Earlier this week, RChain founder Greg Lucius Meredith presented at the International Finance Forum conference in Beijing:
About International Finance Forum (IFF)
Established in 2003, the International Financial Forum is a non-profit and non-governmental unofficial international forum organization. Headquartered in Beijing, it is a high-level dialogue and academic exchange mechanism co-sponsored by business leaders and scholars in the global financial community and academic circles. For more information, please visit: http://www.iff.org.cn/php/list.php?tid=403
The event was live-streamed globally: . https://dythz.evp.mudu.tv/watch/may3knvm
RChain was the only blockchain platform invited to speak at the conference.
Watch Greg’s presentation below:
All right, so thank you so much for the opportunity to have RChain cooperative present our work to the IFF 2021 conference. Since we only have about 8 minutes, I’m gonna jump right to it.
So I want to talk to you a little bit about the currency of concurrency, I confess that I had some difficulties finding the right way to begin this talk. And the real reason is not because there aren’t exciting developments in digital currency, like non fungible tokens or active tokens, but because there really isn’t a future for digital currency. In fact, there isn’t a future for fiat currency either.
Why do I say that? About 40% of the world’s population lives in the tropical band around the globe, and already, the temperature of the world has warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius, just about 1.15, that region becomes an inhabitable.
And even though all of the governments that have signed on to the Paris accords, have agreed, at least in principle, to hold the temperatures to 1.5, if you look at the policies and actual projections, we’re going to blow well past two degrees Celsius, which means that in less than a decade, or just over a decade, somewhere in that timeframe, 2.8 billion people are going to have to migrate.
If you compare that to the humanitarian crisis of the Syrian refugees, which were arguably also climate migrants, you’ll see that a crisis, several orders of magnitude is going to be more than what the existing infrastructure can bear.
But it’s not just about humanitarian crisis. It’s the entire biome of the globe. 80% of insects by biomass are gone, let that sink in. Even the people who have a positive attitude about this, the thought leaders are arguing that it’s going to take a kind of coordination that we’ve never seen before.
In his recent 60 Minutes interview, Bill Gates argues that it will take global coordination, more complex than what we saw in the last World War. And yet none of the technologies that he advances in that interview are coordination technologies. So there isn’t a future for digital currency, or fiat currency, unless humanity works together in a way we have never worked together before.
Now, RChain sees blockchain as a pivotal coordination technology, it can provide the coordination substrate, we need to get ourselves out of this mess. So when we say blockchain, what do we mean because there’s lots of projects that call themselves blockchain projects. But any any blockchain worthy of the name is going to have at its core, an economically secure leaderless distributed consensus algorithm.
Now, what does that mean? The upshot of that is that you can have a bunch of autonomous
programs, programs that run independently and don’t necessarily trust each other, agree on a locally stored value. And so then the real question becomes what kind of value if you store? Bitcoin stores a ledger, right? So each node is maintaining a copy of the ledger? And that has some obvious but rather limited utility.
Ethereum answers that question better, much better, it says, instead of storing a ledger, let’s store the state of a virtual machine. And then the ledger can just be a program on top of that virtual machine.
Unfortunately, Etherium then chooses a sequential virtual machine. And that is the essence of the problem.
And we’ll talk about that. But let me just say that RChain improves both. It improves both the consensus algorithm and the kind of virtual machine that is stored making it concurrent. But since we have limited time, even if you had a perfect consensus algorithm that took no time, the concurrency issue would still dominate.
So let’s say why. Picture in your mind, an eight lane freeway, with very good lane discipline, so not too much lane crossing, that’s going to get about eight times the throughput of a one lane freeway. Now what happens if all those lanes are funneled down to one lane? You get the picture.
But the reality is that most transactions in real life are isolated. So just think about it. Use your common sense, someone buying empanadas from a street vendor in Santiago, are almost certainly going to be using different resources than someone who is at the same time buying grilled tofu from a street vendor in Shanghai. So that means that means because they are they’re using different resources, those transactions can run at the same time, and they do on the existing financial infrastructure.
But Ethereum would be forced and is forced to serialize those transactions. And this is not just true of tokens, but of all computational resources. So that causes us to ask ourselves, what models of computation, what properties and models of computation would help us pick out the right model of computation for the for the blockchain, if it were going to be a scalable coordination infrastructure.
And there are four properties completeness: can you write down any program that you might want to write down? Is it Compositional? Can you build more complex programs that have smaller simpler ones Concurrency: which is what we’re talking about, and Complexity: can you measure the time and the space involved in the execution of a given program?
It turns out that up until the late 80s, early 90s, we didn’t even have a model of computation that had all of those properties. And what that says is that you can just use this table to quickly analyze a bunch of blockchain projects. And you can say, Well, if they’re based on the Turing machine, or the lambda calculus, or anything above the yellow box here on this table, whether you’re talking about Tezos or, or Cardano, which are based on the lambda calculus, or Ethereum, which is based on a Von Neuman style machine, which is of the same ilk, as the Turing machine.
All of those, we can eliminate as having scalability problems, if it’s using something in the yellow box, ie it’s a mobile process calculus that at least has all four properties, then is not going to face those basic scalability issues. If, in addition, it’s based on the bottom row, the rho calculus, then we get two additional features, which are really important. When we’re talking about building a compute infrastructure at scale, then it’s not the humans that are writing the programs, it’s the programs that are writing the programs.
So you need a meta programming capability, which is embodied in reflection. Likewise, even if the core protocol were written by the angels themselves, those pesky humans are going to introduce bugs, which means you have to be able to catch concurrency bugs, security bugs, and many other kinds of issues that will be introduced and their behavioral types becomes absolutely essential.
What would have happened if Etherium had been running at 40,000 transactions per second, and the Dao bug had hit in one second, one heartbeat, $150 million would have been drained out of that contract, and there would have been no way for that network to recover. So that’s why the behavioral types are so critical, which is why RChain focuses on the rho calculus.
Now, I don’t have time to go into the rho calculus, but notice that it fits on the page. And it allows for correct by construction between the smart contracting language and the execution mechanism. So there are no bytecode injection tests possible.
Whereas projects like Etherium, Cardano, Tezos and many others have to have a proof obligation that there can be no bytecode injection attacks. I can’t talk about all of these other good things that I do hope we have the chance to meet face to face and we can we can talk about how “namespaces” for example, allow you to solve for both the DAG based acceleration and sharding acceleration using a single mechanism.
But what I want to leave you with is that blockchain, as opposed to merely digital currency, has the potential to provide the pivotal coordination technology. It can provide a global computer and a global database that can amplify humanity’s extraordinary ability to coordinate and work together.
In particular, it can provide the ability to have on chain self governance. They can provide the ability to have on chain self sovereign identity and self sovereign data. They can provide the needs to have a reconfigurable smart power grid.
And because of its decentralization, you can put it in the hands of the people who can then light the way for the use of blockchains that we never dreamed possible.
So with that, I wish you a very good and successful conference. Thank you very much.