How Smart Contracts Will Change the World | Olga Mack | TEDxSanFrancisco

Olga Mack is an experienced lawyer who developed a passion about the intersection of law and blockchain. In her talk she explains how smart contracts operates and why they matter. Lawyer, Adjunct Professor UC Berkeley, School of Law. Strategist at Quantstamp at the intersection of Blockchain and Smart Contracts. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.


when I was six

growing up in Siberia I told my mother

that I would like to become an artist

she said wonderful to be clear it wasn’t

like how was your day at the carnival

wonderful but more like I spilled my

coffee and white shirt wonderful you see

in my kindergarten the artworks were

arranged from best to last and I was

always second to the bottom and so

before my mother agreed to spend on my

art education she wanted to know why do

I want to be an artist and so without

missing a beat and looking her straight

in the eye I said I want to make the

world a more beautiful place of course

and that is how I spent seven years

getting to know the universal language

of visual arts and as I was getting

better seven years later we emigrated to

the United States I was 13 I did not

speak English and you remember 13 right

very few things are more traumatic that

a combination of puberty and high school

but at least everybody else had a chance

to discuss how traumatic it was I could

not say a word and instead I was lost in

my studies and discovered another

universal language of math and science

and so I had a second career

conversation with my mother where I told

her that I would like to become an

engineer my mother asked me why

and without missing a beat I looked her

straight in the eye and I said to make a

world a more functional place of course

now you have to understand – my parents

were both engineers this was music to

their ears my dad walked a little taller

and he was already a very tall guy and

my mom smiled she finally did something

right but that didn’t last I learned


I developed opinions I developed a sense

of justice and I wanted to make sure

that I make an impact I really earned to

make a difference so I had a third

conversation with my mother where I told

her that I would like to become a lawyer

she didn’t even ask why and the

conversation very quickly escalated from

mom to dad so my dad sat me down and he

said Olga I got used to the idea of you

making the world I’m a beautiful place

and then you had this idea of making the

world I’m a functional place and I

thought that was a terrific idea it

sounds like you gave up on both but that

was different I actually wanted to ask

Oh took the bar exam became a check or

so take that dad I’m kidding

my dad has always been supportive this

is not the story I’m gonna tell him but

he never stopped wondering how two

engineers managed to raise one lawyer

now fast forward to today

and I think I finally have discovered

that thing that will make a world I’m a

beautiful and functional place smart


and before I go tell you what they are

and give you examples of their

applications let me talk a little bit

about blockchain the underlying

technology now you may be wondering what

on earth is blockchain and if you think

about it for a minute

you may even imagine a movie starring

somebody like the Dwayne the rock


you know blockchain the unfortunate name

aside it is really an immutable

distributed ledger immutable means that

if you put something on blockchain it’s

really hard to change it is pretty much

there forever distributed means that no

one computer can’t decide it’s a network

of computers around the world sharing

that decision and ledger is just a table

like an Excel table that contains a lot

of information now what makes this

technology work is cryptology which is a

magic ingredient when you mix it a lot

that’s what makes work sharing work now

this technology is no joke it’s a lot of

math but at the core I think of

blockchain as a history of all

transactions now using blockchain and

technology platform like a serial you

can build decentralized applications or

adapts and at the core of the apps are

smart contracts so that brings me to

smart contracts let’s talk about smart

contracts I hate to disappoint you those

smart contracts also have a misguiding

name they’re not really smart as in this

little girl is very smart and they’re

not really contracts as in pages of

pages of legalese where you sign at the

our mandate not that kind of contract

there are really pieces of code that

codify business logic and at the core

they facilitate three functions one they

store rules two they verify rules and

three they self executables I tend to

think of them as very secure vending

machines so for example every vending

machine stores a rule that if you insert

a dollar you may get a snack of choice

and then when you go and insert in fact

a dollar it verifies the correct amount

and after verification voila a happy

moment you get a snack of choice that is

kind of how smart contracts works and

because they are blockchain application

there is no intermediary there is no

broker there is no escrow agent there is

no government corporation not even a

lawyer it executes automatically so to

summarize smart contracts are pieces of

code they’re very secure and they self

execute that’s very exciting and the

world of business is in the process of

embracing smart contracts

we’ll see numerous applications in IOT

financial sector supply chain and

numerous others but the reason I get up

in the morning and get really excited

about smart contracts is because of

their potential to solve problems that

have never been solved before now I’m

gonna go through four applications and I

will treat them separate but in reality

anyone’s smart contracts can combine

more than one application I want to make

sure that you really get a breadth and

depth of what’s possible so application

one smart contracts are very

good at storing data so for example

there is an American startup that is

rethinking census and they’re building a

decentralized protocol using smart

contracts census is a very powerful tool

in the United States and many other

nations census is how we determine how

to distribute billions of federal

dollars every year’s census is how we

determine where we build bridges schools

roads hospitals so census is very

important this startup collects

questions from the people then it

collects answers from the people and

then it securely stores at all on

blockchain and anonymously so this way

our legislators can really get a

representative representation of who we

are as people and what it is that we

want smart contracts are very good at

facilitating trust so for example

another startup now a little bit more

international it includes people from

Australia Canada and Germany is

connecting urban farmers landowners and

consumers it allows putting small lease

agreements on blockchain using smaller

contracts and facilitate renting of

small plots of land and small plots of

land add up to a big field so for

example if I owned a house in San

Francisco and I don’t have time or

interest to garden I can rent my

backyard or if I have a flat roof even a

roof for somebody to cultivate this now

the benefits of urban farming are huge

it allows to decrease our carbon

footprint it allows us to build tighter


it’s an opportunity to explain to our

children where food comes from and most

importantly urban farming is beautiful

and delicious now number three smart

contracts can function as software

libraries and I know that sounds a

little dry talking about software

libraries is a little bit like me

inviting you to watch the paint dry or

watch the grass grow it’s a little

boring I get it but it actually has

life-saving applications so for example

in the United States over a hundred

thousand people are waiting for kidney

transplant transplant every year and on

average it takes three to five years and

in some states it takes up to ten and

the real bomber is is that the longer

you wait the less likely the transplant

is successful there is of course a

solution to this many hospitals allow

somebody in the patient’s network to

donate a kidney like a friend a family

member a co-worker or just a giant

stranger but the challenge is is that

the donor is not always a match there is

a solution to that as well

hospitals allow a swap so for example if

a donor a is not a match with a patient

a and a donor B is not a match with a

patient B they can swap the challenge is

this solution is highly geographically

limited so two women from Germany

Germany and France are creating a

protocol that allows to match paired

donations real-time and across

geographies so not only does it solve

the problem of time it also allows for

successful transplant operations

application for smart contracts are

really good at authenticating

so for example since 2015 a start-up in

Finland has been working with the

government to give a prepaid card to

every refugee and displaced person who

enters that country that card stores

identity on blockchain a refugee can now

go into the bank and open a bank account

no passport no ID is required they can

then quickly get government benefits so

they can survive but it gets even more

interesting than this using smart

contracts they can borrow from their

network so not only can they survive

they actually can build credit and have

a chance to thrive what if we extend

this solution to 70 million refugees who

on average stay in their host country

for over ten years you know when we

think of a better world we don’t usually

think about blockchain we don’t think

about smart contract and it’s partially

because these technologies are not well


of course funny names very complicated

technology and lots of maths are not

helpful either

but I am convinced that once we realize

that we can use smart contracts to solve

long-standing problems we will attract

talent from all over the world and we’ll

be able to leverage the creativity and

knowledge let me give you an example

there is a social network as a

decentralized social network in New York

for artists no words just pictures and

the amazing part is to watch those

artists play with it explore make

mistakes collaborate and ultimately make

beautiful art yes there is this part

where they use the smart contracts

to make sure that they paid fairly and

that is absolutely important but you

know what is more interesting a hundred

fifty thousand artists 50 countries

creativity unleashed new artworks that

never been seen before collaboration

creativity completely Unleashed imagine

if we could channel that creativity that

intelligence to other disciplines to

solving world problems I am convinced

that the progress we’ve made from the

beginnings of times up until information

age would pale in comparison with what

we can do with this technology you see

when I was six and wanted to make a

world a more beautiful place I never

heard of smart contracts and when I was

sixteen and wanted to make a world a

more functional place I’ve never heard

of smart contract either and even when I

went to law school and I wanted to make

a world a more just place never heard of

smart contracts but today I am convinced

that smart contracts have joint Arts and

Sciences to make a difference and sold

the world’s biggest problems

imagine a world where a trust is given

imagine a world where we can unleash

creativity of this planet imagine a

world where a census represents who we

are where urban farms are thriving where

kidney donations are seamless and

refugees get part to be to be part of

our world

wouldn’t that be a beautiful and

functional world thank you.