For 100s of years they have been pretty much the same damned thing. You know, static, paper based contracts with handwritten signatures and lots and lots of words. Those words are obviously important - they detail things like :
who are the parties
what are the parties required to do (performance obligations)
what do the parties pay (consideration)
what are the parties entitled to (rights)
what facts do the parties promise are true (representations and warranties)
who pays / how do they pay if things go wrong (indemnification and remedies)
what jurisidiction's law governs
...and lots and lots of other stuff.
In the past 10 years, contracts have evolved a bit. You can take those same paper contracts, import them into all some really cool applications like Docusign, and execute them digitally. Sweet!
But if cars can drive themselves these days, can't contracts do more too!
We think so. And thats where smart, connected contracts come in.
a contract knew who the parties were, and where they are located, automagically
a contract, and all of its provisions, were connected to your core business systems, and assembled themselves based on what those systems communicate to them (self assembling)
a contract was able to monitor obligations, rights, representations and warranties in real time (self monitoring)
a contract was able to change its provisions to better deal with risk over time based on historical performance data (self healing)
a contract could automate performance of certain contractually required performance issues (self performing)
a contract could lets you live in a matrix-like robot utopia (just kidding, contracts can't do that silly)
Now that would be pretty cool. And its really not that far fetched.