The current rhetoric around the blockchain hints at problems with the techno-utopian ideologies that surround digital activism.
Governance in Blockchain Technologies & Social Contract TheoriesWessel Reijers, Fiachra O’Brolcháin, Paul HaynesAbstractThis paper is placed in the context of a growing number of social and political critiques of blockchain technologies. We focus on the supposed potential of blockchain technologies to transform political institutions that are central to contemporary human societies, such as money, property rights regimes, and systems of democratic governance. Our aim is to examine the way blockchain technologies canbring about – and justify – new models of governance. To do so, we draw on the philosophical works of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Rawls, analyzing blockchain governance in terms of contrasting social contract theories. We begin by comparing the justifications of blockchain governance offered by members of the blockchain developers’ community with the justifications of governance presented within social contract theories. We then examine the extent to which the model of governance offered by blockchain technologies reflects key governance themes and assumptions located within social contract theories, focusing on the notions of sovereignty, the initial situation, decentralization and distributive justice.
Ledger is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes full-length original research articles on the subjects of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, as well as any relevant intersections with mathematics, computer science, engineering, law, and economics. It is published online by the University Library System, University of Pittsburgh.The journal Ledger:is open access to all readers,does not charge fees to authors,employs a transparent peer-review process,encourages authors to digitally sign their manuscripts,timestamps the published manuscripts in the Blockchain.Authors planning to submit their work to the journal are strongly advised to examine the Author Guidelines section of the website.
Cryptocurrencies have become increasingly popular since the introduction of bitcoin in 2009. In this paper, we identify factors associated with variations in cryptocurrencies’ market values. In the past, researchers argued that the “buzz” surrounding cryptocurrencies in online media explained their price variations. But this observation obfuscates the notion that cryptocurrencies, unlike fiat currencies, are technologies entailing a true innovation potential. By using, for the first time, a unique measure of innovation potential, we find that the latter is in fact the most important factor associated with increases in cryptocurrency returns. By contrast, we find that the buzz surrounding cryptocurrencies is negatively associated with returns after controlling for a variety of factors, such as supply growth and liquidity. Also interesting is our finding that a cryptocurrency’s association with fraudulent activity is not negatively associated with weekly returns—a result that further qualifies the media’s influence on cryptocurrencies. Finally, we find that an increase in supply is positively associated with weekly returns. Taken together, our findings show that cryptocurrencies do not behave like traditional currencies or commodities—unlike what most prior research has assumed—and depict an industry that is much more mature, and much less speculative, than has been implied by previous accounts.
What is the role of social interactions in the creation of price bubbles? Answering this question requires obtaining collective behavioural traces generated by the activity of a large number of actors. Digital currencies offer a unique possibility to measure socio-economic signals from such digital traces. Here, we focus on Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has experienced periods of rapid increase in exchange rates (price) followed by sharp decline; we hypothesize that these fluctuations are largely driven by the interplay between different social phenomena. We thus quantify four socio-economic signals about Bitcoin from large datasets: price on online exchanges, volume of word-of-mouth communication in online social media, volume of information search and user base growth. By using vector autoregression, we identify two positive feedback loops that lead to price bubbles in the absence of exogenous stimuli: one driven by word of mouth, and the other by new Bitcoin adopters. We also observe that spikes in information search, presumably linked to external events, precede drastic price declines. Understanding the interplay between the socio-economic signals we measured can lead to applications beyond cryptocurrencies to other phenomena that leave digital footprints, such as online social network usage.
The 2017 paper A Cross-Sectional Overview of Cryptoasset Governance and Implications for Investors is a master’s thesis covering governance structures in the industry. It has a useful survey of the top 50 circulating cryptoassets by network value (as of July 29, 2017) with detailed analysis of the governance models on display. The paper is aimed at educating investors about the relative lack of shareholder (tokenholder) rights in the industry. It also discusses a few of the functioning models of cryptoasset governance.
This paper argues that many so-called digital technologies can be construed as notational technologies, explored through the example of Monegraph, an art and digital asset management platform built on top of the blockchain system originally developed for the cryptocurrency bitcoin. As the paper characterizes it, a notational technology is the performance of syntactic notation within a field of reference, a technologized version of what Nelson Goodman called a “notational system.” Notational technologies produce abstracted entities through positive and reliable, or constitutive, tests of socially acceptable meaning. Accordingly, this account deviates from typical narratives of blockchains (usually characterized as Turing or state machines), instead demonstrating that blockchain technologies are effective at managing digital assets because they produce abstracted identities through the performance of notation. Since notational technologies rely on configurations of socially acceptable meaning, this paper also provides a philosophical account of how blockchain technologies are socially embedded.
We theorize about the governance of blockchain organizations and empirically explore the phenomenon using panel data on cryptocurrencies. Our findings point to interesting effects of governance on returns (i.e. cryptocurrency price increases or decreases). Internally, while centralized governance design choices at the blockchain level decrease returns, centralized governance design choices at the protocol and the organizational levels appear to be more beneficial for returns. The results correspond to the idea that, on the one hand, investors value cryptocurrencies’ core value proposition, rooted in decentralization; but on the other hand, are suspicious of decentralized governance at higher levels in the organization because they could slow down strategic decision-making (e.g., regarding the introduction of new innovations) or create information asymmetries between investors and technologists.
If one is to believe the popular press and many “technical writings,” blockchains create not only a perfect transactional environment but also obviate the need for banks, lawyers and courts. The latter will soon be replaced by smart contracts: unbiased and infallible computer programs that form, perform and enforce agreements. Predictions of future revolutions must, however, be distinguished from the harsh reality of the commercial marketplace and the technical limitations of blockchains. The fact that a technological solution is innovative and elegant need not imply that it is commercially useful or legally viable. Apart from attempting a terminological “clean-up” surrounding the term smart contract, this paper presents some technological and legal constraints on their use. It confronts the popular claims concerning their ability to automate transactions and to ensure perfect performance. It also examines the possibility of reducing contractual relationships to code and the ability to integrate smart contracts with the complexities of the real world. A closer analysis reveals that smart contracts can hardly be regarded as a semi-mythical technology liberating the contracting parties from the shackles of traditional legal and financial institutions.
We analyze the Bitcoin protocol for electronic peer-to-peer payments and the operations that support the “blockchain” that underpins it. It is shown that the protocol maps formally into a dynamic game that is an extension of standard models of R&D racing. The model provides a technical foundation for any economic analysis of ‘proof-of-work’ protocols. Using the model, we demonstrate that free entry is solely responsible for determining resource usage by the system for a given reward to mining. The endogenous level of computational difficulty built into the Bitcoin protocol does not mitigate this usage and serves only to determine the time taken to process transactions. Regulating market structure will mitigate resource use highlighting the importance of identifying the benefits of competition for the operation of the blockchain.
Keywords: bitcoin, blockchain, racing, mining, competition, free entry