The term ‘trustlessness’ has given rise to a common misperception of smart contracts reducing or even eliminating the need for trust. At first glance, smart contracts appear to do away with the need for trust in the counterparty. Since performance is automatic, smart contracts enable the promisee to obtain what has been promised to them, without the need to depend on interpersonal trust vis-à-vis the counterparty or a system of contract law to enforce the promise. However, if we take into account the social, economic, and political contexts in which smart contracts operate, do they override the need for trust? In other words, are they really ‘trustless’? We argue that a new set of trust concerns arise in the context of smart contracts, especially when they run on blockchains.
Zou, Mimi and Cheng, Grace and Heredia, Marta Sorta, In Code We Trust? Trustlessness and Smart Contracts (April 1, 2019). Computers and Law, April 2019.