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Byzantine generals in the permissionless setting

Lewis-Pye, Andrew and Roughgarden, Tim (2023) Byzantine generals in the permissionless setting. In: Baldimtsi, Foteini and Cachin, Christian, (eds.) Financial Cryptography and Data Security: 27th International Conference, FC 2023, Bol, Brač, Croatia, May 1–5, 2023, Revised Selected Papers, Part I. Financial Cryptography and Data Security. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, DE, 21 - 37. ISBN 9783031477539

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Identification Number: 10.1007/978-3-031-47754-6_2


Consensus protocols have traditionally been studied in the permissioned setting, where all participants are known to each other from the start of the protocol execution. What differentiates the most prominent blockchain protocol Bitcoin [15] from these previously studied protocols is that it operates in a permissionless setting, i.e. it is a protocol for establishing consensus over an unknown network of participants that anybody can join, with as many identities as they like in any role. The arrival of this new form of protocol brings with it many questions. Beyond Bitcoin and other proof-of-work (PoW) protocols, what can we prove about permissionless protocols in a general sense? How does the recent stream of work on permissionless protocols relate to the well-developed history of research on permissioned protocols? To help answer these questions, we describe a formal framework for the analysis of both permissioned and permissionless systems. Our framework allows for “apples-to-apples” comparisons between different categories of protocols and, in turn, the development of theory to formally discuss their relative merits. A major benefit of the framework is that it facilitates the application of a rich history of proofs and techniques for permissioned systems to problems in blockchain and the study of permissionless systems. Within our framework, we then address the questions above. We consider a programme of research that asks, “Under what adversarial conditions, and for what types of permissionless protocol, is consensus possible?” We prove several results for this programme, our main result being that deterministic consensus is not possible for permissionless protocols.

Item Type: Book Section
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Additional Information: © 2024 International Financial Cryptography Association
Divisions: Mathematics
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2023 14:42
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2024 16:24

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