The Michigan State Law Review Forum has published my article titled “Displaying and Evidencing Contract Terms in a Post-Visual Era.” In this article, I explore the challenges that come with the increasing use of non-visual transactions, interfaces, and devices in today’s contracting landscape. I’ve been thinking about these issues from my days at Mastercard and appreciated the opportunity to capture some of my analysis and tentative conclusions in this article, along with some action steps.
With technological advancements continuously reshaping how we interact and transact, we must reevaluate our core assumptions and approaches to contract processes.
Here’s an overview of the article, but I recommend you read the whole piece.
Navigating Non-Visual Contracts: A Paradigm Shift
Traditionally, our contractual processes have hinged on visual communication. The act of reading and agreeing to contract terms has long been rooted in the visual medium. However, the rapid proliferation of non-visual interfaces, such as voice-controlled devices, sensors, and intelligent agents, calls for a seismic shift in how we think about contracts as we move into the era of the Internet of Things.
How can we ensure that contract terms are accessible and comprehensible in non-visual contexts? How do we document agreements without the traditional visual forms that have been our foundation for so long?
In this article, I explore four distinct examples of non-visual contracts, each presenting unique challenges:
Contracts without Screens or Displays: With the rise of the Internet of Things, our interactions are extending beyond screens and displays. Devices like smart lightbulbs and running shoes are capable of interactions without visual interfaces, raising questions about how to display contract terms in such contexts.
Voice and Audio-only Contracts: The prevalence of virtual personal assistants like Alexa and Siri, alongside voice-controlled devices, has ushered in an era of voice-centric interactions. Navigating contractual agreements solely through audio input necessitates innovative solutions.
Code-Level Contracts: As we embrace intelligent agents, smart contracts, and artificial intelligence, contracts that occur at a code level without direct human engagement prompt us to rethink the concept of agreement.
Invisible Platform Contracts: In platforms like gaming and the metaverse, transactions occur seamlessly behind the scenes. Contract terms may not be overtly visible, yet they underpin these interactions.
Taking Action: Navigating Non-Visual Contracting
To adapt to this evolving landscape, I propose several action steps:
Simplification: In a non-visual world, contract terms must be simplified for accessibility. Consider using tools like smart contracts to streamline agreements.
Medium-Specific Approaches: Leverage voice recognition and other mediums to authenticate parties and confirm essential terms.
Standardization: Drawing inspiration from standardized licenses, consider implementing industry-wide standard terms for non-visual contracts.
Trust and Transparency: Focus on building trust in non-visual transactions through transparent processes and mechanisms.
Experimentation and Hybrid Solutions: Embrace experimentation and hybrid approaches that cater to the unique challenges of each medium.
The journey into the post-visual era of contracting will be challenging. To learn more about the concepts discussed here and explore potential solutions, I encourage you to read the full article. Your insights and perspectives will be vital as we collectively navigate these uncharted waters. I invite you to share the article with your colleagues, friends, and others interested in the law’s future. Our collective efforts to understand, adapt, and innovate will shape the future of contract processes in a non-visual world.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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