Blockchains & Distributed Ledger Technology

Speaker:  Edgar Weippl – Vienna, Austria
Topic(s):  Security and Privacy


The rise of cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technologies, has captured the interest from diverse communities and its potential applications are currently a hotly debated and vividly discussed topic and the amount of money being invested by companies into blockchain technology at the moment indicates a strong probability for a long-term establishment of these technologies. 

Blockchains are useful for applications that need databases with shared write or updates in an environment where users do not know or trust each other, and no trusted third party can be used. Moreover, blockchains and their underlying principles can be used to reach agreement or consensus upon a distributed state or other values in such an environment, thereby serving as a fundamental building block for distributed systems. They have many different aspects and can therefore be viewed from various angles, including the financial and economic, legal, political, and sociological perspective, as well as considering technical and socio-technical points of view.  

These very different viewpoints can be separated even further ? for example, the technical aspects can be divided i.a. into the following fields: cryptography; network and distributed systems; game theory; data science; and software and language security.

While in this context scalability and sustainability are topics of active research and development, other aspects have received considerably less attention and many open questions remain regarding the long-term perspective of both permissionless and permissioned blockchain technologies. 

It is important to note that this field of research poses very unique challenges: Due to the interdisciplinary nature of blockchains, progress is not only a question of technology but is dependent on the exchange of ideas between fields such as game theory, economics, legal sciences, sociology, computer science. Furthermore, the decentralized nature of blockchains needs to be considered. A close collaboration between research, industry and the blockchain community will be therefore needed to advance the field, specifically in the areas of: 
 * Long-term sustainability and scalability 

* Privacy and (selective) transparency

* Socio-economic factors and game theory

* Immutability and updateability/migration strategies

* Alternative Applications, such as Smart Contracts, Transparency and integrity of (business) processes (e.g., supply-chain management, ...), Identity management, (Digital) rights management

 Examples for research questions that we will discuss:  


 * What are the impacts of changing incentives on the development of blockchain technology in general and of cryptocurrencies in particular? For instance, the reduction of mining rewards to zero will make transaction fees more important for miners. Will users still use blockchains with increased transaction fees, will miners mine with lower or even without mining rewards? How can we simulate long-term effects?


* Who will control the future development of blockchain technology? Will users, miners, or developers be in charge? We have seen hard forks in Ethereum forced by developers, but we also see voting mechanisms that include miners. The financial success of a cryptocurrency however -- and, thus, the underlying incentive systems for reaching consensus -- is in the hands of the end users.  

About this Lecture

Number of Slides:  40 - 90
Duration:  30 minutes
Languages Available:  English, German
Last Updated: 

Request this Lecture

To request this particular lecture, please complete this online form.

Request a Tour

To request a tour with this speaker, please complete this online form.

All requests will be sent to ACM headquarters for review.