Cryptocurrencies, Smart Contracts, and the Future of Economic Interaction
by Steve Omohundro, Ph.D.
Contracts are society’s programming language. Corporations are defined by contracts with investors, employees, customers, etc. Countries are defined by social contracts with citizens, representatives, corporations, etc. But today’s contracts are confusing and expensive to create and enforce. They are written in bad programming languages and enforced by slow, complex, expensive, and unpredictable mechanisms.
In 1993, Nick Szabo proposed machine executable “Smart Contracts” which can be self-enforcing. The introduction of the “Bitcoin” cryptocurrency in 2008 provided the decentralized “blockchain” infrastructure for implementing these smart contracts. Bitcoin spawned over 500 alternative “altcoin” cryptocurrencies and they have generated both enormous interest and huge volatility.
New “Bitcoin 2.0” technologies like Ethereum are just about to be released. These will support powerful smart contracting mechanisms and may transform many areas of human interaction. We describe these new technologies and their connection to the “Internet of Things” and emerging AI systems.