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Because of this misuse and misunderstanding of blockchain, there tends to be a lot of hate towards the technology too. If you use it in a place where there is a better solution — which there often is — then you get all of the downsides plus more than if you used it in a fitting way and none of the benefits. Out of all the use cases out there in the world, blockchain matches about 0. If you have the requirements for a blockchain solution, then even the energy wasting, proof of work, Bitcoin-style blockchain has its use case — in Bitcoin for example.
Even within the blockchain space there are very few things that have the same requirements as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but again, if you have those particular requirements, there is no other alternative solution. Find the right blockchain based on trust The number one requirement for something like Bitcoin is that you can trust no one.
In a normal situation, when you set up a server-side solution and set up a web server cluster or a database cluster, you set up those machines and trust yourself, and you and your team operate it securely or maybe use a trusted cloud provider. But in a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, that is exactly the case.
Proof of work The way Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies protect you against malicious actors is through having a proof of work consensus protocol, which in short, is an energy wasting way of proving that you did something — this is the thing that Bitcoin is most criticized for, and as of now there is no mature alternative.
But there are a number of scenarios where this no-trust approach is not needed. The solutions explored so far have managed to provide a satisfactory response to the market needs via the introduction of history linearisation techniques, one-way hashing encryptions, merkle trees and off-chain storage, although the linearity of the immutable history comes at a cost notably transaction volume. Decentralisation of control One of the reactions following the global financial crisis was against over-centralisation.
This led to the exploration of various decentralised mechanisms. The proposition that individuals would like to enjoy the freedom to be independent of a central authority gained in popularity. Self-determination, democratic fairness and heterogeneity as a form of wealth are among the dominant values broadly recognised in Western and, increasingly, non-Western society. These values added weight to the movement that introducing decentralisation in a system is positive.
With full decentralisation, there is no central authority to resolve potential transactional issues for us. Traditional, centralised systems have well developed anti-fraud and asset recovery mechanisms which people have become used to. Using new, decentralised technology places a far greater responsibility on the user if they are to receive all of the benefits of the technology, forcing them to take additional precautions when it comes to handling and storing their digital assets.
Is the increased level of personal responsibility that goes with the proper implementation of a secure blockchain a price that users are willing to pay? Or, will they trade off some security in exchange for ease of use and, by definition, more centralisation?
Several approaches have grown out of the blockchain industry, some competing and some complementary. There has also been a significant focus on the concept of governance within a blockchain ecosystem. This concerns the need to regulate the rates at which new blocks are added to the chain and the associated rewards for miners in the case of blockchains using proof of work POW consensus methodologies.
More generally, it is important to create incentives and deterrent mechanisms whereby interested actors contribute positively to the healthy continuation of chain growth. Other similar approaches proof of space, proof of bandwidth etc followed, however, they all suffer from exposure to deviations from the intended fair distribution of control. This results in overtaking the competition to obtain the reward, and the authority to mine new blocks, which has the inherent effect of centralising the control.
Also, the huge energy consumption that comes with the inefficient nature of the competitive race to mine new blocks in POW consensus mechanisms has raised concerns about its environmental impact and economic sustainability. Proof of Stake POS and Proof of Importance POI are among the ideas introduced to drive consensus via the use of more social parameters, rather than computing resources.
More recently, semi-automatic approaches, driven by a human-curated group of ledgers, are putting in place solutions to overcome the limitations and arguable fairness of the above strategies. The Delegated Proof of Stake DPOS and Proof of Authority POA methods promise higher throughput and lower energy consumption, while the human element can ensure a more adaptive and flexible response to potential deviations caused by malicious actors attempting to exploit a vulnerability in the system.
Distribution and resilience Apart from a decentralising authority, control and governance, blockchain solutions typically embrace a distributed peer to peer P2P design paradigm. This preference is motivated by the inherent resilience and flexibility that these types of networks have introduced and demonstrated, particularly in the context of file and data sharing.
In the event that the central node breaks down or is congested, all the other nodes will be affected by disruptions. Decentralised and distributed networks attempt to reduce the detrimental effects that issues occurring on a node might trigger on other nodes.
In a decentralised network, the failure of a node can still affect several neighbouring nodes that rely on it to carry out their operations. In a distributed network the idea is that the failure of a single node should not impact significantly any other node.
This greatly increases the chance of keeping a service available in the event of failure or malicious attacks such as a denial of service DOS attack. There is truth in this, especially when it comes to very large networks such as that of Bitcoin.
In such a highly distributed network, the resources needed to generate a significant disruption are very high, which not only delivers on the resilience requirement but also works as a deterrent against malicious attacks principally because the cost of conducting a successful malicious attack becomes prohibitive. Although a distributed topology can provide an effective response to failures or traffic spikes, you need to be aware that delivering resilience against prolonged over-capacity demands or malicious attacks requires adequate adapting mechanisms.
While the Bitcoin network is well positioned, as it currently benefits from a high capacity condition due to the historical high incentive to purchase hardware by third-party miners , this is not the case for other emerging networks as they grow in popularity.
This is where novel instruments, capable of delivering preemptive adaptation combined with back pressure throttling applied to the P2P level, can be of great value. Distributed systems are not new and, whilst they provide highly robust solutions to many enterprise and governmental problems, they are subject to the laws of physics and require their architects to consider the trade-offs that need to be made in their design and implementation e.
Automation In order to sustain a coherent, fair and consistent blockchain and surrounding ecosystem, a high degree of automation is required. Existing areas with a high demand for automation include those common to most distributed systems. For instance; deployment, elastic topologies, monitoring, recovery from anomalies, testing, continuous integration, and continuous delivery.
In the context of blockchains, these represent well-established IT engineering practices. The trend of social interactions has seen a significant shift towards scripting for transactional operations. This is where smart contracts and constrained virtual machine VM interpreters have emerged — an effort pioneered by the Ethereum project. The ability to define how to operate an asset exchange, by which conditions and actioned following which triggers, has attracted many blockchain enthusiasts.
Some of the most common applications of smart contracts involve lotteries, trade of digital assets and derivative trading. While there is clearly exciting potential unleashed by the introduction of smart contracts, it is also true that it is still an area with a high entry barrier.
Only skilled developers that are willing to invest time in learning Domain Specific Languages DSL have access to the actual creation and modification of these contracts. If badly-designed contracts cannot properly rollback or undo a miscarried transaction, their execution might lead to assets being lost or erroneously handed over to unwanted receivers.
Another area in high need for automation is governance.
Law enforcement has an advantage when it gets ahold of digital devices. Despite claims from Apple, Google and even the Justice Department that smartphones are largely impenetrable, thousands of law enforcement agencies have tools that can infiltrate the latest phones to extract data. There is no real challenge to accessing the data. From January through June , Apple said, it turned over the contents of tens of thousands of iCloud accounts to U. And on Friday, Apple said that in , it had unknowingly turned over to the Justice Department the phone records of congressional staff members, their families and at least two members of Congress, including Representative Adam B.
Schiff of California, now the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The subpoena was part of an investigation by the Trump administration into leaks of classified information. Challenge of Encryption Yet intercepting communications has remained a troublesome problem for the police. While criminals used to talk over channels that were relatively simple to tap — like phones, emails and basic text messages — most now use encrypted messengers, which are not.
Not even the companies have access to their contents, allowing Apple and Facebook to argue that they cannot turn them over to law enforcement. Court documents indicated that investigators traced bitcoin transaction records to a digital wallet, which they subsequently seized under court order.
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