Fantasy spans many subgenres, but it is anchored in medievalism: the settings of epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones are consistently pre-industrial. Scrying mirrors may exist, but never Skype.
Hang on, you say. Isn’t fantasy a literature of change, too? The world changes: a tyrant is deposed, good triumphs over evil, the ugly duckling takes the throne.
Such change, no matter how epic, is superficial. It is ultimately political: the king is dead, long live the king. The plots are feudal. Europe had a Hundred Years’ War: why, so does Wheel of Time. England had the Wars of the Roses: why, so does Game of Thrones. But for the ordinary people, society’s structures are conserved, and it is of little import whose banner hangs over the palace. Frodo returns home, kicks the Sackville-Bagginses out of Bag End, and watches the sun set over his beloved Shire, where the cows keep getting milked and the chickens continue to lay.
Ordinary politics is change without innovation. The theocracies of tribes, the battles of generals, the intrigues of royalties and the histories of nations: all tedious and repetitive, like a hundred petri dishes. The bacteria may differ but the patterns stay the same.
Until one day Fleming discovers penicillin. In science fiction, technological innovation creates change. The theme is the magic arrives. Magic is made. Often by man.
Some kids wanted to grow up to become King Arthur; I wanted to be Merlin.
(To be fair, the other source of innovation is spiritual: religious innovations, which come along only once or twice in every millennium, do change our stories and change our worlds. We may be on the brink of another, thanks to A.I., but that is an essay for another time.)
What does this have to do with law and smart contracts?
Law and political economy go hand in hand. The history of contract — private law—is the history of contested agreement, resolved with public policy in mind. The publics may have grown larger but the conflicts between people have not changed in thousands of years. Neither have the ways of resolving such conflicts. That’s why law belongs squarely on the medievalist side of the equation.
But medievalism does give way to modernism. Some argue that GoT illustrates that transition. If medievalism represents zero-sum conservative conflict, modernism represents positive-sum progressive cooperation.
And that’s why, believe it or not, LegalTech represents a long-overdue Enlightenment. Until now, lawyers have thought of contracts as preparation for a lawsuit. I think of contracts — smart contracts — as technologies of cooperation. What we are doing is the first real advance in a thousand years.
Footnote: contrarian opinion re techno-utopianism: https://www.amazon.com/Arrogance-Humanism-Galaxy-Book/dp/0195028902