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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Blockchains From a Distributed Computing Perspective

The underlying idea of blockchains is not new, and this paper makes the point.   An introduction to those who want to understand  its relationship to other  forms of computational distributed architecture.   Thoughtful, not overly technical.

Introductory video:  https://vimeo.com/310203954  Good point within that blockchains are finally a application of elegant distributed computing algorithms.

Blockchains From a Distributed Computing Perspective   By Maurice Herlihy 

Communications of the ACM, February 2019, Vol. 62 No. 2, Pages 78-85

Bitcoin first appeared in a 2008 white paper authored by someone called Satoshi Nakamoto,  the mysterious deus absconditus of the blockchain world. Today, cryptocurrencies and blockchains are very much in the news. Much of this coverage is lurid, sensationalistic, and irresistible: roller-coaster prices and instant riches, vast sums of money stolen or inexplicably lost, underground markets for drugs and weapons, and promises of libertarian utopias just around the corner.

This article is a tutorial on the basic notions and mechanisms underlying blockchains, colored by the perspective that much of the blockchain world is a disguised, sometimes distorted, mirror image of the distributed computing world.

This article is not a technical manual, nor is it a broad survey of the literature (both widely available elsewhere). Instead, it attempts to explain blockchain research in terms of the many similarities, parallels, semi-reinventions, and lessons not learned from distributed computing.

This article is intended mostly to appeal to blockchain novices, but perhaps it will provide some insights to those familiar with blockchain research but less familiar with its precursors.  ... " 

Full PDF:    https://cs.brown.edu/courses/csci2952-a/papers/perspective.pdf 

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