Is blockchain puny?

Here is a new and intriguing idea (link now fixed) from StarkWare, a blockchain start-up based in Israel.  Authored by Eli Ben-Sasson, here is one excerpt:

Imagine if we accepted, for the foreseeable future, that we can only write on a given blockchain ten times per second, but instead of writing ten single transactions, made ten additions to the blockchain, each attesting to thousands of transactions. Despite the scale-up, there would be no significant rise in the number of kilobytes being added to the chain.

In short, I’m talking about a fix that would mean the same blockchains that I brazenly called puny would suddenly become mighty.

This fix is the adoption of  cryptographic proofs — a concept that captured my imagination when I was a PhD student under Professor Avi Wigderson, one of the pioneers of this area of mathematics, and when I was a postdoc under Professor Madhu Sudan, another of the founding fathers of this field. After 20 years in academia, today I am president of StarkWare (@StarkWareLtd on Twitter), a company I co-founded to move this fix from the realm of theory to reality – a reality that will scale-up blockchain to an unprecedented degree.

Currently, Bitcoin establishes integrity the way you do it with your waiter or waitress. As you sit at your table, the waiting staff present a bill with the food you ordered, taking up the role of the “prover.” You check the calculation — making you the “verifier.”

With Bitcoin, the miner of a new block is the “prover.” Every block acts as proof that the payments contained in it are valid. And the nodes, meaning the many computers which host and synchronize a copy of the entire Bitcoin blockchain, naively replay each transaction in the block to verify that it is correct.

With cryptographic proofs, instead of recording this data-heavy information to the blockchain, we write on the chain in a kind of shorthand — proofs which verify that transactions have been conducted with integrity. All the heavy computational lift, meaning the work done to obtain the proof, happens in the cloud, not the blockchain.

It is logic we’re all familiar with in other areas of life. A large company may have its flagship office in central Manhattan, but wouldn’t dream of using such prime real estate for its huge factory, where the heavy lifting takes place.

Stay tuned….


Comments for this post are closed