Blockchain Education Initiative

Blockchain is a new but powerful tool that has the potential to change the way we think about finance, engineering, and, perhaps most importantly, law. As with any technology, regulation is inevitable; bad actors will find creative ways to leverage blockchain for nefarious purposes, necessitating creative solutions. Lawmakers are in a precarious position: Is it better to under-regulate and risk consumer harm, or over-regulate and risk chilling innovation? Answering the question—making a choice between imperfect options—requires that legal practitioners (lawmakers, regulators, lawyers, and burgeoning lawyers) have a nuanced understanding of the issues. Unfortunately, the educational resources are lacking.

The Blockchain Education Initiative recognizes both that blockchain will be an important component of the legal, technological, and cultural landscape, and that engineers (technology builders) and lawyers (technology users) have related but different concerns. To that end, it aims to fill an important gap in the current blockchain ecosystem: legal education.

The Initiative addresses three critical elements:

  • General Resources. There is no well-executed, openly-accessible blockchain lexicon (comparable to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Indeed, a Google search for “blockchain glossary” returns collections containing an average of 70 entries for a lexicon that should contain hundreds. The available sources are incomplete, occasionally incorrect (of the three results that bothered to mention Vyper, two spelled it “Viper”), and functionally useless for legal professionals—none of the glossaries, for example, mention the Howey Test, a foundational touchstone in blockchain regulation.
  • Basic Technology Education. Just as basic computer and internet literacy is critical today (51 years after the first ARPANET nodes lit up), blockchain literacy will be critical tomorrow. And yet, interactive learning opportunities are rare. If the internet is your source, it can conceivably take weeks or months to identify, cull, and coalesce basic information—a task that could be accomplished faster and more efficiently in a seminar setting. Both lawyers and the public deserve an access point to consumer blockchain and decentralized web technologies, as well as an overview of best practices.
  • Legal Education. Many of the individuals involved in blockchain have finance or engineering backgrounds, and existing educational materials cater to that knowledge base. Though there is considerable overlap with the law, the concerns of a lawyer are substantially different. Engineers, for example, care about how the technology works and how they can leverage it to build something new. By contrast, lawyers care about what the technology does (so they can advise their clients), and policymakers care about what the technology is capable of (so they can prevent abuse but allow for innovation).

The Blockchain Education Initiative addresses these issues directly via: the publication of a complete blockchain glossary; the creation of an open-to-the-public “blockchain literacy 101” bootcamp series; and the hosting of “blockchain concerns for lawyers” seminars intended for law students and legal professionals.

Project Lead: Reuben Youngblom

The descriptions of current and past projects of CodeX non-residential fellows are provided to illustrate the kind of work our non-residential fellows are carrying out. These projects are listed here for informational purposes only and are not endorsed by CodeX, Stanford Law School, or Stanford University.