Is the largest future upgrade of the Ethereum "fundamentally vulnerable"?
This was claimed Friday by distributed systems expert and senior researcher and founder of VMware Dahlia Malkhi, who used these words to describe the Casper propellant of the Ethereum at Financial Cryptography 2018 in Curacao .
At a presentation, Malkhi covered the blockchain through the lens of a long-studied computer field that explores how nodes reach a deal. Still, it was his critical remarks on Casper, an update that promised to introduce a better, greener algorithm for the ethereum blockchain, which may have attracted the most attention. ;Warning.
Unlike the pioneering work proof bitcoin system whereby miners spend electricity and energy to check blocks of transactions, proof of participation offers a kind of virtual exploitation, where the coins themselves are locked up (like capital in the physical miners). ) and then perform calculations.
As such, proponents of the proposal say that the evidence of the issue will have the same theoretical benefit to the system, without the actual energy costs and environmental problems.
But while the opposition of the idea was just as ferocious, Malkhi's comments may mark the first time that a renowned computer scientist has weighed in the debate.
She said to the audience:
"I think the evidence of the issue is fundamentally vulnerable, you give authority to a group to call the shots […] In my opinion, that gives power to people who have a lot of money.
Still, she softened the blow, adding that she believes that Casper led to the "interesting" research that fueled growing interest and innovation in the field of distributed systems.
Learning from History
As a person who has been studying distributed systems for years, Malkhi's greatest concerns derive from the two properties that should be preserved by technology: security and liveliness.
In blockchain systems, these attributes help to indicate whether transactions will proceed correctly and whether the system itself is advancing over time.
"I had a conversation with [ethereum’s Casper lead author] Vlad Zamfir yesterday," Malkhi said. "He argues, is not it still useful if it's" mainly "live?"
In the spirit of Malkhi, the answer is no, because there are vulnerabilities in the way some blockchain projects, such as Casper, are currently formatted.
"We have several decades of experience here," she said.
Her remarks suggest that she is concerned that traditional academic rigor has not been sufficiently applied to the idea and that, in doing so, key assumptions may be invalidated.
Excitement for the future
That does not mean that Malkhi is not excited about cryptocurrency and the new research and innovation that he has spawned.
Elsewhere in her speech, she was in agreement with the often quoted opinion that Bitcoin is helping to solve a very important problem in distributed systems – the problem of the Byzantines – a glimpse that she awards to notable investors like Marc Andreessen.
Still, she is quick to say that the work is not over yet, qualifying Andreessen's commentary as "insightful" but also perhaps "overly optimistic". As such, her comments suggest that she does not believe any blockchain is architected in a manner that is free from defects.
"The problem is not solved, yes, we have solid foundations, but these fundamentals break in a surprising way especially when you try to break them and innovate."
Picture of Dahlia Maklhi via pwlconf