Brooklyn Law Professor Warns Against Giving too Much Power to Smart ContractsSep 5, 2018, 7:00PM
David Kolber, a Brooklyn Law School professor, argues that giving smart contracts "artificial responsibility" could end disastrously for humans.
Adam Kolber, a law professor from the Brooklyn Law School is warning against the potentially lethal flaws that could arise from the use of smart contracts.
In a post on the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law blog, Professor Kolber argues that we may one day give machines too much control over important decisions and that smart contracts represent a prime example of the threat of creating "artificial responsibility".
The post, titled “How Blockchains Increase Artificial Responsibility”, draws a connection between artificial intelligence and artificial responsibility, and posits that increasingly intelligent machines may one day enslave us. He says,
What we’re really worried about is giving machines control over important matters. Control and intelligence are not the same thing. I use the expression ‘artificial responsibility’ to refer to what scares us more directly: the ability of machines to control important matters with limited opportunities for humans to veto decisions or revoke control.
Kolber goes on to mention Bitcoin and its function as a global store of value and currency, which is a large responsibility. However, his real problem lies with smart contracts, the negative aspects of which he perhaps overly dramatizes,
TheDAO had tremendous ‘artificial responsibility’ in that we gave it considerable control that couldn’t be easily revoked or reined in. Not-so-smart contracts in the future may prove even more dangerous: guests at a DAO hotel might be locked out of their rooms; DAO self-driving cars might drive off bridges. Blockchains have great promise. But we should be thoughtful about how we endow machines with artificial responsibility, even when (and perhaps especially when) these machines are not very intelligent.
Kolber has also worked at the University of San Diego and practised law in New York. Before he began work at law schools, he served as a business ethics consultant for PwC.
Smart Contracts Are Still a New Technology
While it is true that several challenges remain in terms of safe adoption of smart contracts and blockchain, Kolber seems to be blowing the issue out of proportion. Smart contracts and other platforms are subject to increasingly heavy security auditing, which will only increase as the technology becomes more widely adopted. Indeed, the recognized benefit of smart contracts, in several industries, is likely to spur researchers into ensuring that the code is totally secure and that no doomsday time arrives when smart contracts exert too much control.
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