Digital Social Contracts: A Foundation for an Egalitarian and Just Digital Society

by   Luca Cardelli, et al.

Almost two centuries ago Pierre-Joseph Proudhon proposed social contracts – voluntary agreements among free people – as a foundation from which an egalitarian and just society can emerge. A digital social contract is the novel incarnation of this concept for the digital age: a voluntary agreement between people that is specified, undertaken, and fulfilled in the digital realm. It embodies the notion of "code-is-law" in its purest form, in that a digital social contract is in fact a program – code in a social contracts programming language, which specifies the digital actions parties to the social contract may take; and the parties to the contract are entrusted, equally, with the task of ensuring that each party abides by the contract. Parties to a social contract are identified via their public keys, and the one and only type of action a party to a digital social contract may take is a "digital speech act" – signing an utterance with her private key and sending it to the other parties to the contract. Here, we present a formal definition of a digital social contract as agents that communicate asynchronously via crypto-speech acts, where the output of each agent is the input of all the other agents. We outline an abstract design for a social contracts programming language and show, via programming examples, that key application areas, including social community; simple sharing-economy applications; egalitarian currency networks; and democratic community governance, can all be expressed elegantly and efficiently as digital social contracts.


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