More than 40 researchers met at a workshop hosted by IBM in Chicago this week to discuss the future of the consensus mechanisms that today form the governance layer for blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.

Whereas frequent participants in blockchain conferences might assume the event was geared toward informing those new to the technology, Distributed Cryptocurrencies and Consensus Ledgers (DCCL) consisted of high-level academic conversations and was designed to foster communication at the cutting edge of development, according to those involved.

Attendees included well-known cryptocurrency researchers Aviv Zohar and Ittay Eyal.

Event chair and IBM researcher Christian Cachin, who is a contributor to the Hyperledger Project and president of the International Association for Cryptologic Research, told CoinDesk:

“The audience was predominantly academics with deep technical knowledge of consensus protocols and blockchain security, most of them are active in this space.”

The IBM workshop was designed to give participants the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various consensus protocols including so-called “Nakamoto consensus,” named after bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Attendee Jude Nelson of New York City-based Blockstack Labs told CoinDesk the conference was established to serve as a way to galvanize interest in blockchain in the academic community.

According to Nelson, topics discussed included separating block rewards from the coinbases in blockchain systems and building a more efficient gossiping mechanism.

The workshop was part of a larger event hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery and dedicated to a wide range of principles of distributed computing.

Sharing ideas

The event was the culmination of a call by IBM earlier this year to the computer science community for contributions pertaining to cryptocurrencies, with a special focus on the way their underlying protocols help groups reach agreements.

Specifically, IBM Zurich called for papers pertaining to distributed consensus among selfish nodes, mechanisms for consensus ledgers and Nakamoto consensus and protocols based on proof-of-work, among other topics.

The event comes at a time when many are asking deep questions about the nature of consensus mechanisms following the recent, and newly contentious, ethereum hard fork that resulted in two separate blockchains divided between ideological grounds.

Robot consensus image via Shutterstock

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