Since 2012, when I first heard about Bitcoin, I’ve thought it was a very cool application of cryptography and peer-to-peer networks that solves the problem of double spending and runaway inflation. Other than that, I didn’t really think it was revolutionary, but a recent article by @ThoughtInfected has changed my mind.
The most thought-provoking quotes where:
It is just such a huge game changer that a program could hold wealth in a way that is inaccessible to anyone, and then distribute said wealth based on defined and agreed mathematical rules.
The twin technologies of cryptocurrencies and cryptocontracts are going to turn contract law into a programming language.
The bitcoin protocol includes a non-Turing complete interpreted language that can be used to create more complex transactions, and it can be used as a basis for so called ‘Smart Property’ and self-enforcing contracts.
This idea of turning contract law into a form of computing is similar to what I’ve been wanting for a while, I’d like to see laws themselves be in a computable form, then interpretation of law would be replaced with a program that might resemble a SQL query. What bitcoin smart contracts give is a way to enforce contractual obligations without paying lawyers and police, and they take out the need for trust, since people will be incapable of breaking the terms of the contract.
A beneficial side effect of having computable laws is the ability to cross check them all for logical consistency, my ideal government would find all inconsistencies and eliminate them by vote, any pair of laws that cannot be consistently resolved would be deleted, and the territory covered by those laws would be unspecified.
An example of this is the current inconsistency between Federal and State Law regarding the recreational use of cannabis, it is illegal at the Federal Level, but legal in some states, such as Colorado and Washington. If these laws were being checked like some continuous integration server running software tests, it would fail upon seeing this contradiction, it would generate a ballot and put it to a vote. If the vote does not resolve the inconsistency, the conflicting laws are deleted. Then legislators would be forced to start anew, applying principles that are consistent with the current body of law.
But back to contract law, this not only eliminates the need for lawyers and courts in contracts, it also solves the problem that DRM attempted to solve. Musicians could create contracts that ensured people paid for the song they were listening to, and it would be enforced by the mathematical rules built into the bitcoin network, not the arbitrary whim of a company like Sony. Or ebooks could be sold by the authors themselves, and people could only pay for what they read, this would obviate the need for a middleman like Amazon. Removing middlemen would give artists a larger cut, and could reduce the prices for the consumer as well.
Cryptocontracts such as those built on Bitcoin could really be revolutionary, since they sidestep the often expensive dealings with the legal system, don’t require trust, and solve the problem of property in an age when infomation is copied freely.