Why Blocks and Why Chains; A First Principles (Re)Design of Blockchains

Thu, Nov 29, 2018, 4:30 pm
B205 Engineering Quadrangle


Today's blockchains do not scale in a meaningful way. As more nodes join the system, the efficiency of the system (computation, communication, and storage) degrades, or at best stays constant. Furthermore, the security of the permission less system imposes limitations on the core performance metrics of throughput, latency and reliability. We take a first principle approach to the blockchain ecosystem addressing each of the various components holistically. Our approach is characterized by seeking fundamental limits  (those prescribed by the physics of the underlying network) to performance and designing algorithms that attain them.  This research is informed by decades of experience in information theory, coding theory, algorithms, wireless communication and packet networks.  This talk will highlight key outcomes of this research program, including:

Prism  (a new consensus algorithm that guarantees information theoretically optimal throughput, latency, reliability), 

Spider (a new networking protocol for off-chain payment channels), 

Polyshard  (a new coded storage architecture), and 

Dandelion (a new network privacy layer).  









Pramod Viswanath received the Ph.D. degree in EECS from UC Berkeley in 2000. From 2000 to 2001, he was a member of research staff at Flarion technologies, NJ. Since 2001, he is on the faculty at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Electrical and Computer Engineering, where he currently is a professor.  He is a coauthor, with David Tse, of the text Fundamentals of Wireless Communication, which has been used in over 60 institutions around the world. He is coinventor of the opportunistic beamforming method and codesigner of Flash-OFDM communication algorithms adapted into fourth-generation cellular systems.

His current research interests are in blockchain technologies from a variety of angles: networking protocols, consensus algorithms, payment channels, distributed coded storage and incentive designs. He is co-founder and CEO of Applied Protocol Research, a startup doing research on  blockchain technologies. Applied Protocol Research  is staffed by academics (professors, PhDs, and intern graduate students), with a wide variety of backgrounds (EE/CS/ECON covering both theory/systems from different institutions (Berkeley, CMU, Illinois, MIT, Stanford, USC, UW-Seattle).

This talk is joint work by the speaker with: Mohammad Alizadeh (MIT), Salman Avestimehr (USC), Giulia Fanti (CMU), Sreeram Kannan (UW-Seattle), Sewoong Oh (Illinois) and David Tse (Stanford).