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Colloquium – Bryan Ford
August 15, 2019 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL)
August 15, 2019
lecture – 11:00am
Host: Eric Eide
Coins, Clubs, and Crowds: Scaling and Decentralization in
Next-Generation Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies
Building secure systems from independent, mutually distrustful parties is an old topic in computer science. But despite its attendant hype and misinformation, today’s “blockchain bandwagon” has successfully brought the gospel of decentralization – both a realization of its possibility and an appreciation for its value – to mainstream society. Currently deployed blockchains, however, are slow, unscalable, weakly consistent, profligate in energy use, and have effectively re-centralized due to market pressures. We will explore challenges and some areas of ongoing progress in rethinking blockchain architecture to improve scalability, efficiency, functionality, privacy, and decentralization. We will explore how decentralized building blocks such as collective signatures and scalable distributed randomness enable architecturally modular solutions to challenges such as scalable Byzantine consensus, horizontal sharding, proof-of-stake, and blockchain-managed secrets. Finally, we explore challenges in fairness and democratization in decentralized systems, and the goal of creating a secure “one-person-one-vote” foundation for decentralization.
Prof. Bryan Ford leads the Decentralized/Distributed Systems (DEDIS) research laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Ford focuses broadly on building secure decentralized systems, touching on topics including private and anonymous communication, scalable decentralized systems, blockchain technology, Internet architecture, and operating systems. Ford earned his B.S. at the University of Utah and his Ph.D. at MIT, then joined the faculty of Yale University where his work received the Jay Lepreau Best Paper Award and grants from NSF, DARPA, and ONR, including the NSF CAREER award. His continuing work receives support from EPFL, the AXA Research Fund, and numerous industry partners. He has served on numerous prestigious advisory boards including on the DARPA Information Science and Technology (ISAT) study group and the Swiss FinTech Innovations (SFTI) advisory board.