Foundations for a Distributed Ledger (Online) (20w5087)


(University of Victoria)

(Brown University)

Jared Saia (University of New Mexico)

Elaine Shi (Cornell University)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Foundations for a Distributed Ledger" workshop online from December 6 to December 11, 2020.

Significant money and human effort is now being poured into the development of Blockchain technology. Blockchains are currently used, most notably, for the creation and maintenance of digital currencies (e.g., bitcoin). There are also efforts to apply them to many other domains, ranging from “smart” contracts to documenting art provenance. A key goal of these systems is to maintain a distributed ledger, a record of events and transactions between users, and to do so in a way that avoids reliance on a central authority. Instead, these systems depend on the interactions among their many users to come to agreement on what events to enter in the ledger.

The distributed ledger problem is still far from understood. There is no consensus on basic definitions and assumptions of the models, which impedes progress in providing reliability guarantees. There are scaling problems, including the need to spend large amounts of energy, and the small transaction processing rate for current blockchain systems. Interestingly, solving these problems seems to require expertise from several diverse research areas including: cryptography, distributed computing, game theory and public policy. This workshop will bring together experts from these areas to establish and explore the theoretical foundations of Blockchain.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).