Mattereum, perhaps the world’s weirdest and most daring startup, intends to own literally everythingJon Evans @rezendi / 1 day
How’s this for eyebrow-raising? In London, for the last year and a half, a team of lawyers, cryptographers, software engineers, and/or former military consultants have been brewing a bizarre and/or brilliant plan for a bridge between the blockchain and the real world — a system whose success is directly proportional to the extent to which it achieves legal title over every physical object in the world.
Wait. Let me explain. Their name is Mattereum, and they are not Bond villains seeking to conquer the planet. Rather, they are trying to bridge the gap between programmable blockchain “smart contracts” and actual legal contracts. As you might imagine, that gap consists of an almost infinitely knotty tangle of legal precedents, gray areas, and jurisdictions.
Mattereum has came up with a remarkable way to sever this Gordian knot. A legal concept universal across almost all jurisdictions is that assets have owners, who can decide (within legal limits) how to dispose of them. If registrars of the Mattereum network are granted legal title over assets, the thinking goes, they can then establish on-chain smart contracts with which physical assets can be programmatically bought, sold, rented, assigned, and partitioned — and use their ownership of these assets to resolve disputes and enforce those resolutions.
That all sounds pretty abstract. Let’s talk about some real-world examples. Their flagship object right now is a Stradivarius violin valued at $9 million. Assigning legal title over that violin to one of Mattereum’s registrars (say, Mattereum itself) which then licenses control via a set of smart contracts (say, on the Ethereum blockchain) means the violin instantly becomes not just a physical asset but a digital one, which can now be pr...