Blockchain Networks in 2019
A set of practical guideposts for choosing a smart contract platform
In 2018, Cryptocurrencies and by extension the blockchain networks on which they were conceived went through an evolution. This, however, was not an incredible technical evolution that impacted the whole sector, but rather a philosophical change in the perception of blockchains and an evaluation of the core function of these currencies. While these debates and speculations tore asunder the surface of the industry, they are scars on the surface of something much greater.
In fact, the technical progression of the ideas originally proposed by Bitcoin has never faltered and only gained momentum as it further refined the ideas of privacy and scalability of a decentralized platform. In an almost completely separate avenue of thought from the turmoil and speculation on the surface of cryptocurrencies, there are teams pushing the technical boundaries of what can be achieved with a renewed interest in applied cryptography and distributed systems. The blockchain industry emerged from 2018 with alignment from the public: that the utility of the technology itself vastly outweigh the currencies it supports.
So then, what should a blockchain network entail in 2019? From whom are the requirements derived from and for what reason? Within the Aion Research and Roadmap Team (ARRT), we firmly believe that the utility of the network is defined by how effective and usable it is to an end user, and to that end, we have progressed with our research using the following criteria as our guideposts:
- High Throughput — A blockchain should be capable of handling significantly higher throughput than what is available today in conventional compute blockchains. We are exploring a possibility from that of state-sharding, in which the network is segmented to parallelize computation, then consolidate in some master record.
- Collusion Resistant — The existence of agents who collude or bribe in some respect should not be allowed to maintain power for an extended period of time. This drives some limitations on consensus and security assumptions, that we will explore with you on a later publication.
- Efficient — The efficiency of the core function should outweigh the noise of required to drive the network, lest the network collapse under it’s own complexity. Internally we have been treating this requirement as a thought experiment, conceiving the core utility of the network as the signal and the noise in terms of computation, space and time complexity to form an analogy to an SNR. The idea of improving efficiency is often more bound to limitations in the tools available to us (the toolbox), which necessitates for us, further research.
- Usable — To the end user, the system should be usable in the sense that it does not impose complexity in the model needed to reason about the implementation and security of the compute task. The obvious implication being that the abstraction and burden of the network cannot be subsequently all be placed onto users. Here we seek to impose limitations specifically on the interactiveness in the games we seek to play in securing the network.
Many people now understand that blockchains aren’t the panacea to our problems. Instead, they are tools intended to solve specific use-cases as with many others. This is a net positive for everyone, beyond the hype and delusions of grandeur, there is promise in the tools being built. We believe in these principles because they lead to a highly robust and usable system, a system capable of running classes of applications with greater complexity than what is available now.
These are the ideas that drive many internal discussions with ARRT, and allow us to prioritize which metrics and criteria to optimize for in a multi-faceted system. In the coming weeks we will be publishing an article regarding sampling, and the requirements it drives on committees, in addition to more details on how we envision the roadmap and modus operandi of a blockchain foundation in 2019.