DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, is looking to investigate technologies for distributed consensus during a workshop “tentatively scheduled for February 14 and 15, 2019, in Arlington, VA.”
As stated in the five-page RFI released by the agency’s Information Innovation Office (I2O), “of particular interest to DARPA are so-called ‘permissionless’ distributed consensus protocols.” Permissionless systems are described in the paper as protocols “where any individual may join in the computation.”
The report further indicates that while there is a “substantial amount” of research in the field, the federal agency is interested in “several, less-explored avenues of permissionless distributed consensus protocols.”
I20’s request for information covers three different topics – each of which is set to constitute a session at the agency’s workshop – the first of which is incentivizing distributed consensus protocols without the use of money. The document explains that “permissionless distributed protocols must incentivize various aspects of participation in the protocol,” noting Bitcoin (BTC) mining as an example system.
The first topic thus focuses on creating large-scale permissionless distributed consensus protocols without paying participants.
The second subject covered in the RFI is economic-driven security models for distributed computation protocols, asking for information about “methods that leverage rigorous economic notions to advance theories of security for distributed, permissionless computation protocols.”
The third, and last topic on which the agency requested information covers the “centralities of distributed consensus protocols.” Responses for this category are “novel analyses, methods to analyze and/or address the centralization of a distributed consensus protocol,” but also “unintended centralities and/or associated mitigations.”
The RFI also recognizes the potential of blockchain technology for data security and storage “resilience” for the government department, stating:
“Technologies for distributed consensus protocols have been revolutionized by their prominent role in cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. These technologies have dramatic implications for the security and resilience of critical data storage and computation tasks, including for the Department of Defense.”
The agency’s announcement fits a broader trend of ever-increasing interest towards blockchain shown by government agencies globally. On Nov. 22, a German news outlet reported that the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is planning to use blockchain to fight tax evasion.
In May 2017, DARPA awarded a grant to messaging app Crypto-Chat developer ITAMCO to develop an encrypted, blockchain-based messaging and transaction platform for the U.S. military.