Greetings everyone! For all of those who came out to our New and Emerging Legal Infrastructures Conference in April, thank you. We had an extraordinary turnout of lawyers, technologists, and other good folks — and we’re still buzzing over here at headquarters about some of the tremendously exciting cross-disciplinary discussions that emerged during the panels.
In the intervening month of May, the partners over here at Robot, Robot & Hwang have been sifting through a variety of different project ideas and trying to figure out what we’ll be doing as we move into the summer months out here in the Bay Area. In partnership with our collaborator Dazza Greenwood (his corresponding cross-post here) the senior partners have settled on a direction and glad to say we can go public with what we’ve been scheming about.
Glad to announce today that we’re officially looking for funding to pursue the deployment of the Corpbot Project, a flexible, open-source toolkit for developers to easily program autonomous corporations.
What is an autonomous corporation you might ask? We’ve been thinking for some time it’d be amazing to develop and deploy real legal entities that can be programmed to execute legal actions on their own without any human involvement. Such a corporation could be designed to self-execute the trading of assets, mergers, the creation of subsidiaries, the bringing lawsuits, and the transfer of funds systematically based on sets of rules or some external stimuli. It’d be amazing to have a community of developers that builds on this tookit, exploring all that can accomplished by floating up these automated legal entities (virtual corporate machines, if you will) and seeing what happens when development on these entities is made widely accessible. This would be a true kind of hacking on legal code: experimenting with various programs that actually influence the behavior of the legal system.
In short, the plan is to bring corporate personhood another step up through technology. The vision is that these corporations could serve a role as actors in a real marketplace, as well as opening up interesting experiments in the space for the management of a whole variety of assets both real and virtual.
So how are we pulling this off? Our initial proposed proof of concept this summer is a project to boot up a small network of autonomous corporations that will manage a formal legal transaction of some asset. Some simple object, then, like a chair or a piece of land, could be rapidly traded among these corporations, changing formal ownership of the object every few minutes. Given the “permissions” given to various individuals, this could make access to that object unpredictably tortious or legal once sold to the network of corporations. Best of all, these corporations could be set to eliminate access to their own servers after a period of time by randomly changing their own passwords, making it difficult to intervene in the action of these legal automatons without completely unplugging the machine driving them (tougher when that machine is in the cloud, too).
We think that’d be pretty neat and opens some fun possibilities. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be showing off this technology at an event in September where we release the code to play around with this stuff.
Robot, Robot & Hwang is fronting some of the cost of bringing on a developer, but we’re looking for an institutional partner to join us to help fund the rest of the development of this project full-time. You can read the full one-pager proposal here on the details (in handy dandy PDF form). If you know of someone who might be into supporting this, or want to help out in some way, definitely drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay in the loop with the project generally, drop us a line and get subscribed at our contact page for updates!
(image courtesy sketcheth)