PIG: Dispute resolution for %fund, a sovereign crowdfunding tool

Team members

~sarlev-sarsen and ~sidnym-ladrut


The settlement of contractual conflicts is backstopped by nation state power where participants have limited optionality on service providers and no true freedom of association. In the rising network age, these geographically and institutionally constrained protocols are ready for massive disruption.

We can drastically improve the accessibility and UX of contract dispute resolution by pairing escrow smart contracts with human-legible contract terms. By making escrow contract signers cryptographically-owned pseudonymous identities (in the form of Urbit IDs) which each come paired with a Turing complete virtual machine and e2ee p2p network, we give economic participants the tools for borderless economic interaction. These characteristics incentivize ecosystem participants to play iterative games.

We are exploring this protocol space in the context of %fund, a self-sovereign crowdfunding project. For more information, visit https://tocwexsyndicate.com and sign up for the beta. This protocol research is the spiritual successor of our project’s current grant from the Urbit Foundation: %fund • Grants • urbit.org

RFC Application Questions

  1. What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance? Eg: hand-washing, traffic system, connector standards, carbon trading.
    • Contract dispute resolution protocols: negotiation, mediation, arbitration, litigation, and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Including precedents for appeals, legal jurisprudence, and jurisdictional supremacy. We aim to explore this space in the evolving era of borderless, internet-first economic activity.
  2. What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?
    • In a digitally native context, nation-state authority introduces cross border jurisdictional complexity and enforcement hurdles. Using a blend of smart contract code, human interpreted written code, and cryptographically native sybil resistant social identity, we can iterate towards a base protocol to enable human actors with programmatic contractual terms where edge cases are adjudicated by trusted identities and on-chain enforcement.
    • This open system can allow any person, entity, or set of persons to play the role of conflict manager, or ‘trusted oracle’ allowing faster iteration of desirable mechanisms for managing more specialized disputes and gives ecosystem participants greater optionality in the event of legacy institutions becoming corrupted.
  3. What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol? Eg: field observation, expert interviews, historical data analysis, failure event analysis
    • We will conduct expert interviews with lawyers, arbitration professionals, and judicial system members, as well as a survey of professionals who use contractual agreements in their businesses.
  4. In what form will you prototype your improvement idea? Eg: Code, reference design implementation, draft proposal shared with experts for feedback, A/B test of ideas with a test audience, prototype hardware, etc.
    • We will prototype our idea with a live crowdfunding platform distributed as an the open source application %fund, on the Urbit network.
  5. How will you field-test your improvement idea? Eg: run a restricted pilot at an event, simulation, workshop, etc.
    • We will work closely with our set of ‘trusted oracles’ to understand the service offerings that they have developed, through this we will collect and document insights on how they have managed conflict between their customers.
  6. Who will be able to judge the quality of your output? Ideally name a few suitable judges.
    • Josh Lehman, Executive Director of the Urbit Foundation
    • Kenny Rowe, The Dalten Collective
  7. How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea? Eg: Submit proposal to a standards body, publish open-source code, produce and release a software development kit etc.
    • We will publish a findings document and distribute open source code as a freely available application on the Urbit network.
    • Release announcements via our twitter account, @tocwex and publishing on our website.
  8. What is the success vision for your idea?
    • A total overhaul of p2p contracting where settlement terms are adjudicated not by nation state courts, but where peers mutually select a third party to be a fair judge in the event of a dispute. No threat of state violence required.

Very much looking forward to %fund. I suppose in some sense crowdfunding is the general case of more common buyer/seller/mediator scenarios, with the main difference being one buyer vs. potentially many and instant delivery vs. time agnostic delivery.

Yea, I suppose we can take the opportunity here to point out that the underlying application in which we will be implementing dispute resolution protocols is that of a self-hosted crowdfund with a 3rd party judge (“Trusted Oracle”). Two main drivers for this are to enable more people to discover and interact with the system more quickly, and because current crowdfunding platforms suffer some big pain points by making the platform developer also the conflict mediator. This second pain point is less prominent in more traditional format legal contracting (jurisdiction or arbitration clauses are much more of an afterthought and much less likely to be invoked) and there are fewer parties for whom you need to determine that the work specification has been met, so there is less opportunity for iterating on dispute resolution methods.

But yes, assuming we can iterate quickly on useful methods, what is a p2p contract but a private crowdfund with only one counterparty :slight_smile:

Yeah, definitely interesting to think of it using that lense. To quickly add to ~sarlev-sarsen’s response, the fact that the “mediator” in the “buyer/seller/mediator” dynamic can be isolated and abstracted (and thus refined via protocols) is what we’re hoping to investigate as part of this work. Focusing on this piece, it’s not just the buyer and seller that participate in the marketplace, but now too do the mediators themselves, which will hopefully trend toward better dispute resolution satisfaction for all parties involved!