Digital social contracts: A foundation for an egalitarian and just digital society

Luca Cardelli, Liav Orgad, Gal Shahaf, Ehud Shapiro, Nimrod Talmon

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Almost two centuries ago Pierre-Joseph Proudhon proposed social contracts - voluntary agreements among free people - as a foundation from which an egalitarian and just society can emerge. A digital social contract (DSC) is the novel incarnation of this concept for the digital age: a voluntary agreement between people that is specified, undertaken, and fulfilled in the digital realm. It embodies the notion of “code-is-law” in its purest form, in that a DSC is a program - code in a social contracts programming language, which specifies the digital actions parties to the social contract may take; and the parties to the contract are entrusted, equally, with the task of ensuring that each party abides by the contract. Parties to a social contract are identified via their public keys, and the one and only type of action a party to a DSC may take is a “digital speech act” - signing an utterance with her private key and sending it to the other parties to the contract. We present a formal definition of a DSC as agents that communicate asynchronously via digital speech acts, where the output of each agent is the input of all the other agents. We outline an abstract design for a social contracts programming language and hint on their applicability to social networks, sharing-economy, egalitarian currency networks, and democratic community governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
JournalCEUR Workshop Proceedings
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020
Event1st International Forum on Digital and Democracy. Towards A Sustainable Evolution, IFDaD 2020 - Venice, Italy
Duration: 10 Dec 202011 Dec 2020


  • Democratic Governance
  • Programming Language Design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (all)


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