Vitalik Buterin
Feb 1, 2019 · 2 min read

> “Laws of physics” are human constructs, and as such are socio-legally bounded and inherently mutable.

Huh? This feels like it’s veering into post-modernist territory. Laws of physics are NOT a social construct; our interpretation is, but the laws are definitely not. An apple falling from a tree accelerates at 9.8 m/s² regardless of the culture or beliefs of whatever society happens to be observing that apple. More relevantly to the topic, the fact that if someone can just push a vending machine really hard, tip it over, whack it with a hammer and get the goodies inside for free, regardless of what the social contract or laws are, is itself a consequence of (i) limits to the physical security of the vending machine, (ii) limits to the ability to transfer information to entities that might protect the vending machine or later penalize the perpetrator, (iii) limits to their physical speed in getting to the machine and preventing the incident.

> From a legal perspective, the most significant part of that posture is self-en-force-ment (private remedial mechanisms).

This is why I think saying “self-executing” is better than “self-enforcing”. The fact that a vending machine uses legal-system-independent mechanisms to secure itself (like being heavy or built out of robust materials), which may even protect the vending machine from legal / socially accepted attempts to interfere with it, is not some kind of grand pronouncement of anarchist ideology. It’s simply someone using the best tools they have available to reduce the risk of interference in their business activities.

That said, I agree that smart contracts present bigger real risks than vending machines because they have much stronger capabilities.

> [Moderate immutabilism] ≠ immutabilism. [Moderate immutabilism] = mutability.

Nothing is absolutely immutable. In the real world there is only cost of defense and cost of attack (ok fine, focusing on “cost” _is_ a human construct, and I could have framed it differently, but you get the idea). That does not change the fact that there are very real benefits _and_ costs to increasing or decreasing mutability along various margins.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade
A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store