Curiously Enough, This Came Before Software

Originally published at: Curiously Enough, This Came Before Software | The Associated Worlds

contract module: To avoid both unnecessary repetition, and to avoid the additional labor of poring over the mass of said repetition in search of differences from the commonplace form, Imperial contract law has long embraced the use of contract modules, sets of predefined and referenceable clauses and specifications to address specific issues within the contract in standardized manners, controlled by equally standardized variables introduced at the beginning of the contract. A variety of contract modules are available covering matters as disparate as arbitration, assignment and transfer, choice of law, confidentiality, delivery, escrow, execution, force majeure, notice, translation, waiver, and indeed allow for many more areas in which the obligator and his client may choose to rely on existing, well-established terms for a specific scope, with which terms they are already thoroughly acquainted.

Agabanda: In common use, this references the largest collection of form contracts and contract modules in common usage, more properly known as Agabanda’s Compleat Obligator: Form Contracts and Modules for the Practical Contractor, published in annual volumes by Academy of the Quill and Coils Press. Citations from Agabanda are typically given by volume, chapter, and number.

Wistio interpretation: (from it’s establishing case, Wistio Automatics v. Ryudailai Pier Eleven Shipbuilding Cooperative) A rule of interpretation for modular contracts specifying that, for the avoidance of doubt, clauses and specifications from any and all relevant invoked contract modules shall override any clauses and specifications found within the contract itself, except where the intent for the base contract to override the module is explicitly stated in the clause or specification in question. The function of the Wistio rule, if examined from that angle, is to ensure the usability of contract modules by preventing situations of uncertainty from arising in which invoked contract modules and the base contract contradict each other without clear statement of which has legal priority.

One exception to the Wistio rule of interpretation (established by the later case, Jacaranda Graving Company v. City of Dal Épareil) is that strict sectioning clauses or contract modules may not be overridden by any clause or specification not given at the point of invocation of the module itself, since to require the study of the entire contract (and all its referenced modules) in order to determine whether or not the strict sectioning rules apply as given vitiates the essential purpose of the strict sectioning clause or module itself.

strict sectioning: A strict sectioning provision (or contract module – most typically referenced as Agabanda IV/1/3) within a contract provides that (a) the contract is divided into sections whose scope is limited to a particular function, or aspect, of the contract, defined by the heading of that section; and that (b) any clause or specification located in a section other than that to which it applies is automatically null and void as out of scope. In this way, one may be assured, when reviewing the contract, that all provisions relevant to one’s use-case are found in their appropriate sections, and one need not hunt through the entire document for hidden traps, buried clauses, or counter-illegibility assurance.

– Salvarin’s Dictionary of Legal Principles

I can believe it. Even here on Earth I’m constantly surprised at how many programs and algorithms existed before means to implement them. I’d expect nothing less from the Eldrae.

What impresses me is the design principle intended for legalese to be readable and dependable, when much of present Earth contract law is designed to obscure – either the actual functions of the contract, or the mechanisms for actions Imperials would call Defaulting.

This is analogous to ancient Earth scribes, which (worldwide despite lack of contact!) maintained cultures that made reading and writing obscure, difficult to interpret, and requiring highly specialized training… until some schmuck took the extensibility charset and applied it to the whole mishmash, calling it “aleph bet” or some such. Efficiency beats security through obscurity, every time…

What makes me curious is how much the prespace, preautomation eldrae relied on their sense of fairness to keep the same from occurring…

Relevant to this, perhaps, is a comment I’ve just made on the Discord concerning those fun clauses in credit card and other service agreements on Earth, specifically those which shorn of the legalese amount to “we reserve the right to change our terms and conditions unilaterally, in exchange for which you receive the right to suck it”.

(The existence of which clauses and that people sign the contracts containing them despite said existence is the sort of thing that would strike the eldrae as prima facie evidence that humans are insane, stupid, or both.)

So, y’know, it may not entirely have been a sense of fairness. One should not discount the role of “being able to grasp that Faustian bargains never end well for Faust”, and as such, people not offering bullshit deals because they know perfectly well that there ain’t a lot of takers out there.

Footnote: I have decided that this class of thing should be referred to as the Vaderian Contract.

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I suppose the schmucks who fall for this sort of deal are also called Calrissianites?

No, no, a Calrissianite is someone who realizes the mistake and disavows the Defaulter before a Vaderian Contract can completely destroy them.

Someone who signs such a contract and is stupid enough to let it destroy them would be a Neimoidist.