Hosted by Will Hayes Principal Engineer at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), last month a podcast was broadcast on Blockchain research at CMU, governance and blockchain applications beyond finance. The participants in the discussion were Dr. Eliezer Kanal of SEI, CMU and Eugene Leventhal, a student of the Heinz University Master of CMU.
What is the discussion about?
The main discussion concerns these points:
- Is the blockchain actually better than the existing solutions? If it is, what are the costs?
- Are there any things we can take to improve existing solutions?
- About a central blockchain governance even if it is a distributed system.
Blockchain at CMU
There is a lot of interest in Blockchain in CMU, they even have a Blockchain Group. The blockchain was discussed for the digital currency even before it was called blockchain. In addition to all digital coins and endless coin offerings, the underlying blockchain technology is a distributed ledger. The registers are present in various record keeping activities, health data, licenses, etc. The power of the blockchain comes from its distributed nature in which nothing is eliminated and there is a lot of visibility into what is happening.
At the Software Engineering Institute, at Carnegie Mellon University, research is proceeding in two main aspects:
- Ensuring blockchain is a safe environment that people can operate, it is difficult to do.
- By informing the government, there is confusion about what a blockchain use case is. They are trying to play the role of a trusted consultant.
Blockchain and open source
Blockchain can in some way be compared to the open source. In version control systems, users can switch to a specific version and use it if the current version does not work for them, so the changes are publicly visible.
Blockchain over finances
Blockchain is a democratized banking system, there is no need for a central entity to cancel transactions. But this is the only application that has thrived in the market. The application of Blockchain as a distributed computer has not been taken into consideration. There is a general reluctance in the industry to collect Blockchain for other applications. It will be interesting to see some research on potential applications where it is pure research, not a time-bound goal to make money. The advertising campaign to make fast money on blockchain has begun to become extinct and an interesting research is coming. For example, proof of play against the work trial model.
There have been many discussions about the use of blockchain for name servers, DNS servers, etc. Which is the basis of the entire Internet and the public key infrastructure (PKI).
"How can I have both the benefits that I could get, and at the same time enable the technology, or enable a policy that requires me not to have something, which is fundamental to the technology."For this question, there is still a good answer, which is part of what makes blockchain such a fascinating field.
Central control of the blockchain, blockchain governance?
Git is now offered by Microsoft, Hayes says this is the way government organizations have access to it. Are there any things happening in the blockchain world where the decision of some influential authorities is opening up the ecosystem for a wider range of audiences? Although the idea of blockchain must be decentralized, it can benefit from a certain level of centralization. An example is Hyperledger, it has some blockchain concepts but most of Hyperledger is towards centralization.
Public visibility is useful for control purposes but not if some personal information is associated with a transaction. GDPR enters the scene as it includes the right to oblivion; this is a fight. One of the oldest documents in which Dr. Kanal is studying the legal aspects of blockchain argues that blockchain is the most vulnerable way to structure any kind of organization. Maximum exposure exists and anti-fraud protection is not present.
Blockchain as a truly decentralized platform has a challenge: where does governance come from? If someone plays with it, people from outside risk being dragged by using it by pointing out the flaws. Blockchain governance is a serious problem and a challenge to work on for technology to be accepted by a wider audience.
Blockchain would make a lot of sense in areas where you can not trust your government, where you do not have access to a bank but have access to a mobile phone. Blockchain can help in such an environment. They also talk about Zk-SNARKS where the evidence exists but there is no knowledge of the transaction and no interaction between the transaction provider and the verifier is required. There is more privacy is such a system but no visible verifiability beyond the established rules it may have.
These were the highlights of the main podcast concepts, for further discussion you can view the podcast on YouTube.
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