The expectation has become widespread that blockchains will end up underpinning major societal infrastructures. The narrative in the blockchain space is that networks are decentralized and trustless and thus regulation should not apply to networks directly. Legal scholar Angela C. Walch has been questioning terms like decentralization and trustlessness and argues that blockchains shift the need for trust rather than remove it. Her controversial ideas include that key developers of open-source project should be treated as fiduciaries and held accountable for the consequences of their work.

Angela Walch is a professor of law at St Mary University School of Law and a Research Fellow at the Center for Blockchain at UCL. She is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School and has been doing academic work on legal issues surrounding public blockchains since 2013.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • How she became interested in Bitcoin and issues around the narratives of decentralization and trustlessness
  • How her work has been received in the blockchain space
  • The problematic lack of a clear definition of terms like trustless, immutable and decentralized
  • Why blockchains should be looked at as trust-shifting, not trustless
  • The definition and role of fiduciaries in society
  • Why blockchain developers could be considered fiduciaries
  • The practical implications and difficulties of regulating blockchain developers as fiduciaries
  • How the SEC’s stance on blockchains connects with the question of developers being fiduciaries
  • Her personal views on the value and promise of blockchain tech

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This episode is hosted by Brian Fabian Crain and Sébastien Couture. Show notes and listening options: