Anonymous Answers to Three Questions at a Blockchain Conference

2018 is a year the blockchain industry wishes it could forget.

During the past year, many ambitious promises were made but never quite delivered. Many coins’ price dropped. Roadmap deadlines pushed back. Investors have become much more cautious.

Where is blockchain heading to? What are some of the questions that need to be answered now?

We came up with 3 questions and interviewed some people from the speakers’ list for our upcoming conference “Blockchain Connect Conference 2019”. Since many of them are currently working in the blockchain industry, we decided to leave out their names.

1. Will blockchain technology trigger an upgrade of hardware technology in the future?

From bitcoin mining machine to blockchain smartphones to cold wallet, hardware has been playing an important role in the blockchain ecosystem. Generally speaking, hardware products in blockchain are used in the production, circulation, and secure storage of coins. The goal is to maximize the sharing of computing power, hard drives, bandwidth, etc.

So, will blockchain technology trigger an upgrade of hardware technology in the future?

Almost all of the speakers we interviewed gave a positive answer.

One said, “Blockchain technologies have a history of driving hardware innovations and there is every reason to believe that will continue. Historically, it is easy to trace the advancement of Bitcoin mining operations from earlier, general-purpose processors through systems based on graphics processors, and then into special purpose ASICs.”

Currently, there are many efforts to bring hardware-based solutions to bear on blockchain technology, such as hardware-based verifiable delay functions (VDF) for efficient consensus, hardware-based wallets for secure key management, and various hardware-based trusted execution environments (for example, Keystone and Intel Software Guard Extensions™).

Another answer agrees:

Hardware support for cryptographic operations is still primitive. As blockchain and crypto mature, we’ll begin to see further hardware support for homomorphic encryption, garbled circuits, SNARKs/STARKs and more.

2. Can smart contracts achieve full arbitration?

The idea of smart contracts is both exciting and liberating. However, while the repetitive process of making simple decisions could potentially be alleviated by smart contracts on blockchain, people seem to have doubts about its ability to handle complex decision-making.

As one of the answers mentioned, the society we live in is one where “social structures and rule of law continue to be the ultimate authority.” Automated execution of smart contracts may improve the efficiency of interactions, offloading most of the “normal” or “regular” operation of interactions. However, it “seems unrealistic to expect that codified contracts will be robust to the diversity of issues that arise in a typical social or business interaction.”

Another interviewee is also “tentatively skeptical about the possibility of full arbitration through smart contracts.” That said, it seems like people still think it is possible that useful limited arbitration could be achieved through contracts with fall-back to human arbitrators as necessary.

3. Will a DApp be able to run independently from the existing centralized system, and run entirely within the blockchain system instead?

“Unlikely. I see no particular reason to push interface, data management and other parts of an application into the blockchain proper. Requirements for efficiency, performance, ease of management, etc will likely encourage application developers to push into the blockchain only those parts of the application that truly require decentralization.”

Another answer is slightly more positive:

“In limited cases yes, but most DApps will continue to be semi-centralized for the next few years at least.”

Looks like we still have a long way to go before achieving fully-independently-run DApps, if that’s achievable at all.

Out of curiosity, we also added a bonus question:

If you were to pick 1 word to describe the world of blockchain in 2018, which word would you pick and why?

Here are some answers:

Reality.

Zero-Knowledge (nice job hyphenating). Reason: zk-SNARKs and zk-STARKs bring fundamental new primitives to the table that will enable hosts of new applications. We’ve seen a lot of quiet advancement on the zero-knowledge front this year.

Chaos.

And… some people refused to answer this question because picking just one word is too difficult for what we’ve all been through in 2018. I can see why that is.

Which word would you pick? Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

If you’d like to have an in-person discussion with our speakers, join us at Blockchain Connect Conference at San Francisco on Jan 11, 2019.

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We asked a bunch of blockchain experts these 3 questions was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.