Crypto Scaling is a Legal Problem

Crypto Law Review
Published in
9 min readJul 14, 2018


The most commonly analyzed barriers on DLT/crypto’s global march to success are things like: (1) scaling, (2) interoperability, (3) privacy & security, (4) enterprise adoption, (5) mobile integration, and so on.

There’s another hurdle to overcome — one that’s integral to each of the aforementioned:

As much as it is a technical & conceptual problem, crypto scaling is also a legal problem.

“Yeah, Law Sucks!”

If you’ve been following the scope of our legal intervention in current crypto debates like #CodeIsLaw, #CryptoLawyers, and so on, you know that by legal barriers we’re not talking about regulatory action in some narrow sense.

The legal barriers — and legal roadmaps — to smooth DLT scaling are of a bedrock conceptual and institutional nature.

So no, law doesn’t suck. Law is what law is. As a medium of social relations, it’s deeply structural and likely inescapable. It’s our social BIOS.

Law is a tool; lawyers are tools.

Like all tools, law can be used for good or ill. Our job as humans is to understand how law tools work so that we can continue making progressively better use of them.

“I’m just a DLT platform doing some rent-seeking in a crypto-capitalist world. Mr. Cricket, my lawyer, told me everything is A-Ok, that he thinks we’re definitely not a ‘security.’ Siri, remind me to pay Mr. Cricket, please.” — CleanApp (photo by Vincent van Zalinge)

Most crypto folks think of law as a spiderweb, something to be avoided. Like many non-crypto folks who might have had bad experiences with lawyers, there’s a high temptation to think of lawyers as blood-and-money sucking ticks. “We crypto people innovate, and all they lawyers do is suck, suck, suck!”

We get this perspective and that lawyers are 90% to blame for this antagonistic view that society has of them.

This may explain why so many people in the crypto/DLT community subscribe to different libertarian, crypto-anarchic, or extra-legal creeds.

In fact, from a legal perspective, one of the most fascinating things happening in the DLT space is a sincere attempt to circumvent law and brick & mortar legal institutions — to build entirely new models of governance, different “self-sustaining legal systems,” and to transcend the inherently territorial limits of law.

On the one hand it’s inspiring to see so much energy and creativity being devoted to constitution-drafting and legal norm formation (e.g., EOS constitution).

On the other hand, it’s like watching a classic Greek tragedy: beautiful butterflies trying desperately to free themselves from nets that they, the butterflies, encouraged spiders to put up when they, the crypto butterflies, called their butterfly cocoons “smart contracts,” “constitutions,” and such.

“Let’s see how ‘smart’ your contracts are now, Butterfly!” — CleanApp (photo by Dev Leigh)

Untangling The Chains

Though it helps initially, the spiderweb metaphor isn’t the most useful one for understanding how legal institutions actually constrain DLT’s scaling goals. The spiderweb model is too adversarial, too simplistic, and way too binary. To untangle our chains, we must find stronger logics.

A much better metaphor for law is plant sap.

Law isn’t a spiderweb waiting to entrap unwitting butterflies. Law is far more sappy than that.

Sap plays multiple roles simultaneously. Sap serves as life juice, connecting and feeding the outer limbs of fractal data and organizational structures. Sap also serves key defensive functions. It remediates accidental damage to limbs and it wards off trespassers.

Sticky-icky sap best captures the nature and function of law in society, and in the DLT space.

Law = Sap

Those who understand how law structures and constrains DLT/crypto scaling ambitions and pathways are able to avoid the sticky goo. They are able to remix the sap’s formula to make it less viscous and more nourishing for themselves, and more viscous for their enemies.

Those who don’t appreciate these lessons get embalmed. It’s as simple as that.

“I was warned that law is gooey, but we had the best lawyers and they did the best due diligence that money could buy. So, how did I end up here?” — CleanApp (photo: Wikipedia)

What Does CleanApp Know About Law?

CleanApp got its start as a global jurisdiction mapping exercise. We saw litter on the ground, and we asked a simple question: who is responsible for cleaning it up?

The first processes we invented were devoted to crowdsourcing jurisdictional data from incident reporting and responding parties in various overlapping jurisdictional domains. Our core crew was, and remains, a crew of strong globally-minded legal coders.

Over the past five years, CleanApp’s understanding of the socio-legal matrix that structures ordinary waste hazard reporting-analytics-response processes has become much deeper. We want to share every key lesson we learned along the way so that fellow developers, code-coders, and law-coders don’t get stuck.

We have no agenda beyond collaboration; if our legal postures and arguments save you the hassle of reinventing the wheel and expending scarce resources on needless legal work, then so much the better.

The CleanApp Foundation has unique and valuable perspectives on ongoing DLT debates. We don’t just bring out critiques. We also outline solutions for gaining maximum legal freedom of action in the contemporary global regulatory landscape.

One of our solutions outlines massive system-wide efficiency gains from coalescing around CleanApp as a test platform for the law of the New Internet. Here’s a peak into what that means.

For Less Viscous Law, Launch CleanApps

You, our fellow tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, BigTech theorists, and crypto-developers, stand to benefit the most from a successful CleanApp deployment. You gain the most from globally scaled CleanApp data structures and data markets around mundane reporting of ordinary sidewalk litter, gooey spills in store parking lots, messy kitchens at home, and so on.

How, exactly, do you benefit? To start:

CleanApp represents one of the largest untapped data I/O fields & markets in the material world.

As we outline in greater detail in our appeals to the DLT community and in our Whitepaper, it’s ultimately in your long-term interests to partner with us to design legal DLTs that facilitate these globally-decentralized, infinitely-scalable resource markets. Here’s why:

When you help us develop a fluid and decentralized, yet truly global, crypto-security paradigm that can withstand operational stresses in the trash/hazard-mapping context, you will be prototyping the key BlockTech innovation most needed to overhaul, um, the Internet: flexibly constituted, predictable, secure, semi-permeable jurisdictional bounds.

CleanApp = Jurisdiction Mapping

“Flexibly constituted, predictable, secure, semi-permeable jurisdictional bounds” is a mouthful at first.

But what we mean are rigorously probabilistic answers to the questions: (a) who is responsible for cleaning up a particular object or condition in a particular location; (b) what should be the best allocation of cleanup costs in cases where a condition straddles a property line, or where the objects and conditions are in a blurred public-private space; (c) what is the best way for assuring seamless data-sharing transitions from one jurisdiction (such as one’s home) to another jurisdiction (such as one’s apartment building) or another jurisdiction (such as a municipal sidewalk), and so on and so forth; (d) etc.

All of these questions yield actionable data, which by itself is very valuable. However, the jurisdictional maps that are created in the process of building global incident report markets are useful far beyond incident reporting markets.

For instance, dynamic CleanAppMaps add tremendous value to all navigation systems, which is crucial in our continuing transition to autonomous transit. Dynamic jurisdiction maps are key to more effective security frameworks, and so on.

The yields from these data structures go far beyond litter, waste, or hazard reporting. These jurisdictional maps and data structures will underpin the 21st century’s CivicTech, LegalTech, and CleanTech fields, among others.

CleanApp = a BlockMap of Law — a “Law Matrix” — a data structure that is as valuable as Open AR Cloud, and potentially, much more so.

CleanApp Chicken & Egg?

We realize that our position may look like a classic burden of proof shift fallacy. Worse, it may appear parasitic: “Give us better Blockchain platforms, and we’ll give you CleanApp!”

But our demand isn’t parasitic; it’s symbiotic — DLT needs dynamic legal, jurisdictional BlockMaps. CleanApp offers knowhow for doing so in the least contentious way imaginable, globally.

Anyone who has studied our posture knows that for us, it’s not about “CleanApp Foundation’s success” and it’s not about “your success” — in some vacuous marketing sense. Instead,

We all need better DLT architectures so that we can all benefit from new hyperutility apps like CleanApp. To get there, we need to sort out jurisdictional basics at the lowest & highest levels, inclusive.

It just so happens that today, landfills are the least controversial venues for having grown-up discussions about resource allocation in both virtual and material worlds. If that’s where we need to start, then that’s where we need to start.

If we can train DLTs on a path that will render landfills unnecessary, DLT devs will get a global regulatory runway that’s far longer and far broader than the fragmented, incoherent, hyper-territorial regulatory patchwork we have today.

This is why DLT devs need to support, incubate, and launch CleanApps.

In order to have full-spectrum ubiquitous CleanApp capability that finally blurs the arbitrary lines between outdoor & indoor incident reporting, we need far more secure, efficient, and interoperable blockchain architectures. But the needs go deeper than that.

Rethinking Jurisdiction = Better Security

Everyone on the leading edge of DLT development should understand the community’s need for conceptual and technical architectures like OpenAR Cloud. We need better conceptual and technical approaches to geolocation. We need smarter conceptual and technical approaches to universal time. We need far better conceptions of shared operational theaters and overlapping jurisdictional circles.

The New Internet needs jurisdictional maps that are much more rigorously-coded, and which, as a result, become much more flexible & dynamic.

To reap the gains from global incident reporting across the public-to-private spectrum means to permit the same user to (a) CleanApp one’s bathroom, and then (b) CleanApp one’s workplace, followed by (c) CleanApp of city streets, and (d) CleanApp of national parks — on whatever platforms and input devices the user is most comfortable with.

Full-spectrum utility like this hinges on many factors, including quintessentially legalistic conceptions of jurisdiction. To achieve this level of functional interoperability, we need to give users security guarantees that are qualitatively stronger than anything currently available in BigTech and DLT.

Security is a technical matter; but data security is also a question of law.

DLT security must be done right in this crucial constitutive moment. This requires big thinking about the smallest problems at global scales.

Measures of Success & Failure

One of the main reasons the DLT community should coalesce around CleanApp’s “flexibly constituted, predictable, secure, semi-permeable jurisdictional bounds” is that CleanApp comes prepackaged with several easy, quantifiable, and verifiable methodologies for measuring success in achieving this ambitious system-wide innovation benchmark.

Here they are (& here are some more):

“Ah, Satoshi, we’ll always have Paris.” — CleanApp (photo by Jack Anstey)

If it’s 2021, you’re Paris-based, and you can ask Satoshi (or whatever you call your digital assistant) to zoom into the Great Wall of China to check how many CleanApp Reports were submitted today, to check how dirty it is, to see if anyone’s responded to the loose paver stone you complained about on your last trip there, then you’re benefiting from “flexibly constituted, predictable, secure, semi-permeable jurisdictional bounds.” Everyone around the world, including regulators in Beijing and Paris, should see the value and full import of this success scenario.

By contrast, if it’s 2021, you’re D.C.-based, and you’re trying to see “litter incident rates” and “responsiveness rates” at Moscow’s Red Square, but you’re firewalled because the Kremlin sees geo-blockchain applications as a threat to national security, national sovereignty, and core “national interests,” then we will have failed. At CleanApp we’ll look back to the 2010s knowing we did everything we could to anticipate and prevent this.

Did you?

This is an excerpt from Crypto’s Killer App is Litter-ally Under Our Feet (3 of 5). To start at the beginning, we invite you to: Crypto’s Killer App is Litter-ally Under Our Feet (1 of 5).

If you want to continue the conversation, please reach out to us on GitHub, Twitter, Telegram, or our contract form.



Crypto Law Review

global coordination game for waste/hazard mapping ( ::: jurisdiction mapping ::: no token yet, but launching research token soon 💚🌱