Crypto Legal Theory

Like it or hate it, CryptoLaw is here to stay. This is a theory of what it’s doing & how it’s doing it.

Oct 23, 2018 · 21 min read

Five years later, Ethereum declared the existence of an entirely new legal discipline — called CryptoLaw.

The core thesis is that to know where crypto’s going tomorrow, we must do deeper crypto legal analysis today.

(1) Crypto’s Legal Origins

A. Journalistic Accounts

B. Theoretical Accounts

Nick Szabo, claiming contract law lets people write their own laws.

C. Procedural Mechanisms

D. Substantive Assumptions

Crypto legal theorists posit that it’s possible and desirable to define fundamental legal relations in a single objective, formal, and deterministic way. Crypto legal theorists claim they have “solved” legal ambiguity.

(2) Defining Crypto Legal Terms

A. Formalizing Form

B. What is “Form” — ?

C. Legal Formalism

Ambiguity includes latent ambiguity (inherent in the norms or concepts being analyzed) & patent ambiguity (inconsistent or contradictory usage of words).

D. CS Legal Formalism

  variable: VariableDefinition,
  executionResult: TemplateExecutionResult
): Boolean

D. More Formal Lawgics

E. More CS Formalism

(3) Definition is Hard

Practically all legal definitions are fuzzy like this because all language is fuzzy like this — including machine languages.

(4) What the … Form?!?

But, c’mon, gimme a break!? Not all fifteen are “law” — only three or four, max, right?

A. Begone Ambiguity!

B. Welcome Ambiguity!

(4) Language Games

The moment (t) that you think you’ve captured all the defined meanings of term X, you turn around and it’s (t + 1), and term X has far more meanings than it had at (t).

(5) Crypto Legal Theory = Lawgic

(6) Crypto Lawgic Games

A. OpenLaw “Conditions”

B. “Smart” Legal Agreements

C. SC’s Legal-ness

(1) “‘smart’ legal agreements” = (2) “legal agreements” = (3) “smart contracts” — ???

D. Crypto Lawgic or Misuse of Terms?

(7) Persistent Scripts (2019 — )

(8) Ambiguity is Carrots Not Sticks

You might not have ever viewed it this way, but legal ambiguity is also a really sophisticated legal idea, one that that makes “property rights” and “contract rights” seem quaint by comparison.

Nobody can ever have 100% knowledge or control over the Legal Matrix. It’s the ultimate decentralized crypto platform.

Crypto Law Review

A journal pushing the bounds of our legal imaginaries, on-chain, off-chain, and against the chain.


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Small NGO with a big patent urging BigTech & Crypto to enable trash/hazard reporting & open source data. "The Wi-Fi & Bluetooth of TrashTech" -

Crypto Law Review

A journal pushing the bounds of our legal imaginaries, on-chain, off-chain, and against the chain.