Far from serving only as a foundation for cryptocurrency, blockchain technology provides a general framework for trusted distributed ledgers. Over the past few years, their popularity has grown tremendously, as shown by the number of companies and efforts associated with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, for example. From a technical standpoint, a blockchain combines a storage layer, networking protocols, a consensus layer, and a programmable transaction layer, leveraging cryptographic operations. The distributed state machine paradigm provides atomicity and transaction rollback, while consensus supports distributed availability as well as certain forms of fair access. From an applications perspective, blockchains appeal to distributed networks of independent agents, as arise in supply chain, credentialing, and decentralized financial services. The talk will look at the potential for radical change as well as specific technical challenges associated with verifiable consensus protocols and trustworthy smart contracts.
John Mitchell is the Mary and Gordon Crary Family Professor in the School of Engineering, Professor of Computer Science, co-director of the Stanford Computer Security Lab, and Professor (by courtesy) of Education. He was Vice Provost at Stanford University from 2012 to 2018. Mitchell’s research focusses on programming languages, computer, and network security, privacy, and education. He has published over 200 research papers, served as editor of eleven journals, including Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Computer Security, and written two books. He has led research projects funded by numerous organizations and served as advisor and consultant to successful small and large companies. His first research project in online learning started in 2009 when he and six undergraduate students built Stanford CourseWare, an innovative platform that served as the foundation for initial flipped classroom experiments at Stanford and helped inspire the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) from Stanford. Professor Mitchell currently serves as Chair of the Stanford Department of Computer Science.
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