of literally imaginary dollars.
different epistemic communities have formed their own ideas about what blockchain is, some with very strong political and social views around open source, sharing, and autonomy.
If your requirements are fulfilled by today’s relational databases, you’d be insane to use a blockchain.
So am I saying that blockchains are useless? Absolutely not. But before you embark on that shiny blockchain project, you need to have a very clear idea of why you are using a blockchain. There are a bunch of conditions that need to be fulfilled. And if they’re not, you should go back to the drawing board. Maybe you can define the project better. Or maybe you can save everyone a load of time and money, because you don’t need a blockchain at all.
Unchain, a large bitcoin and blockchain convention based in Hamburg, seems to have a potential answer. Along with speakers from blockchain startups, cryptocurrency exchanges and a company that purports to offer “privately managed cities as a business”, the conference programme also features Alice Weidel, listed on the site as an “economist and bitcoin entrepreneur”.In fact, Weidel is the co-leader of Alternative für Deutschland, which recently became the third largest party in Germany’s Bundestag. Weidel’s election campaign in 2017 was the party’s breakthrough moment, and what many have seen as a watershed in German politics – the return of far-right, populist ethno-nationalism to the federal parliament.
The current rhetoric around the blockchain hints at problems with the techno-utopian ideologies that surround digital activism.