Craig Wright: Code isn’t law

Dr. Craig Wright’s latest blog post takes a look at a very interesting, and often discussed topic: if “code is law.” Dr. Wright has a plain and simple answer to that question—no—and provides a great explanation of why this is the case.

Why code is not law

Dr. Wright begins by reflecting on a statement made by the former Dean of the University of Chicago Law School, Gerhard Casper, who once said that the University of Chicago did not offer a course on the “Law of the Horse.”

“In doing so, he was noting that university subjects should be limited to courses such as Law and Economics or Law and Literature and that they should avoid areas that are overly specific, such as Law and Cyberspace,” according to Dr. Wright.

You can avoid overly specific areas of study because overarching areas of study tend to encompass other concepts, such as “the law of the horse.” For instance, if you have a strong understanding of intellectual property law, contract law, tort law, criminal law, and financial law, then you are going to have a strong understanding of “the law of the horse.” 

That being said, the world does not need a new set of laws that apply to digital currency or digital tokens. Because when you have a strong understanding of law and technology, as a byproduct, you have a strong understanding of the legal frameworks that apply to blockchain technology and digital currency.

Code is written by people

Code is not law because technology does not enforce existing rules, laws do. Laws govern people, and since code is written by people, it is the same laws that govern people that govern the codes that they write. 

“Only humans exhibit and express intention, and only humans can contract or create the necessary conditions to commit a crime. It will never be the case that computer code exists outside of the minds of individuals,” Dr. Wright said. “Code is simply a form of language, an abstraction designed to transfer ideas that always and necessarily originate through the human mind.”

The legal system has been in place for a long time and its stipulations serve as frameworks for what is and isn’t legal. Although there have been advances in technology, the same laws that were originally drafted apply to these advances in technology.

“Although technologists would have us believe that new laws needed to be created, many aspects of contractual exchange, monetary finance, and trade have changed little other than in speed and certainty,” Dr. Wright said.

What it really boils down to is human intention. Humans write code, and code is ultimately just language. The way an individual has crafted their code is enough to stand or fall when facing the justice system. 

“There is nothing new under the sun, which is particularly true of Bitcoin and all its imitators. There is no need for new law, but there is a need to ensure judges and legislators understand the facts surrounding Bitcoin and other blockchain systems…The push for specialised individualised law is not a call for improving understanding and removing uncertainties; it is merely a poorly disguised attempt to undermine the existing legal system,” Dr. Wright said.

You can learn more about why code is not law by reading Dr. Craig Wright’s latest blog post, Cryptocurrency and the Law of the Horse.

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