Scaling Bitcoin workshop : Tel Aviv 2019

Introduction to event

Introduction to Scaling Bitcoin Tel Aviv 2019

Anton Yemelyanov

Freenode IRC: #bitcoin-workshops


Everybody please take your seats. Just to let you know, there's electrical plugs in the center of row 1 and row 6. Otherwise, there are extension cords connected on the sides.

Good morning. Welcome to Israel. My name is Anton Yemelyanov. I am the chair of the Scaling Bitcoin program committee and one of the organizers of these events. Aviv Zohar is the chair of this conference. I'd like to give you a few words to explain the meaning or the theme of this conference this year.

Burim Habaim le Israel

Bitcoin deliberately prioritizes the characteristics of digital sound money. Its architecture, engineering practices and economic design all optimize for that objective. Its total monetary supply is fixed, and monetary issuance algorithm is relatively simple, transparent and rooted in the physical world. Its architectural choices prioritize simple elegance, security, decentralization, failure resistance, and de-risking of the base layer over performance and features. Development is methodical, systematic, meticulous and conservative.

These are the engineering constraints that the commitment to sound money imposes. Bitcoin’s progress can appear slow as a result. But in mission critical systems, avoiding making mistakes that result in systemic harm is more valuable than developing features quickly or goosing performance numbers. In fact that alone is an extremely difficult engineering challenge. Perhaps Bitcoin is more like a swimming duck - making calm and steady headway but with feet spinning madly under the water.

Within the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem, there needs to be at least one such highly conservative cryptocurrency dedicated to the principles of sound money. All others can be more experimental to varying degrees. Some will prove useful and advance the state of the art of cryptography, distributed systems or other aspects of cryptocurrency. But Bitcoin’s role is the trust anchor for the system, the fallback in the case of systemic failure in other parts of the crypto-economy. It is the foundation. It is the ‘Yesod’. Its unique constraints, seemingly slow pace, and engineering and economic conservatism are what enable it to serve that role.

I'd like to remind everyone that Scaling Bitcoin is run under a strict code of conduct. We don't allow photography or videography. Also, the event is run under Chatham house rules. It means that you can quote what has been said at this conference, but you're not allowed to quote who said something. With that, I'll pass the mark to Aviv Zohar, the chair of this conference and a professor at the Hebrew University.

Photographs of people on the stage are okay. The presenters are on the livestream so that's obviously okay.

Hello everybody, welcome to Tel Aviv. It's a great pleasure to have you all here. This conference has a lot of history, in some turmultuous times as well. People have been going here for a while might remember. If I take Anton's image of bitcoin as the duck swimming in the water, it's usually a storm out there but the duck has been swimming pretty constantly in a nice and straight line.

I think we should maybe start today by giving a great big thanks to Anton for pushing to get this conference moving around from place to place doing a lot of hard work. It wasn't easy. There's a lot of politicking and navigating and fundraising and logistics involved in running a conference like this.

Maybe the second person to thank in this case is Yonatan Sompolisky, who we will hand the event over to today. He has been running the program committee which selected the talks you're going to see today. There's a great lineup of speakers and I think we have a wonderful two days ahead of us.

Yonatan, do you want to say a few words about the process? Yeah, sure. Maybe before that, a hand of applause for Anton Yemelyanov and Yonatan Sompolisky.

Just to give some visibility into this process, there are other blockchain crypto conferences around. It's not always clear to people how talks are selected. This is a more academic venue. The program committee you can see the members online on the website. Some of them are here today. Basically, in case you're not familiar, it's a double blind review. People submit, and people grade it according to several vectors. That's the general process. We try to be as fair and as blind as possible to the extent is possible. Sometimes we know people can already identify work, so there's nothing that can be done about that, but that's also part of the academic game. We try to balance between things that are applicable to bitcoin today versus things that are more bitcoin in a few years or academic or things that might interest the bitcoin community outside the conventional narrative. The scope is bitcoin focused with some navigation between immediately useful things, and also things that might be useful in the future. Reviewers at least thought that these are part of the bitcoin narrative.

We got 44 submissions, and 25 submissions were accepted at the conference. We will also hear some WIPs tomorrow to get a notion of what people are working on, like more half-baked ideas basically. Okay, that's it.

Maybe one more thing I forgot to say. We should also thank some of our sponsors who helped us have this event and also supported events that came earlier in the week. I think tihs is part of the theme of Scaling Bitcoin. This week we started out with a workshop on regulation. It was interesting to see bitcoin maximalists and developers meet regulators in the same room. It was an interesting experience. There was also the Bitcoin Edge Dev++ conference which started a few days ago. This is about scaling up the developer community around bitcoin. Let's start with the program and end the formalities.