The Gruter Institute has initiated a program to investigate and envision the field of digital institutions, working in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. The program is focused on a set of related tasks: the design, creation, documentation, and delivery of trustworthy markets, exchange platforms, and business organizations via electronic means, both for the developed and the developing world. The creation of digital institutions requires a pooling of expertise among a variety of disciplines, and this program has brought experts together from fields including law, technology, economics, biology, government, psychology and cognitive neuroscience to share knowledge and help advance the conversation.
The general themes examined by the program include:
(i) common structures and challenges for private economic institutions, e.g. trust, reciprocity, sanctions, social signaling, the role of reputation, status, honesty and cost;
(ii) the human behavioral and cognitive makeup and its relation to these institutions, e.g. dispute resolution and identity;
(iii) the challenges and opportunities which arise from embodying such institutions in a digital medium of interaction, e.g. emergent governance models;
(iv) the technical aspects of meeting these challenges and opportunities, e.g. software and hardware platforms for creation and governance, and interfaces with government and business registries and transactional mechanisms;
(v) the role of the financial system and other private players in creating effective digital institutions, e.g. micro-finance, banking, and payment mechanisms; and
(vi) the role of law and government; e.g. contracts, corporations, and extra-territorial applications.