Decentralized Blockchain Technology and the Rise of Lex Cryptographia
Just as decentralization communication systems lead to the creation of the Internet, today a new technology — the blockchain — has the potential to decentralize the way we store data and manage information, potentially leading to a reduced role for one of the most important regulatory actors in our society: the middleman. Blockchain technology enables the creation of decentralized currencies, self-executing digital contracts (smart contracts) and intelligent assets that can be controlled over the Internet (smart property). The blockchain also enables the development of new governance systems with more democratic or participatory decision-making, and decentralized (autonomous) organizations that can operate over a network of computers without any human intervention. These applications have led many to compare the blockchain to the Internet, with accompanying predictions that this technology will shift the balance of power away from centralized authorities in the field of communications, business, and even politics or law.In this Article, we explore the benefits and drawbacks of this emerging decentralized technology and argue that its widespread deployment will lead to expansion of a new subset of law, which we term Lex Cryptographia: rules administered through self-executing smart contracts and decentralized (autonomous) organizations. As blockchain technology becomes widely adopted, centralized authorities, such as governmental agencies and large multinational corporations, could lose the ability to control and shape the activities of disparate people through existing means. As a result, there will be an increasing need to focus on how to regulate blockchain technology and how to shape the creation and deployment of these emerging decentralized organizations in ways that have yet to be explored under current legal theory.