Week 0: Senior Project Introduction
My name is Morgan Stuart, and I have loved exploring innovative technologies since I was six years old. I began coding through my passion for game design when I was nine and have not stopped since. I then became interested in blockchain when my cousin explained the power and autonomy promised by blockchain-based smart contracts. As a coder, these contracts were right up my alley. So, in my junior year, I started the Basis Blockchain Club: a group of peers who research and teach each other foundations of blockchain technology. This club only led me deeper down the rabbit hole of an entirely new realm of technology that has to the potential bring about a meaningful impact in the modern world. All of that led me to my current senior research project, in which I will examine and explore potential improvements to the methods that blockchains use to come to consensus. Blockchains are a digital record-keeping technology in which participants use digital signatures (or hash functions) to come to unanimous consensus. The chains are composed of transaction-data-containing “blocks” which are then linked together in chronological order. They are considered immutable, meaning they can be added to but can’t be changed later, and decentralized, meaning that no single entity has the authority to control or change any specific information on the chain. The key power of this technology is to come to a consensus. The two most popular blockchains, Bitcoin and Ethereum, use proof of work and proof of stake consensus algorithms respectively. Proof of work operates by computers (or validators) competing to solve guess-and-check math problems, and once solved, that computer is chosen to approve a block and add it to the chain. Proof of stake operates by a weighted lottery, where people stake (or put up) their crypto tokens with a chance of winning the opportunity to approve a block and add it to the chain. In both cases there is a block reward, meaning that when validators approve a block they are rewarded with some of the tokens of the chain. The important bit is that they both provide incentives for the validators to approve a block to not lie about the data by making sure it costs some input and providing rewards.