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Equilibrium's Infra Bulletin #9: Privacy-focused P2P Network, Commercial Use Cases of FHE and Tradeoffs For Decentralised Compute
Equilibrium Labs builds the state-of-the-art of decentralised infrastructure. We are a global team of ~35 people who tackle challenges around security, privacy and scaling.
This newsletter allows us to share more about what we read, what excites us and what we think is relevant to the space. In addition, you will get a glimpse into the organisation and our culture. We are now also on Telegram.
Research, Articles and Industry News:
Veilid is an open-source, peer-to-peer, mobile-ﬁrst, networked application framework. That’s quite a mouthful, but at a high level, Veilid is a privacy-focused peer-to-peer network that’s designed to enable easy sharing of various kinds of data. It allows anyone to build distributed, private apps and runs on Linux, Mac, Windows Android, iOS and browser WASM.
The framework is conceptually similar to IPFS and Tor, but faster and designed from the ground up to provide all services over a privately routed network. This enables the development of fully distributed applications without a blockchain or a transactional layer at their base. Users can either choose to use the public Veilid network or build their own network.
Key Takeaway: Veilid is a privacy-focused communication platform. While it’s not blockchain-based, there is still a lot of overlap to many projects in the crypto space through principles of decentralization, cryptography and peer-to-peer networking. One can often learn new things by studying implementations in tangential industries, and this is one example of that.
We earlier introduced Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE) in Infra Bulletin #6. To briefly recap, FHE enables computation on encrypted data and lets multiple parties work collaboratively without having to trust each other. This post by research house Geometry gives an intro to conventional encryption schemes, explains the different forms of Homomorphic Encryption and further explores how FHE could be utilised in practice.
More limited forms of homomorphic encryption (HE) include partially HE (allows either addition or multiplication of ciphertexts, but not both) and somewhat HE (allows both additions and multiplication, but is limited to a fairly low polynomial degree, typically 5-15). FHE permits unlimited additions and multiplications, enabling arbitrary computation on encrypted data. However, programming in FHE often adds a lot of complexity as you can’t use conventional programming techniques (such as IF-statements) directly on encrypted data.
The three main potential commercial use cases highlighted are blockchains (private information retrieval), AI and ML (running models on encrypted data), and healthcare (secure data analysis). All of these focus on higher data security and user safety while still enabling computation on that data.
Key Takeaway: FHE is a powerful encryption scheme that allows for arbitrary computation on encrypted data. While blockchain use cases are closest to home and would for example enable having a fully private global state - FHE can also be leveraged more widely across other industries such as AI/ML and healthcare.
Decentralised compute is an interesting long-term direction for blockchains, but scalability is still orders of magnitude away from the current cloud-level scale. No decentralised protocol today can handle transaction volumes equivalent to the Internet.
In the talk, Juan raises an interesting framework to think about the tradeoffs for decentralised compute. The trilemma includes:
Performance: To match the performance requirements of internet-scale applications, we need to increase speed (reducing computational complexity and overhead), latency (time to results) and efficiency (use of resources such as power, time and hardware).
Verifiability: Currently we trust the reputation of centralised cloud operators. In a decentralised system, we need to introduce new ways for trust and verification of correctness. This can be either through economic (staking and brand) or cryptographic means (ZKP, MPC). The latter is better for verifiability, but more computationally complex.
Privacy: Most user applications deal with user data, which means we need hard guarantees about data security. Here again, we can rely on either economic (staking) or cryptographic guarantees (FHE, MPC, ZKP). Cryptographic guarantees are better, but dramatically more expensive. Economic guarantees are not straightforward either, since it’s difficult to prove something has leaked, which makes it hard to prove malicious intent.
Key takeaway: It’s possible that in a decade or two, we’ll view blockchains similar to the cloud today, but with added guarantees about the computation happening in an agreed way. However, the performance of blockchains today is still orders of magnitude away from the cloud-level scale. Juan introduces a three-pronged framework to think about these tradeoffs, and how we could work to overcome them.
News from our partners:
🔥 Introducing Gevulot: A layer 1 blockchain that serves as a general-purpose proof network with fast proving and high liveness guarantees. Anyone can deploy provers and verifiers as on-chain programs (similar to smart contracts) and get access to a network of provers. The vision of Gevulot is to aggregate all proving workloads across the industry - creating a single point of optimization for node operators and hardware providers. Built by a world-class team from Equilibrium Group that’s previously worked closely with industry leaders such as Aleo, Starknet and Avail.
🔥 Pathfinder Upgrade: The Starknet full node developed by Equilibrium Labs got an upgrade last week. Looking at performance improvements of 10-40x 🤯
🔥 Elusiv Launches Private Swaps on Solana: Elusiv is a privacy layer currently operating on Solana, that combines privacy with decentralised compliance. Private token swaps are the most recent feature of Elusiv, which allows for swapping between a number of assets without revealing any identifying information about yourself - a first for Solana!
Personal recommendations from our team:
📚Reading: Sandworm - Andy Greenberg: A chilling, globe-spanning detective story, tracking an elite group of Russian hackers and the future of global warfare.
🎧Listening: Jacob Collier - Lua (feat. MARO): This recorded live performance goes from string ensemble to bossa nova to jazz. Quite the variety in only 9 minutes!
💡Other: Alexander Piano- The longest piano in the world: The argument “I just wanted to see what a long bass string sounded like” seems like enough of a reason to build the world’s longest piano🤷♂️. Watch this video to hear what it sounds like.
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