Video Blog

One of our founders, Meher Roy, is a show host at Epicenter Bitcoin. Here are educational videos covering different aspects of blockchain technology and smart contracts:

A new kind of auditing - cryptographic proof of webpages

A pioneering feature of Bitcoin is verifiability of transactions: It is designed to enable low-power devices and high end computers alike to be able to verify occurrences on the blockchain.

This observation led our guest, Adam Gibson, to wonder why webpages aren’t so easily verifiable as a Bitcoin transaction? Can I prove to you that I have certain bank account balance over the internet? Why do we submit photocopies of passports rather than furnishing a cryptographically verifiable proof of citizenship by logging on to a Government site?

Born out of this intellectual itch is the TLS Notary protocol. It pioneers a new kind of auditing that enables participants to prove that a certain https page was in their browser. This protocol paves the way to brilliant designs for Proof of Reserves, Smart contract oracles and Decentralised fiat-to-bitcoin exchange.

Topics covered included:

– Why is the current Web structured to be not easily verifiable?
– What is TLS and how does it work?
– How TLS differs from SSL.
– The TLS Notary protocol
– Capabilities and limitations of TLS Notary.
– Applications of TLS Notary including provably honest smart contract oracles.

From lawyer capitalism to programmer capitalism

Vinay Gupta has been a programmer, 1990s cypherpunk, ‘resilience guru’, Ethereum release coordinator and currently collaborates with Consensys to mainstream smart contract technology. He also invented the Hexayurt, a cheap and resilient architectural structure for disaster-stricken communities.

Recently, Vinay has become a thought leader in the cryptocurrency space. He is famed for his eloquence and ability to distill the crypto-finance technological paradigm into easy big-picture visualisations. Check out this provocative podcast for some unique insights into technology, politics and history.

Topics covered included:
– His work on resilience. The connection between resilience and cryptocurrencies
– A history of the cypherpunks – who they were, what they believed in and why they failed.
– Why smart contracts matter? What is special about them?
– The impact cryptocurrencies will have on capitalism
– Why cryptocurrencies could be a great tool to explore basic income

On blockchains and zero knowledge proof systems

Zero Knowledge Proofs are methods of providing cryptographic proofs to another party while keeping some information secret. The simple concept of ZKP offer tantalising possibilities: Banks could prove solvency without revealing depositors. Governments could prove the fairness of an election without compromising privacy.

In this video, Computer science professor Eli Ben-Sasson walks through how blockchains and cryptocurrencies intersect with Zero Knowledge Proofs and related technologies such as zkSNARKs. It offered a fascinating view into what will surely become a core part of blockchain tech in the future.

Topics covered included:
– What are proof systems?
– Zero Knowledge Proofs (ZKP) and other terminology such as SNARKs and zkSNARKs
– The mechanics of ZKPs
– Performance characteristics of current ZKP systems
– Applications of ZKPs
– The widespread potential impact of ZKP to verify processes

Private modularised blockchains with Tendermint

As blockchain technologies mature, new protocol specifications are emerging, which take unique approaches to software design and how consensus is achieved. Tendermint promises to be a viable solution for many permissioned blockchain use cases. It’s design is modular, meaning that the application layer (smart contract) and the consensus layer are completely independent. This provides added flexibility and allows for business logic to be written in any programming language. In addition, its unique approach to consensus, a round-robin Proof-of-Skate algorithm, is much better suited for permissioned blockchain scenarios than Proof-of-Work.

Jae Kwon, Dustin Byington and Ethan Buchman talk about this promising new blockchain protocol and how it is different from other projects.

Topics covered in this episode include:

– How Tendermint came to be and how it has evolved since its creation
– Smart contract programming and the Tendermint Socket Protocol (TMSP)
– How Tendermint makes use of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)
– Tendermint’s approach to PoS consensus and its scalability benefits
– Use case for permissioned and public blockchains
– Future plans and business models

Eris industries and permissioned blockchains

Permissioned blockchains have gained much attention from enterprises this past year specifically in the traditional finance and FinTech sectors. It is becoming apparent that blockchains are a new class of database that integrates business logic (smart contracts) and a consensus layer (PoS, PoW, etc).

Casey Kuhlman is the CEO of Eris Industries, a company which specialises in building permissioned blockchains for enterprise. Their aim is to deliver the toolsets which enable companies to easily build and deploy applications while making use of blockchain and smart contract technologies.

Topics we discussed include:

– Casey’s impressive background as an engineer, Marine soldier, lawyer and startup founder
– Eris Industries and what the company is trying to achieve
– Permissionable blockchains and their usefulness in industrial applications
– Smart contracts, how to explain them and legal status
– How blockchains can be used to revolutionise the way organisations construct business processes
– The idea of Blockchains-as-a-Service
– The various use cases for blockchain technologies

Design of the Ethereum gas model

Andrew Miller is a computer science PhD student at the University of Maryland who focuses on cryptocurrency. He is one of the most prolific researchers in the field and got involved in Bitcoin in 2011 as a researcher.

The discussion mainly focuses on security aspects of Ethereum including the gas model, Proof-of-Work algorithm and plans to switch to Proof-of-Stake.

Topics covered included:
– How he got involved in doing research on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies
– The blossoming of academic interest in the topic
– His work on analysing Ethereum’s gas model
– Potential vulnerabilities of the Gas model
– Ethereum’s PoW algorithm
– How Ethereum handles the block size limit

On Blockchain ID - a decentralised identity system

A brilliant fact about crypto-economic blockchains is that they enable the construction of naming systems that transcend limits imposed by Zooko’s triangle. Traditional naming systems such as human names, Domain Name System (DNS) and Facebook profile names are subject to Zooko’s triangle and cannot be secure, human memorable and decentralised at once. For instance human names such as Meher Roy are human-memorable and decentralised but not secure (nothing prevents hundreds of people being called Meher Roy). Domain Names like https://epicenterbitcoin.com are secure and human-memorable but require a central authority to hand out names.

OneName leverages Bitcoin to build a Global Identification system called Blockchain ID. Blockchain IDs for users can be associated with real world identity data such as social media profiles, government issued papers etc. In this episode Ryan Shea and Muneeb Ali, co-founders and leaders of OneName, Blockstore and BlockStack, explain the rationale and vision behind their push for a Global Decentralised Identification and Verification system.

Topics covered include:

– Zooko’s triangle and how Bitcoin breaks the triangle
– The general idea behind blockchain ID, how it works and its component transactions
– Why OneName migrated their blockchain ID system from the Namecoin to the Bitcoin blockchain
– Technical design of Blockstore and how it enables decentralised storage and association of large datasets to blockchain IDs
– Vision and use cases for Decentralised Identity, authentication and identity verification.
– The notion of Probabilistic Identity

Prediction markets, Futarchy & the challenge Of disruptive technology

When Robin Hanson invented the concept of prediction markets almost thirty years ago, he felt he had stumbled on a concept with huge implications. By allowing people to bet on the likelihood of future events, prediction markets allow better forecasts and better decision making.

Research into the area has been vibrant, culminating in Hanson’s concept of Futarchy: A prediction-market based governance system. At the same time, the real-world applications have been few and far.

Hanson, an associate professor of economics at George Mason University, joined us to discuss his invention, futarchy and the challenges of disruptive technology.

Topics covered included:
– How prediction markets can surface information
– The history of prediction markets
– How futarchy works
– Whether futarchy could settle the blocksize debate
– Why prediction markets failed to get wide adoption
– How Bitcoin is facing a similar adoption challenge