New York University School of Law professors Max Raskin and Jack Millman recently published a paper in the Journal on Emerging Technologies discussing the legalities surrounding the use of blockchain-based smart contracts for the purpose of ‘personal growth bets.’
According to the duo, personal growth bets are single-party contracts that a person would engage in with themselves. The purpose of these contracts would generally be for the purpose of self improvement — to either start or stop a certain act during a given period of time or by a certain date.
The researchers use the notions of quitting smoking or losing weight to describe the concept. Per their paper:
“For example, a rough outline of such a bet would be: if Max does not lose 10 pounds over the next six months, he must pay Jack $1,000. Whereas, if he does lose the weight, Jack must buy Max a steak dinner.”
The core argument of the paper, according to the researchers, is that incentives can have a positive impact on a person’s ability to succeed at difficult personal undertakings. However, without accountability, such incentives are less likely to work.
“Smart contracts can,” according to the authors, “serve the roles of enforcer and monitor, allowing an aspirant to effectively bind his future self without the need to involve another person.”
Raskin and Millman propose a scheme where a smart contract is conceived on the blockchain using “contractware,” hardware used to measure or monitor the conditions of the bet, to enforce compliance with the contract’s terms.
In the case of quitting smoking, the researchers give the example of a person who places $10,000 in a smart contract that requires them to remain smoke free for 30 days in order to reobtain the funds. In the event of failure, the funds could, for example, be sent to a predefined charity of the user’s choice.
In order to enforce the terms of the “bet,” the researchers envision a system wherein a user would confirm compliance through the use of a carbon monoxide breathalyzer — a gadget that can detect cigarette smoke on breath in much the same way as an alcohol breathalyzer determines blood alcohol level.
If the user missed a designated check-in or failed a breathalyzer test, the terms of the smart contract would execute autonomously and, thus, the user’s stake would be forfeit.
While the concept is relatively straightforward, the legalities…