Information Overture: Everipedia and Overhauling an Icon

As Wikipedia changed encyclopedic information, Everipedia will shake up the user-generated platform that’s quelled our curiosity since 2001.

Wikipedia has long been a staple of the web. A common top search result when your curiosity is tickled. The place you go to begin research on anything. An obligatory donation at year-end when you’re sick of looking at that obtuse plea box.

Information is what makes the web great and, unlike centralized sources of information from the past, its content is generated by anyone who wants to contribute. Wikipedia has been a stand-up example of this user-generated, diversified curation. However, it’s been slow to adapt to the changing times and depends on a disappearing model of monetization.

Enter Everipedia, the champion of creative commons that’s decentralizing every facet of information gathering, including how it supports itself financially. With a social networking feel and a sharing economy empowerment for contributors, Everipedia has quickly become the largest English encyclopedia, by content volume, in the world. Their modernized approach is poised to change the way we search, source, and cite information from the web.

Why?

While Wikipedia is an amazing resource and has continually become more and more reliable, now often being thought of as a reliable, citable source – it’s also a centralized conglomerate that determines what information is published. Though it laid the foundation for spreading information by enlisting it’s users, it also put a politically correct filter on nearly everything that’s published. As a passionate lover of Wikipedia, yearly supporter, and occasional contributor it feels odd to be saying anything negative about my most frequently visited website – but that’s before I understood how much better it could be. That’s before I realized that the site has looked exactly the same for decades (save for larger donation pop-ups).

The truth is, Wikipedia needs competition in order to remain relevant. Everipedia intends to do this and more. Not only competing directly with Wikipedia but subverting their model of information gathering/curating as well as their support system. Everipedia’s founders Sam Kazemian and Theodor Forselius are setting out to encourage a different way forward, a world where those who consume and provide the information share in the value of it. This model intends to bring the money to the surface and make it an integral part of everyday use of the platform, instead of an afterthought.

Print isn’t dead, it’s just a lot different

Everipedia embraces the changes publishing has experienced in recent decades. Look around at the rest of the web – anyone can post anything they want. No doubt the downside is ‘fake news’ but the upside is collective collaboration that forces transparency. Kind of the same way cryptocurrencies and ICO’s are subverting institutions that control who, when, and how people can invest their money.

With a clean, non-technical editing system that allows structural changes along with content and a tokenized system to reward contributors and editors coming soon – Everipedia is ushering a new wave of authority that is completely decentralized. Shucking the negatives of publishing gatekeepers and giving control back to the contributors will revolutionize information gathering, prioritizing, and consumption.

But wait, what about those trolls?

Turns out not everything you read online is true. While this might come as a shock, some people want you to believe their agenda and they are willing to lie to make that a reality. Of course Everipedia has thought about this and is simply applying a collaborative approach to subvert false information. And hopefully you’re thinking blockchain at this point because that’s exactly what the founders thought. Why not leverage blockchain to secure and solidify information with verifications from the community?

“Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots and doesn’t mean a damn thing. Knowledge is information-in-context…connecting the dots.”  -Michael Ventura

As they move their entire editing and information storage system to the EOS blockchain, they are developing tokenized governance alluded to earlier. While I’d love to dig deeper into how this will work, we don’t know just yet how that will look. Once we do, so will you – as this project is near and dear to the Crypto 101 family’s heart. Really anyone in cryptoland should be interested in this because it is true to the core values of what many of us believe. Free and open access with free and open contribution; blockchain for a better world.

Save us from the tabbit hole

The tabbit hole is the endless string of new tabs opened when learning about a new topic. The ones that help with the jargon and background necessary to feel conversational about something. On Everipedia, simple pop-outs on each hyperlink, when scrolled over, give a brief overview of the referenced item, providing a better learning (and user) experience. It might seem simple, or nominal, but the curious learners among us will greatly appreciate this – to the point that using Wikipedia has instantly become an experience, and preference, of the past.

 

Everipedia is taking the wide world of information by storm, garnering support from Wikipedia co-founder Dr. Larry Sanger who now serves as Chief Information Officer for Everipedia. If that’s not enough to believe in this project and change your information-gathering browsing habits, then perhaps you’re a beneficiary of Wikipedia – oh wait, you can’t be – yet another reason to love Everipedia.

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He Said, Then She Said: Gender and the Blockchain

Getting ahead of the gender gap through inclusion and education.

At the outset let’s agree that change begins with the individual and we, as individuals, are responsible for respecting that right of others. Fundamental to freedom, equality, and all personal liberties is this mutual respect, born from collective collaboration.

If only the world were that simple and people really did work together. Imagine what could be accomplished. Imagine if women had been more continually, equally represented in government and business. If minority and majority populations all regarded one another as a necessary piece of the natural, common good.

Instead there’s chaos, unpredictable happenings that have wondrous and ominous impact. If the chaos didn’t exist, nor would the volatility – where many people are currently making huge gains in crypto. It’s where opportunity for growth and change within ourselves also exists. Whether you view it as harnessing the chaos and organizing it to your advantage or as a river flows taking you right along with it, this is part of the human condition.

Chaotic Inequality

Many influences impact inequality and simply opening your senses to observing your surroundings will flood you with deeper understanding, and concern, for the roots and the fruits of inhumanity. Haves and have-nots, with everything in between, all are represented on the spectrum.

Financial competency defines much of this inequality and is showcased in every demographic. Furthermore, business is particularly ruthless when your worth as an employee is juxtaposed directly to a dollar value. Though a cost-benefit is difficult to argue with, it is an incomplete judgement when dealing with real people and their intangible contributions. Ultimately, many determinations are subjective and leave room for human error and favoritism. Which is why we must understand that, embrace it, and rise above it.

Zero-sum.

zerosumeMy wife posed the question today; “If I’m making gains in crypto, or anything, does that mean someone else is losing?” My initial reaction was “yes,” but rapidly retracted that answer in hopes that crypto had fabricated some way around this. While some interesting discussions can be had, ultimately it’s difficult to argue against the zero-sum game. Anything else can seem like a Ponzi Scheme.

But when stepping away from gains and losses, the zero-sum game becomes inapplicable. It often does not exist in direct, human collaboration. People helping one another to understand and earn, innovate and grow, has exponential potential. Creating value by working together towards common goals for all of humanity, not just some, but everyone.

Massive tech industry growth is happening because of cryptocurrency and blockchain. It’s a collaborative industry with a transparent approach. Individuals are able to speak up and give input. Small groups are revolutionizing industries, creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunity. It’s a wave of growth with far-reaching influence. There’s opportunity for everyone who wants to learn and work hard. More people involving themselves will help diversify blockchain, revamp tech, and stop Terminator from returning to earth.

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There are no magic wands or reset buttons, time-machines or cryogenic chambers. If there were, Libertarians could have the presidency on a silver platter, privatized warfare would be considered Pirating, and inequality could be a misunderstood topic in our history books. Instead, we must recognize the lessons from history and affect what we can in the present, each of us.

What to Do.

Introduce your relatives to blockchain, guide your friends to Coinbase, tell your Mom about cold wallets. Encourage anyone interested in this technology to get more involved and knowledgeable. Learning about blockchain will benefit your future for as long as digital data exists.

Volatility and diversity: defining crypto.

Cryptocurrency is a volatile investment category. From a risk standpoint Bitcoin is nearly off-the-map and ICO’s are well beyond that. While both are paddling upriver towards the mainstream of the zero-sum economy, blockchain is soaring above in the knowledge economy. An understanding of blockchain is an investment in yourself. Grasping the conceptual reality of this technological shift has the potential to take you far in your career and personal finance.

In order to build a bridge over gender gap that is sustainable, more of every gender, generation, race, religion, and background need to be involved in blockchain. Diversity is true to the very initiatives of crypto and a core trait of a good investment portfolio. This technical space is small but growing fast. It’s an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of digital decentralization – a trend that can empower the individual with the ability to engage more fully in their finances, governments, institutions, security, and relationships with the confidence of digital anonymity.

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Let’s go girls, and boys, and everyone who wants to learn. Find out more about cryptocurrency, blockchain, and the countless innovations they’re fostering @ Crypto 101 Podcast.

Talking Crypto With Family

Always best to take an attitude of gratitude when speaking with your family, especially around the holidays. May your conversations be full of thoughtful collaboration.

As the holidays are upon us, you’re likely to have a lot of awkward conversations with family and friends who you haven’t seen since this time last year. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who gets along swimmingly with your entire family, having complementary views on religion, politics, and finance.

But, if you’re like the rest of us, and you are occasionally the black sheep with ‘out-there’ ideas, then maybe these three talking points will help you navigate the inevitable questioning of your bullish, crypto-focused Twitter feed.

Start with what they know: Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the recognizable name in this space. Of course you know that, but you might be surprised at how few people out there actually know what Bitcoin is. They probably don’t know that it’s grown over one thousand percent in less than a year. They probably don’t know that it’s pioneered one of the most influential technological advancements of our time. And they definitely don’t know that their money in the bank may not be as secure as they think.

All that said, start small. You wouldn’t want to jump right into the conversation by talking about the dangers of country-oriented, centralized currencies whose security is built on antiquated technology. You wouldn’t want to tell them that governments printing money without any asset backing is forcing inflation to increase faster than the interest their earning in their savings account. You really should not tell them that the stocks they’ve owned for years also depend on this system and that crypto-currency wants to upend it.

What you should say is that Bitcoin is changing the way we view currency, saving, spending, and digital security. That it’s creation birthed blockchain, the innovative security strategy that is being adopted by nearly every industry that deals with digital assets. What you’ll want to talk about is that Bitcoin currently accounts for a small fraction of world finance and it’s grown leaps and bounds over the last year with plenty of room for additional growth. You’ll want to talk about what creates the value (security) and why your money is safe there (blockchain).

Address the elephant in the room: ICO

The Initial Coin Offering market is a tricky one and there’s a reason why you’ll want to sandwich it between bitcoin and blockchain. ICO’s are crazy and, fortunately, have fallen on a lot of grenades as the selfless crypto victim over the last year. The ICO is a reversal of what many people are familiar with – the IPO. The main difference is a lack of regulation, and this is a huge difference, do not underestimate this point because Republicans and Democrats alike will berate you on it. And, this is most likely because they have been in business long enough to know that people are selfish and corporations are heartless. They will make the valid point that everyday people need protected from these potentially harmful motives and they will likely have an opinion on what this protection ought to look like.

Whether they are a firm believer in the IPO process that is controlled by regulation, or believe that accredited investors should be the only people allowed to risk their money on new ventures – there is a pain point in there that you can hinge a conversation on.

Institutions (governments and state-sponsored actors)

Nearly everywhere money moves there are large institutions determining how it happens. From angel investing to the IPO, banks and governments determine the rules. Centralized institutions that have created the system can be very helpful in establishing regulations to protect you and the overall economy.

Accredited Persons

The second-most empowered group of people are the accredited investors. In the United States, people must qualify as an accredited investor in order to involve themselves in angel and seed investing. Taking place at the founding of a business with equity and option exchanges, accredited investors determine what projects garner dollars and who can take advantage.

Self-Regulation

Transparency has never been more apparent. It is now plausible to know more about a company from the very beginning of its creation than any publicly-traded one from the past. Today you can participate in the conversations within companies across media platforms. The democratization of information allows an open conversation about business practices between the most senior executives and the everyday consumer.

Trust dictates the regulation conversation – ask whomever you’re conversing with; “who do you trust to have your best interest in mind?” Once they answer this question you’ll be able to understand their perspective and play the middle-ground. Ultimately the solution will be some compromising blend, why not work this out right around the dinner table without needing a quorum in congress?

Present the doctrine: Blockchain

Blockchain is the doctrine of crypto, literally and metaphorically. The technology that created bitcoin is a chicken and egg story. Blockchain is bitcoin and bitcoin is blockchain. And that’s too existential for your audience, keep it simple; blockchain is a way of burying digital data underneath new digital data, like layers of a cake, to make it increasingly more difficult to access without a unique private key.

Blockchain is the underlying tech that will likely be used to secure all of our digital assets in the future. Always come back to this. If the conversation gets heated simply say, with steady breathing, “I agree with you and would encourage you to look more into blockchain.” Then proceed to change the conversation with one of the following.

Cute baby pictures

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A great YouTube video

 

Checking on dinner

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ICO: Scam or Model for Decentralized, Self-Regulation?

The concern for the ICO is in the unknown, that which has little basis for dynamic comparison in the financial model that defined the last century.

The ICO is a very recent phenomena that began with the development of Ethereum. With the advent of this new funding avenue, companies all over the world have the ability to connect directly with individual investors.

FUDThe entire cryptocurrency market is being questioned by the masses – day after day, month after month. More and more fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) shrouds the growth and innovative breakthroughs that blockchain technology is facilitating.

But, is this for good reason?

Are many Initial Coin Offering’s (ICO’s) actually scams, establishing  a story of their company under false pretense?

Companies like International Blockchain Consulting (IBC) Group have formed around the growth of the ICO. Of course everything from legal to marketing is important in a business move such as this. That said, many ICO’s jump in feet first without a great deal of knowledge or much of a plan. This is a recipe for disaster for any company, or person. The intention of pursuing an ICO should be more dynamic than only an avenue for investment, which is unfortunately how many people view the ICO.

What’s actually taking place is great companies are being created by intelligent people who are changing the way you will live your life. Companies bringing blockchain to identity protection, border control, intellectual property, decentralized wealth, supply chain management, health records, and so much more. The ICO is a decentralized funding platform that can encourage enterprise blockchain development. Because of its direct, largely unregulated nature, companies around the world have burst on the scene.

Photo by David Stankiewicz

Hundreds of new ICO’s are happening everyday which is why so many fail and we hear so much talk of that failure. A snapshot into July ‘17 will show that nearly every ICO was fully funded while last month, in October ‘17, less than half received the amount they had hoped.

This could be a good thing, it could be the natural weeding out of the companies not worth their salt. However, it could also be FUD clogging the minds of people otherwise willing to support projects they believe in. As always, it’s most likely a combination of both.

Pete Woodard from the IBC Consulting Group says that working with ICO’s can be so broad, covering industries that you may never think possible to utilize blockchain. Companies end up expressing a fresh point of view with a new product or want to leverage blockchain to innovate in their existing company. Depending on the client’s perception of what an ICO is, the conversation can differ greatly. Woodard’s preference is to work with companies who have clearly outlined their goals and benchmarks to support a ‘go to market’ roadmap essential to executing on an innovative idea. Pursuing an ICO can be a great avenue for investment, but it must come with a plan and lead to a minimum viable product (MVP) and  sales.

ICO’s and Regulation

There are countless stories out there about some young couple who invested a lot of money in cryptocurrency and lost it all. The Libertarian that lives somewhere in my apolitical, independent mind says “their fault” but the realist agrees that regulation could help foster growth. To Peter Woodard’s point, however, if it follows the example of the financial tech (FinTech) space, then we may be in for a bumpy road ahead. In addition, who would be surprised if this ‘regulation’ happened overnight, isolated to certain borders or in a worldwide financial coup?

“[If] bitcoin is a high-risk investment, then ICO’s are off the charts!” – Pete Woodard

One place regulation could positively impact the ICO/crypto space is in the Anti Money Laundering and Know Your Customer (AML & KYC) checks which help to ensure safe sources of funds. The right companies want ‘clean money’ and in order to ensure that’s the case, regulation could be very beneficial.

As the ICO continues to develop, traditionally funded companies purporting enterprise blockchain solutions will likely avoid many of the short-term pitfalls of the ICO market. The concern for the ICO is in the unknown, that which has little basis for dynamic comparison in the financial model that defined the last century. The greater access to information and the encouraged transparency in the market is beginning to become a model for decentralized self-regulation.

“A lot of [individual investors] are a lot more savvy than regulators think they are…The growth [in crypto] hasn’t been from the institutional side, it’s been from normal people who have invested.” – Pete Woodard

When determining the validity of an ICO, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams but it’s equally important to evaluate the business model, team, and progress. To mitigate the risk, look deep into the business plan and roadmap to success. Also look to determine how much pre-token sale investment generated from outside investors or strategic partnerships, and investigate the expertise, and ethics, of those involved.

The ability to put your dollars behind great projects with good business plans, has empowered a new generation of investors. And this new money comes with its own pros and cons. The opportunity it creates for the individual is inspiring but we have yet to understand the impact of the risk-tolerant nature of this new, speculative, money that swings in and out of the market daily.

Diverse forces are affecting the market purposefully and by default. Best to be as informed as possible and only risk what you can afford to lose. The ICO is a burgeoning financial model with an uncertain future but it’s impact has already been vast and more millionaires are likely to be minted on its back. Most importantly is the innovation that can follow this money and business models that execute effectively will always be the winners, difference-makers, and innovators.

ICO’s are helping to bring blockchain technology to the forefront of industries and, that alone, makes them a powerful and important development. With time and transparency, just maybe this new way of funding companies can remain fully decentralized and self-regulated, in direct contrast to most existing financial models.

The Sound of Money: Music Royalties and Blockchain

Vezt sets out to make investing into intellectual property an innovative use for cryptocurrency.

Vezt sets out to make investing into intellectual property an innovative use for cryptocurrency.

Steve Stewart and Robert Menendez, founders of Vezt, are pioneering the Initial Song Offering (or ISO) as an avenue for investment. Establishing fractional ownership of an individual song gives the owner/investor the opportunity to earn a commensurate percentage of royalties. As the democratization of investing continues to change the way people put their money to work, the ISO opens an entirely new market to the individual investor.

 

A little background.

When thinking about investing, the modern environment we move our money in is vastly different from that of decades past. Of course the ICO has changed the game, before that crowdfunding, before that venture capital, stock exchanges, publicly traded companies, securities, and more. We take investing for granted. Anyone can open an online account and purchase investments. Fifty years ago this was a much more difficult process, not only because of the physical movement but also because of regulations requiring accredited professionals at every step of the way.

Today we’re embarking on a new wave, the next major innovation of investing is in connecting individual directly to individual. Vezt takes the spirit of peer to peer and bundles it into a simple commune of art and capital. Giving any artist the opportunity to raise money from their intellectual property allows the artist to fast-track the realization of profits by relinquishing shares of the royalties. The individuals who purchase those royalties then have the potential of earning profits over time.

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While this has been happening for some time it was isolated to people working directly with artists. In the music industry it would be those who support the original artist such as accompanying musicians, writers, managers, agents etc. Vezt opens this to the world by creating a marketplace for musicians, the ability for a fan to support an artist in a way that is mutually beneficial, financially. And provides the artist an opportunity to cash in a little quicker. Whether to cover living expenses, investment in new equipment, or money to kick-start a tour – profits from an ISO create financial gain for the artist long before they would likely see those profits in the traditional royalty framework.

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Vezt changes the game for investing and artists. Intellectual property is a broad legal category and the model they’re building can easily be applied to works of literature, algorithmic innovations, engineering methods, or anything created that can be claimed as original. The possibilities to apply this subset of ingenuity within the crypto space is literally endless and will likely pioneer a new wave of transformation in creative enterprise and the financing of it. All while opening a new channel of involvement to the everyday investor.

Vote from Your Phone: Decentralizing Decisions for the Betterment of Democracy

Massive population growth makes individual participation difficult to manage and has become dangerously close to discouraged at times. Blockchain has the potential to rapidly reverse this anti-democratic trend and pave a better way forward.

Ancient democracies were, in many ways, more true to the individual empowerment ideals that the form of government is originally modeled upon. Massive population growth makes individual participation difficult to manage and has become dangerously close to discouraged at times. Blockchain has the potential to rapidly reverse this anti-democratic trend and pave a better way forward.Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 7.33.14 AM.png

In many governments, and organizations, representative democracies create a buffer between decisions that directly impact the population and the people whom they affect. Boulé intends to bring the power back to the people and provide a secure voting platform, leveraging innovations in the blockchain.

Boulé is a decentralized voting platform built on the blockchain to retain accuracy through unique identities. Named after a Greek system of representation – an advisory group of people selected, or appointed, in ancient times who helped local authorities make decisions for their communities – fitting in its ancient understanding of democratic ideals, i.e. participation of the population.

“We are living a second age of the internet and we are able to create any kind of application using [the consensus] of the blockchain, which will encourage more people to take action.” ~Claudio Perlini, CEO of Boulé

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 7.36.07 AMAs participation is crucial to a healthy democracy, this technology has the ability to facilitate involvement through incredible convenience. Imagine avoiding the polls completely and voting from your mobile phone. Imagine being able to participate in decisions from Presidential elections down to whether your road will be paved and how much of your tax money will be allocated to it.

Secure and accurate voting is essential to this process. Moreover making it easy for the individual to put in their opinion on a rolling basis with unparalleled convenience will completely transform large-scale decision making. Not only decentralizing the ways democratic decisions are made, but decentralizing the way the decisions are collected. Truly creating a new way forward for governments and organizations around the world.

Moving closer to the participatory democratic ideals of the past with innovative approaches in the digital space will likely change the way elections and decisions are made. Whether a single-voter system for governmental decisions or fractional, percentage-based systems for companies, decentralized voting gives the power back to the people. Be a part of the change and voice your opinion through the blockchain!

Ross Ruffing, lead writer @ Crypto 101

If, Then, Therefore: Nuance of the Smart Contract

Smart contracts are an important innovation in the legal field but their lack of the human element raises questions for how they will impact the future.

Decentralization can protect from fallible third parties but the unbiased, inhuman nature of conditional statements, the basis for smart contracts, comes with its downsides as well.

The concept of smart contracts predate cryptocurrencies. In 1996 Nick Szabo, famed crypto early-adopter, first proposed the concept of smart contracts and then by ’98 he created a mechanism for a decentralized digital currency called bit gold. Though the code for bit gold was never executed it is commonly viewed as having laid the groundwork for what is now known as bitcoin, which was created in 2008. This coincidence led many to believe that Szabo was/is Satoshi Nakomoto, which Szabo has repeatedly denied.

As cryptocurrency began to become more prominent within the financial sphere, smart contracts have resurfaced as a necessary aspect of interacting and exchanging currency through the blockchain. In-particular, the Ethereum network was created around the idea of this exchange, creating the Ethereum State where any type of information can be stored. This is in direct contrast to bitcoin which only stores transactions in the blockchain.

What are smart contracts?

Smart contracts are immutable digital notaries that prove ownership and existence of any document without the need for a lawyer or other third party. This means that a contract is structured and enforced by incorruptible computer code, giving full ownership of the transaction to the parties involved with a digital buffer. Payment is kept in an escrow-like state and when certain conditions are met the payment is delineated accordingly. For example, “If Person A completes Task 1, Then payment from Person B is delivered to Person A.”

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Why are smart contracts helpful?

Contracts for the last millennia have depended on third party verification. These third parties are often imperfectly human, based on interpretations of language which is inevitably subjective. Lawyers, judges, the legal system, courts are all examples of how the third party is structured currently. Smart contracts turn this upside-down and remove the direct, apparent need for these third parties. By creating conditional statements that both parties must agree upon beforehand, a digital structure to control the management and execution of the contractual terms is born.

Legally binding contracts are the foundation of world economics, often crossing borders and establishing the confines of complex relationships. Individual exchanges, corporate dealings, and the collaboration of countries all retain elements of binding contracts. Smart contracts have the potential to configure these relationships with an unbiased neutrality, executing conditions in the form of rewards or consequences. Positively placing two parties in closer cohort with all terms clearly defined and results plainly established with irrefutable, agreed upon, consequences in place upon commencement of the contract.

Why are smart contracts concerning?

Lacking the human element, computer code cannot make situational determinations outside of the exact conditions written into the original terms. This can pose a problem when circumstances are abnormal and extenuating. For example, a tenant who is late on rent due to an accident could incur a fine and resulting legal fees from the terms of a smart contract before a person has a chance to understand the situation.

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Countless scenarios could be fabricated to play up the shortfalls of smart contracts and arguments can also be made that code and contractual terms can be written to account for much of these issues. The fact remains that smart contracts offer up a unique and technological solution to an age-old problem of human imperfection while also highlighting the flaws of a complete digital overhaul.

The way forward…

Is unclear. Perhaps an entire new legal field will be born out of human oversight of digital contracts or, vice versa, smart contracts oversight of interpersonal legal dealings. Most likely a combination of the existing system and new innovation will be the prevailing structure for many years to come.

Ross Ruffing, Lead Writer @ Crypto 101