The New York Time released a book review of my book “Blockchain and Law” co-authored with Aaron Wright.
The reviewer, James Reyrson, describes how the new database technology best known for underpinning the faddish digital currency Bitcoin, is reviving the utopian fantasies of the early internet era. John Perry Barlow opposed the idea of government regulation of the internet, offering instead an anarchical vision of an online world in which a decentralized network of people existed free from all authorities and intermediaries. Yet, the online world today is full of authorities and intermediaries — search engines, social media platforms, cloud computing services, internet service providers — all of which exert considerable control over cyberspace and are themselves shaped by laws and regulations. It is hard to imagine a cyberlibertarian paradise emerging from that.
For the John Perry Barlows of today, blockchain represents a new opportunity to free people from governments, corporations and other sources of centralized control. Yet, these promises might be exaggerated.
BLOCKCHAIN AND THE LAW: The Rule of Code (Harvard University) claims that the growth and evolution of this technology might follow a similar path to that of the internet itself: from anarchic potential to a more regulated and controlled reality.
The reviewer then moves on to describing the claims of Kevin Werbach in his new book THE BLOCKCHAIN AND THE NEW ARCHITECTURE OF TRUST (MIT). Werbach stakes out a position similar to ours, arguing that “like the internet the blockchain is mistakenly viewed as the final answer to the problem of intermediation” — the problem of inefficient, unwanted or unreliable go-betweens.
Werbach argues, the most significant innovation of blockchain is not governmental or even technological but emotional: the creation of “a new form of trust,” in which you put your confidence in a store of information without relying on any single person to authenticate it — trust the system, not its parts. The outstanding question is whether this method of cultivating trust is viable, and if it is, in what ways we can best deploy it. The answers we come up with are likely to determine blockchain’s future.