Resolving a New Kind of Trade War Through ODR

Technology is revolutionizing the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) field. Despite the long-held assumptions that increasing understanding, building empathy, and crafting resolution are possible only in-person, effective ways have emerged for assisting the resolution of the exploding number of disputes that have burgeoned online. Technology has become the “fourth party” through the growing field of online dispute resolution (ODR), which includes use of technology and computer-mediated-communication (CMC) in negotiation, mediation, arbitration and other dispute resolution processes. Indeed, others in this Symposium have written about ODR and technology, more generally, in the ADR field.

This piece looks at a new problem that the ADR and ODR community must face: resolution of disputes involving “smart contracts.” It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around smart contracts. They are different from traditional or common e-contracts in that they are essentially computer code spread across blockchain nodes distributed throughout the world. In other words, they are made up of “nodes” which consist of computercoded algorithms that live in a decentralized ledger. A decentralized ledger, such as blockchain or ethereum, is a computer-coded ledger spread throughout computers instead of being centralized in one computer or database. This decentralization helps make smart contracts nearly unhackable. Furthermore, these decentralized ledgers are immutable, meaning that the code generally cannot be altered.

This content has been updated on 26 August 2020 at 10 h 12 min.