Digitalization of legal processes via the application of blockchain technology is slowly gaining traction, and two researchers, Professor Hitoshi Matsushima and Professor Shunya Noda from the University of Tokyo and University of British Columbia respectively have revealed a ‘digital court’ executed on a blockchain network. This digital system will provide the functions an actual, physical court does, as a platform where legal disputes and judgement are carried out.
Blockchain technology has entered a variety of industries, bringing with it benefits such as transparency, the elimination of unnecessary intermediaries, increasing efficiency and more importantly, reduced costs. Thus, in legal disputes where fees incurred are notoriously high, the ‘digital court’ proposed by both professors will minimize costs as smart contracts, and not a central authoritative entity or figure, oversee the proceedings of cases.
“We designed a digital court which identifies and punishes parties who deviate from legal obligations such as commercial activities, but could potentially be any kind of agreement. On suspected violation of some agreement, those involved post their opinions to this digital court. The court algorithmically aggregates the parties’ opinions and judges who violated their agreement. If the digital court judges that a party violated the agreement, the party is fined by withholding a deposit made during the initial agreement,” explained Matsushima.
However, the professors also admit that the concept of decentralization has been tagged with negative connotations, and projects focusing on this component have been open to criticism from both the public and government. Matsushima is certain that the ‘digital court’ project will be subject to scrutiny and doubt as well. However, it is also crucial to keep up with the ever-growing technology industry and persist in efforts to innovate and educate in this aspect.
“Blockchains in some ways are a double-edged sword. But this kind of system signals the dawn of a new economic paradigm that must be embraced and explored rather than feared and ignored,” concluded Matsushima.
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