88 UMKC L. Rev. 365 (2019-2020)
Blockchain and the Law of the Cat: What Cryptokitties Might Teach

handle is hein.journals/umkc88 and id is 377 raw text is: 




  BLOCKCHAIN AND THE LAW OF THE CAT: WHAT
                CRYPTOKITTIES MIGHT TEACH*


                                   Bryan  Wilson**

                                 INTRODUCTION

         The  invention  and  wide-scale  usage  of the internet  has created  a ripple
effect on the behavior  of everyday  life. The internet allows  us to rent homes  from
strangers,' bid on  unknown goods from strangers in auctions,2 find strangers to
help  move   your  things,3  donate  computing power to strangers searching for
extraterrestrial life forms,4 and  otherwise  enter into transactions  that, without  a
combination of social norms, market forces, and trustworthy code, would be
illegal. This highlights something   important   about the  internet: it exists because



*In 1996, Frank Easterbrook suggested that the study of Cyberlaw was as useful as the study of the
Law  of the Horse. What he meant by this was that the best way to teach Cyberlaw would be to teach
the most foundational areas of law-torts, property, contracts, etc.-and apply them in this fancy
new environment called cyberspace. At the time, this assertion provided a novel way to understand
the impact of these new concepts on the practice of law. Yet, as more devices are connected to the
internet and greater advances are made in computer science, the distinctions between real space and
cyberspace become muddled. The digital world becomes simultaneously less comparable to the real
world and more ingrained in it.
As new  technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain realize more of
their potential, the way behavior is regulated in digital space becomes similarly muddled. Innovations
such as the sharing economy and the Internet of Things have demonstrated how difficult these
challenges can be. In these new digital environments, direct forms of regulation, like law, become
less compatible to the unique considerations of the internet, while indirect forms of regulation, such
as the architecture (i.e., software code), markets, and social norms, become more effective. This
means, in short, there is a growing need to understand the different behaviors a new technology
enables in a quantifiable way before designing regulatory frameworks that may or may not meet
stated policy goals. Yet, many practical challenges have inhibited the ability of lawmakers to
experiment with the way behavior is regulated, including lack of useful data, data security, and
implementation costs.
This article surveys early legal scholarship about the ways that behavior on the internet is regulated,
explores the opportunity of blockchain and distributed ledger technology through an analysis of the
first game built on the blockchain, Cryptokitties, and its associated apps and services, the Kittyverse,
and examines the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to regulating behavior that can be
supplemented through the usage of a blockchain.
** Bryan is a Fellow in the MIT Connection Science research group, where he serves as Editor in
Chief of the MIT Computational Law Report. Bryan's research focuses on Computational Law, or
the processes by which law and legal functions are capable of being computed as computational
systems. Bryan is a graduate of the UMKC School of Law and has formerly worked in the Operations
team at RiskGenius, an Artificial Intelligence startup, and was an Innovation Fellow with the
inaugural class of fellows with the ABA Center for Innovation. This article is dedicated to all of the
teachers, family, and friends that helped inspire this work.
1 See AIRBNB, https://www.airbnb.com/ (last visited June 27, 2019).
2 See EBA Y, https://www.ebay.com/ (last visited June 27, 2019).
See  BUNGi, https://bungii.com/ (last visited June 27, 2019).
4 See SETI@HOME,  https://setiathome.berkeley.edu/ (last visited June 27, 2019) (SETI@lpme is a
scientific experiment, based at UC Berkeley, that uses internet-connected computers in the Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that
downloads and analyzes radio telescope data.).

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