Crash Course: Automating Contracts

Tags: Technology Policy

In a modern world rife with agreements and contractual obligations in nearly all corners of society and across international borders, computable contracts are a possible way of cleaning up the chaos. Such contracts can allow for automation of certain outcomes governed by the contracts and thus present enormous economic potential for businesses to achieve cost savings. They also hold the potential to be a major disruptive influence on how the agreements are handled in the future. As such, their use has steadily risen over the past 10 years, seen most prominently in the financial sector. However, some hurdles still prevent them from becoming mainstream.

On the heels of his 2012 UC Davis Law Review article on this topic, Harry Surden will use this Crash Course to provide a better understanding of what computable contracts are, how they work, why computers have difficulty with traditional contracts, and how to navigate around and overcome these difficulties. As computable contracts will undoubtedly become more mainstream, this mashup of the legal and computer science worlds expects to be an illuminating overview that will be useful for individuals across all professions.

Harry Surden
Harry Surden is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. He joined the faculty in 2008. His scholarship centers upon intellectual property law with a substantive focus on patents and copyright, information privacy law, legal informatics and legal automation, and the application of computer technology within the legal system.

Prior to joining CU, Professor Surden was a resident fellow at the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics (CodeX) at Stanford Law School. In that capacity, Professor Surden conducted interdisciplinary research with collaborators from the Stanford School of Engineering exploring the application of computer technology towards improving the legal system. He was also a member of the Stanford Intellectual Property Litigation Clearinghouse and the director of the Computer Science and Law Initiative.

Professor Surden was law clerk to the Honorable Martin J. Jenkins of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. He received his law degree from Stanford Law School with honors and was the recipient of the Stanford Law Intellectual Property Writing Award.

Prior to law school, Professor Surden worked as a software engineer for Cisco Systems and Bloomberg L.P. He received his undergraduate degree with honors from Cornell University.

Professor Surden is an Affiliated Faculty Member at The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics (CodeX).

Vikas Reddy
Vikas Reddy is co-founder of Occipital, a San Francisco and Boulder based startup focused on mobile computer vision. With co-founder Jeff Powers, Vikas led the development of RedLaser, a popular barcode-scanning application launched in 2009 that was acquired by eBay in June 2010. Vikas and the team at Occipital are focused on their new product, the Structure Sensor, a device made for the iPad that can capture the world in 3D. Vikas is also an angel investor in a few tech startups, including the Techstars Boulder accelerator. He has a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan and was born in Detroit.

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