De Filippi, P., Leiter, A. (2021) “Blockchain in Outer Space” in American Journal of International Law (AJIL) Unbound, special issue: “The Global Governance Implications of Blockchain” 


“Blockchain technology has spurred the emergence of powerful narratives to promote new ways of governing outer space. The list of proposed uses for blockchain applications in outer space is endless—from property registries for asteroid mining, to supply chain management systems, or interplanetary cryptocurrencies for the space economy—along with Elon Musk claiming that “SpaceX is going to put a literal Dogecoin on the literal moon.” Yet, thus far, none of these projects have gone beyond simple declarations or white papers, mostly due to the inherent limitations on the effective enforcement of blockchain-based rules outside of their own technical framework. In this essay, we argue that blockchain technology is relevant for outer space because it fosters novel narratives advancing possible futures characterized by new modes of governance. The strongest and most prominent of these narratives is the crypto-libertarian one, which draws heavily on the absence of a state, the sanctity of property, and the primacy of private ordering through decentralized markets. But there are other narratives proposed by relevant actors in the blockchain space that are dedicated to other modes of governance. By focusing on alternative narratives for blockchain technology, we illustrate how the possible applications of blockchain technology in outer space may extend beyond the current libertarian dreams, to support a more commons-based approach to outer space governance.”

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