Katz and Schneider on Ethereum and legal applications of blockchain technology

Professor Dr. Daniel Martin Katz of Michigan State University and the ReInvent Law Laboratory has posted Ethereum – A Revolutionary New Platform for Applications (including Computable Contracts), at Computational Legal Studies.

Dan’s post links to the Website of the Ethereum blockchain technology project, and to Nathan Schneider’s new Al Jazeera America post about the legal applications of Ethereum: Code Your Own Utopia: Meet Ethereum, bitcoin’s most ambitious successor.

Here are excerpts from Schneider’s post:

‘[… Blockchain technology] prototypes started to show how the building blocks of finance could be reinvented on decentralized networks — escrow transactions, commodity exchanges, derivatives, smart contracts that can enforce themselves without needing an offline legal system. […]

What bitcoin is for money, Ethereum is for contracts, and contracts are part of what undergirds any relationship or organization or political order. […] A group called BitCongress, for instance, is already using Ethereum as the basis for a cryptography-created legislation toolbox that would make polls easy and verifiable without the need for a trusted authority to count the votes.

With Ethereum, one could code a constitution for a nongeographic country that people can choose to join, pay taxes to, receive benefits from and cast votes in — and whose rules they would then have to obey. […] In one online video two Ethereum pioneers demonstrate how to code a simple marriage contract. The world’s next social contracts, the successors to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the U.S. Constitution, could be written in Ethereum’s programming language.

What makes much of this possible is also perhaps the creepiest outgrowth of cryptocurrency 2.0: distributed autonomous organizations, or DAOs. Based on charters taking the form of code on a peer-to-peer network, these are entities that could automate many of the tasks of a conventional organization with varying levels of human input. For instance, a DAO could act democratically, based on the votes of its members, or it could conduct activities on the network without consulting human users at all. […]

For more details, please see Dan’s post and Nathan Schneider’s post.

Click here for information on other legal applications of blockchain technology.

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