In Code We Trust? Trustlessness and Smart Contracts

Computers and Law, April 2019

3 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2019

See all articles by Mimi Zou

Mimi Zou

University of Oxford

Grace Cheng

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Marta Soria Heredia

University of Oxford, Faculty of Law, Students; University of Oxford - Deep Tech Dispute Resolution Lab

Date Written: April 1, 2019

Abstract

The term 'trustlessness' has given rise to a common misperception of smart contracts reducing or even eliminating the need for trust. At first glance, smart contracts appear to do away with the need for trust in the counterparty. Since performance is automatic, smart contracts enable the promisee to obtain what has been promised to them, without the need to depend on interpersonal trust vis-à-vis the counterparty or a system of contract law to enforce the promise. However, if we take into account the social, economic, and political contexts in which smart contracts operate, do they override the need for trust? In other words, are they really 'trustless'? We argue that a new set of trust concerns arise in the context of smart contracts, especially when they run on blockchains.

Keywords: smart contracts, blockchain, trust, contract

JEL Classification: K12

Suggested Citation

Zou, Mimi and Cheng, Grace and Soria Heredia, Marta, In Code We Trust? Trustlessness and Smart Contracts (April 1, 2019). Computers and Law, April 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3381622

Mimi Zou (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Grace Cheng

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Marta Soria Heredia

University of Oxford, Faculty of Law, Students ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Deep Tech Dispute Resolution Lab ( email )

United Kingdom

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