I thought that scholarly papers about distributed ledgers would be of better quality than the articles in the mainstream media, because professors and PhD students are not paid by the click and are supposed to apply rigorous research methodologies. Unfortunately, there are a lot of terrible academic papers about distributed ledgers. Most of them simply push the empty narrative “blockchain has the potential to” without bringing any actual argument to support their unfalsifiable assertions.
Luckily, I got your back and will share the best papers about distributed ledger technology.
Good papers about distributed ledgers
- Abadi, J. and Brunnermeier, M. (2018) ‘Blockchain Economics’, Princeton U. Working Paper.
- Arrunada, B (2018) ‘Blockchain’s Struggle to Deliver Impersonal Exchange‘, Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 19, pp. 55-105
- Dodd, N. (2018). ‘The Social Life of Bitcoin‘. Theory, Culture & Society, 35, 35–56
- Koens, T. and Poll, E. (2018) ‘What Blockchain Alternative Do You Need?’, in Data Privacy Management, Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technology
- Fairfield, J. A. T. (2014) ‘BitProperty’, Southern California Law Review
- Levy, K. E. C. (2017) ‘Book-Smart, Not Street-Smart: Blockchain-Based Smart Contracts and The Social Workings of Law’, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society
- Nakamoto, S. (2008) ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic cash system’, Bitcoin
- Raskin, M. (2017). ‘The Law and Legality of Smart Contracts‘. Georgetown Law Technology Review, 1:2, 305–341
- Rauchs, M. et al. (2018) ‘Distributed Ledger Technology Systems: A Conceptual Framework’, SSRN Electronic Journal
- Slepak, G. and Petrova, A. (2017) ‘The DCS Theorem’. Available at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.04335.
- Surden, H (2012) ‘Computable Contracts‘, UC Davis Law Review
- Szabo, N. (1997) ‘Formalizing and securing relationships on public networks’, First Monday. doi: 10.5210/fm.v2i9.548
I also registered a paper ‘Bitcoin, Distributed Ledgers and the Theory of the Firm‘ on SSRN which is not exactly an academic paper (I am not a scholar) but a mix of a business and academic analyses of the notion of firms, markets, trust, contracts, etc. in the context of blockchains. I hope you find it interesting.
Feel free to suggest papers to add to the list, but let me tell you that the review process is very strict!
How to spot terrible papers
- They use the terms “blockchain technology” or “the blockchain” [A blockchain is simply a data structure. The correct term is “Distributed ledger technology”. A distributed ledger can use a blockchain or another data structure such as directed acyclic graphs]
- They offer no other argument than citing other authors, sometimes from the same university [RMIT University in Australia is a champion at doing that: Allen, Potts, Berg, Lane, Davidson keep citing themselves. It only creates a self-reinforcing illusion of knowledge]
- They provide assertions without a detailed analysis [for instance “blockchain are the commons 3.0” without even bothering to apply the 8 criteria defining a commons, one by one. Spoiler alert: if you apply the criteria, it will show that a distributed ledger is not a commons]
- They offer no comparison table, no graph and no calculation, but only circular reasoning
- They focus on (potential) benefits without considering the disadvantages and opportunity costs [There are always some trade-offs. There is no cheap risk-free scalable solution to decentralize all the things]
- They use unassured terms such as “has the potential to”, “might”, “has the possibility to” etc. [A real research would rather assert “it will do this if that” or “it is this when that condition is met”]
- They cite one or several of the following articles/books, that are themselves guilty of the flaws listed above:
- Catalini, Gans: Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain
- Wright, De Filippi: Decentralized blockchain technology and the rise of lex cryptographia
- Davidson, De Filippi, Potts: Economics of blockchain
- Swan: Blockchain – Blueprint for a new economy
- Tapscott, Tapscott: Blockchain revolution: how the technology behind bitcoin is changing money, business, and the world
Stay alert! Even the academic world sometimes lacks rigor.