Blockchain is becoming almost a household term now for many of us who work in tech related industries. It is now slowly being integrated into almost every industry we can think of. This is the power of the blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) for those who prefer a term with less salubrious connotation. Its use is pretty much universal and, for many industries, discerningly disruptive. This is particularly true with the disintermediation feature of the blockchain. When people are able to trade and interact directly peer-to-peer without any other third parties, whole industries are forced to reflect on their roles in the future.
For lawyers, the disintermediation feature may be worrisome to some extent but many would argue that it’s other salient features, that is, the fact that it is distributed, immutable and cryptographic would be a perfect accompaniment to the world of jurisprudence. Because it is cryptographic, its use of hash puzzles and the fact that hash functions are deterministic requiring the hash value to fulfill a certain restriction makes this entire process even more “trustless”. This whole process in the latter is commonly known as proof of work (PoW) and has become the core feature of the blockchain. On the topic of cryptography, the fact that collision attacks on the cryptographic hash is so mathematically improbable, it creates an even more conducive platform to the future of delivering justice to society.
All of this study leads us to the very exciting area of smart contracts. Although not exactly ‘smart’ in the technical sense, it is autonomous in the way it interacts. Perhaps the best platform to describe this process is the decentralized applications of Ethereum. The whole ecosystem was in fact built for smart contracts to interact with each other. Smart contracts are essentially programs that would be triggered when a preprogrammed event is set off. This can, in effect, be stacked upon many other smart contracts. For example, placing a bet on Augur might trigger a sequence of other smart contracts depending on the result of the weather. As we can see, the possibilities of smart contracts’ use are pretty much limitless.
Another exciting development in creating trusts in this new environment is the work done by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on Blockchains and Smart Contracts. Although still in its very early days, it aims to create a system of standard that would be officially recognized across the globe. Under the ISO/TC 307 and more specifically the work done under ISO/AWI TS 23259 will only strengthen the value of this technology on a wider scale and application. Although many argue that having a standardization process is a bit of a tautological exercise when it comes to cryptographic determinations, it is still useful to have many different facets of the technology being legitimized by traditional bodies as well.