Blockchain 2.0 is about smart contracts. The development of blockchains was heavily influenced by the launch of Ethereum in 2015, which boasted with its ability to handle a very large number of online contracts at the same time. The hype went highest in 2016, when Ethereum was hoped to challenge the traditional contracts all together. However, the Ethereum’s smart contract functions were hacked the same year, resulting in considerable economic losses to its users. Ethereum succeeded in making blockchains more mainstream and in introducing their use outside financial concerns, and, despite the hack, Ethereum is still up and running.
Blockchain 3.0 is about decentralised applications. This introductory course does not go to the depth needed to understand Blockchain 3.0’s functions, but it can be used, and is currently being studied to be deployed in education, health and sciences. Blockchain 3.0 is also making positive impact on governance and it can be used in decision-making, possibly as outlined in previous chapter. The main technical breakthrough is that the decentralised applications enable serverless networks and therefore transparency of functionalities provided by the network. These developments rely heavily on previous applications and, in particular, smart contracts.
A key technology for blockchains is so-called smart contract. Smart contract is a software that runs on a blockchain. In practice, it is a user account that can be contacted with messages. These messages, when sent correctly, activate functionalities in that user account that are automated to work whoever gives the commands. This enables organisations and individuals to share some form of data through a user account. Smart contract is therefore not really a real-world contract but rather a code that runs inside a blockchain network. The public code that is inserted into this type of automated user account (i.e. smart contract) enables its users to agree upon transactions done with the help of that code. These transactions can be e.g., payment terms on rents or bets on a casino. They can be also very complicated, contract-type agreements between corporations, or anything in between. The smart contract automatically implements the terms of agreement, when the demands of running the given code are met.
The proponents’ main argument for smart contracting is, that as the smart contract can automate the jurisdiction between users of the blockchain, there is no need for law enforcement: all the contracts are agreed upon by the users, otherwise they are not put into action in the first place. This would, or so the argument goes, release lawyers from acting upon a breach of contract into making them for smart contracting. This would incur savings for making contracts, as the law firms would not be needed in making them, but they could just assist making sure all the needed factors are taken into account while producing the code for the smart contracts. Needless to say, this has built a hype around smart contracts, with many prominent CEOs (like Jeff Garzik, CEO of Bloq) advocating its use.
So, are smart contracts the next big thing? It seems there are good arguments both for and against. Let us consider this via help of an example. Let us say I would like to lend out my bike for a duration of one year, as I am moving abroad. The lending would enable for another person to have the bike for one year and maintain it so that I would not need to worry for its maintenance or safe-keeping and would receive it back after a year. Let us further assume we would make a smart contract on the matter. The bike would be rented on Ethereum cryptocurrency, Ether (ETH) and I would get the bike back after one year. The smart contract would have a certain penalty (say, on ETH) if I would not be happy with the returned bike, and another one if I would not receive it at all.
All fine, seems that the smart contract holds. However, let us assume that the bike gets stolen during the year I am abroad. If this is not accounted for in the smart contract, then me and the lender cannot proceed without the need of a lawyer, or most probably, a real-world settlement of the issue. Another issue altogether is, which countries’ jurisdiction would be applied on ETH based transaction. However, it might be that the lender is very tech-oriented and has a Ethereum insurance on the bike. Then this smart contract would include the case of theft and maybe have some incurred funds (ETH) transferred to lender’s Ethereum account. However, if my smart contract with the lender would still not include the act of theft, then these smart contracts would not communicate the ETH to my Ethereum account. At the same time, if the theft is accounted for in our smart contract on the bike, then automated contracts would proceed without any need of contracts outside Ethereum.
Blockgeeks, Smart Contracts: