Emerging Technology’s Language Wars: Smart Contracts

2022 Wisconsin Law Review Forward 85 (2022)

SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 588

29 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2023

See all articles by Carla Reyes

Carla Reyes

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

Work at the intersection of blockchain technology and law represents a highly interdisciplinary area of inquiry. Often, researchers, law-makers, lawyers, and other stakeholders unnecessarily debate issues because of linguistic misunderstandings. As the third of four studies examining the impact of clashes of linguistic meaning on law and policy around emerging technologies, this Essay uses smart contracts as a case study to demonstrate the real legal harm that arises from a failure to communicate. Specifically, this Essay uses techniques from corpus linguistics to reveal the inherent value conflicts embedded in definitional differences and debates as to whether the law should “accommodate” smart contracts. This Essay’s approach also further contributes evidence that corpus linguistics might be particularly effective as a tool for identifying linguistic ambiguities before they are embedded in law, rather than as a tool for resolving ambiguities after the fact. In the smart contract context, resolving such ambiguities early frees law to focus on the interesting and new issues the technology actually presents, rather than ineffectively future-casting for a use case most of industry does not actually seek to develop.

Keywords: Smart contracts, Blockchain technology, Corpus linguistics, Emerging technologies, Legal language, Legal terms, Technology, Standards, Law

Suggested Citation

Reyes, Carla, Emerging Technology’s Language Wars: Smart Contracts ( 2022). 2022 Wisconsin Law Review Forward 85 (2022), SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 588, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4380724

Carla Reyes (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

HOME PAGE: http://bit.ly/Reyes-Carla-L

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