Fall 2019

Proofs, Consensus, and Decentralizing Society

Aug. 21Dec. 20, 2019

Proof protocols ­­­­­­— probabilistically checkable proofs, interactive proofs, and zero knowledge proofs — have seen exciting advances in recent years, from theoretical aspects all the way to deployment. At the same time, blockchain technology — enabled by techniques from decentralized consensus protocols, cryptography, and game theory — is not only challenging centralized financial control in the context of real­-world systems like Bitcoin and Ethereum but also has the potential to be a foundation for real­-world distributed systems used for public benefit.

These two strands, proof protocols and blockchain technology, are intertwined. On the one hand, proofs can enhance the auditability and accountability of decentralized systems while preserving user privacy; for this reason, proofs are a key ingredient in the future growth and evolution of blockchains. On the other hand, decentralized consensus protocols could themselves be used to design improved proof protocols and other cryptographic primitives.

The stability and success thus far of blockchain­-based systems raises pressing questions in distributed algorithms, cryptography, and game theory. Such decentralized public systems also raise economic, legal, and ethical questions whose study is intimately tied to the underlying technology and its trajectory.

This program will bring together researchers from computer science and beyond, whose research is contributing to three sub-themes: proof systems, decentralized consensus, and applications of these to society, economics, and cryptocurrencies.

This program is supported in part by the Institute for Business & Social Impact.

Organizers: Alessandro Chiesa (UC Berkeley; chair), Eli Ben-Sasson (Technion), Yael Kalai (MSR and MIT), Rafael Pass (Cornell University), Michael Walfish (New York University) 

List of tentative participants (tentative list, including organizers):
Nicholas Arnosti (Columbia University), Eli Ben-Sasson (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology), Dan Boneh (Stanford University), Joseph Bonneau (NYU), Ran Canetti (Boston University), Alessandro Chiesa (UC Berkeley), Jing Chen (Stony Brook University), Vincent Danos (CNRS), Primavera De Filippi (CNRS), Srini Devadas (MIT), Stefan Dziembowski (University of Warsaw), Georg Fuchsbauer (INRIA), Sergey Gorbunov (University of Waterloo), Prahladh Harsha (TIFR), Yuval Ishai (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology), Yael Kalai (MSR), Mike Luby (ICSI), Dahlia Malkhi (VMware Research), David Mazières (Stanford University), Sarah Meiklejohn (UCL), Claudio Orlandi (Aarhus University), Omer Paneth (Tel Aviv University), Rafael Pass (Cornell University), Julien Prat (CNRS), Omer Reingold (Stanford University), Guy Rothblum (Weizmann Institute), Ron Rothblum (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology), Muli Safra (Tel Aviv University), Amit Sahai (UCLA), Srinath Setty (Microsoft Research Redmond), Justin Thaler (Georgetown University), Eran Tromer (Tel Aviv University), Muthu Venkitasubramaniam (University of Rochester), Vassilis Zikas (University of Edinburgh)

Research Fellows:
Amey Bhangale (The Weizmann Institute of Science), Jonathan Bootle (IBM Research- Zurich, VMware Research Fellow), Benedikt Bünz (Stanford University, Microsoft Research Fellow), Justin Holmgren (Princeton University, Google Research Fellow), Giulio Malavolta (Friedrich-Alexander University), Oxana Poburinnaya (Boston University), Christos-Alexandros Psomas (Carnegie Mellon University, Microsoft Research Fellow), Clara Shikhelman (Tel Aviv University), Eylon Yogev (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology)

Visiting Graduate Students and Postdocs:
Gal Arnon (Weizmann Institute), Christian Badertscher (University of Edinburgh), Sarah Bordage (École Polytechnique), Chaya Ganesh (Aarhus University), Christopher Hickey (University of Warwick), Muhammad Ishaq (University of Edinburgh), Yun Lu (University of Edinburgh), Antoine Plouviez (INRIA)


Aug. 26Aug. 30, 2019


Alessandro Chiesa (UC Berkeley; chair), Eli Ben-Sasson (Technion Israel Institute of Technology), Yael Kalai (MSR and MIT), Rafael Pass (Cornell University), Mike Walfish (New York University)
Sep. 23Sep. 27, 2019


Justin Thaler (Georgetown University; chair), Omer Paneth (Tel Aviv University), Ron Rothblum (Technion Israel Institute of Technology)
Oct. 22Oct. 25, 2019


Dahlia Malkhi (VMWare Research), Elaine Shi (Cornell University)
Nov. 18Nov. 22, 2019


Helen Nissenbaum (Cornell Tech), Abhi Shelat (Khoury College of Computer Science, Northeastern University), Peter Van Valkenburgh (Coin Center)

Those interested in participating in this program should send email to the organizers proofs2019 [at] lists [dot] simons [dot] berkeley [dot] edu (at this address).

Program image by Luisa Lee