Blockchain technology is currently deep into the “ridiculous hype” phase of its development, but it does have the potential to be incredibly powerful. The ideas of Smart Contracts and AI Negotiation Assistants are similarly not new, but with a convergence of technologies their day in the sun may now have arrived… and the consequences may be more impactful than anyone expects.
1. The Power of Blockchain Technology
Most people have no idea what a “Blockchain” is, but they do understand that it is fashionable and currently making some people rich, which leads to strange phenomena like health drink companies changing their names to include “Blockchain” to raise their stock value (yes, this is really happening, look it up). If you are reading this, then you probably already know that a Blockchain is a string of verified transaction records shared publicly, in a decentralized manner (presumably that isn’t a catchy name for a health drink).
The upshot is that such decentralized datasets can be used for a lot more than acting as simple monetary tokens. They allow reliable, verifiable sharing of information around the world in moments, without any centralized control of the network. That is an incredibly powerful tool, capable of disrupting entire industries, institutions, and even societies, and we haven’t yet begun to properly explore its potential.
2. Smart Contracts & AI Negotiators
Contracts are the very stuff of civilization. They are the essence of trust, and the Rule of Law. In a society where contracts can be reasonably expected to be valid – usually because of reliable consequences for breaking contracts – we can work with other people despite not knowing them on a deep, personal level. Without a society with rules and structures that make reliable contracts possible, there is no (known) way to scale human effort up to the heights that human civilization has reached, or hopes to reach in the coming years.
Smart Contracts are, aside from being a term coined by Extropian Nick Szabo in 1994, the application of computing technology to contract law, increasing the trackability, reliability and enforceability of contracts. Naturally, the latest generation of Smart Contract software tends to be implemented in the Blockchain paradigm. The next step, as AI systems develop at an accelerating pace, will be for contract negotiations to be increasingly handled by Artificial Intelligences rather than human lawyers.
3. Genetic Algorithms, Consequences, & Beyond
We are already on the verge of living in that world; it is not science fiction. It is therefore prudent to ask ourselves what is likely to happen when that new paradigm converges on other emergent technologies and social realities. What, for example, is going to happen when AI lawyers have been honed to an incomprehensible level of sophistication by genetic algorithms (incomprehensible to a regular human, that is)… and they are effectively employed by social justice movements or other disruptive societal actors? The short answer is that either society will evolve to an entirely new level itself, or it will devolve into a bloody mess of internecine strife, the likes of which the world has never seen… and will likely never see again.
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