(Part 1/2) Day 2 Highlights of the ISBA2022 Symposium

23 December 2022

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Fostering deep discussions and driving a greater understanding of blockchain development was the key aim of ParallelChain Lab in organising the International Symposium of Blockchain Advancements 2022 for attendees.


On 02 December 2022, the event welcomed more than 120 distinguished guests with a range of diverse backgrounds from technological pioneers to venture capitalist founders. These players from the digital ecosystem gathered in the Grand Ballroom at the InterContinental Singapore to understand the next step forward for the future of blockchains and aimed to leave with a clearer direction on moving to the Web 3.0 digital economy.


Ultra-Efficient Blockchain Design by Dr. Radia Perlman

Are decentralised infrastructures always superior to centralised designs? While the continuous fervour around blockchain technology has created a polarising dichotomy that decentralised systems are the only way forward, Dr. Radia Perlman begs to differ by showcasing how centralised and decentralised systems could work hand-in-hand to create ultra-efficient blockchain setups.

But first, what is a blockchain? According to Dr. Perlman, it is simply a ledger that records transaction in an immutable manner and is maintained by thousands of anonymous entities. While a centralised approach may seem dictatorial and rigid when compared side by side with blockchains, it has its own rules and regulations to make sure that the system runs smoothly.

From a customer’s perspective, users have a point of contact to seek help with unfamiliar applications developed by the centralised entity, and data security ensures that the entity’s data are spread out over multiple geo-locations. Furthermore, current legislative laws regulate such organisations so that they are punished if they act in a malicious manner.

How does blockchain then play a part in this equation? According to Dr. Perlman, the answer lies in amalgamating both centralised entities and decentralised records to boost trust in the organisation. While organisations continue their business operations, they can keep ledger records that are held in secret and the ledger is sealed by several independent notaries on a blockchain. This creates the benefit of a zero-latency record that is both cheap and efficient, and the entities cannot amend the records which only improves their credibility further.

By implementing a solution that takes both centralised and decentralised systems into account, Dr. Perlman believes we will slowly but surely integrate the use of blockchains into real-world problems.

Click here to watch the keynote session by Dr. Radia Perlman.

Quantum Blockchains by Dr. Raj Jain

We cannot talk about blockchain technology without addressing the elephant in the room, which is that quantum computing could disrupt the function of blockchains. But are quantum computers ready to break the code soon? Not exactly, says Dr Raj Jain who is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Addressing the crowd via telecommunications from the United States, Dr. Jain notes that quantum computing has to progress further before it becomes commercially viable. But what exactly is a quantum? Initially thought to be a continuous wave, quantum mechanics is where light behaves like discrete packets of energy to be absorbed and released. In the field of computer science, quantum bits replace the binaries of 1 and 0 we often associate with computer systems and it is measured as probabilistic with 1 and 0 being able to exist at the same time.

How could light and quantum mathematics unravel the workings of blockchain technology? This comes down to two quantum-based algorithms known as Grover’s algorithm and Shor’s algorithm which could break public-key cryptographic encryptions in blockchains. The former, discovered by Lov Kumar Grover, can supposedly break encryptions 10 quadrillion times faster than classical computers, while the latter was discovered by Peter Shor whose algorithm could find prime factors exponentially faster.

But this does not necessarily spell the end for blockchain technology. As both fields evolve, quantum-resistant blockchains that uses newer types of encryptions have sprung up. Dr. Jain listed the Kyber algorithm as an example which is designed to be resistant to attacks by future quantum computers and uses a module lattice. If you would like to know about the different schemes such as lattice algorithms, Dr. Perlman gives an exemplary explanation that you can read here. Moreover, Quantum Native Blockchains could also offer a solution with its hybrid of classical computing and quantum computing.

At the end of the day, quantum computing remains unfeasible for cracking blockchain algorithms on a larger scale thanks to its extreme requirements for temperatures near absolute zero, and current quantum computers need to reach thousands of qubits to be feasibly viable.

Click here to watch the keynote session by Dr. Raj Jain.


Blockchain Security Considerations by Charlie Kaufman

Blockchain systems are key to building the future of the internet and the Web3 ecosystem. But as with all forms of new sciences, blockchain technology and its relevant applications have to contemplate with its inherent vulnerabilities and shore up its defences to make it more secure for its users.

“People don’t depend on the security of the blockchain only. They depend on the security of the applications that are using the blockchain, and security is only as good as its weakest link.” Said Charlie Kaufman, System Security Architect at Dell EMC. Charlie is familiar with understanding and prioritising product security vulnerabilities, and his session aimed to cut through the exuberant hype around blockchain technology so that adopters are aware of the current state of blockchains.

Throughout his session, he points out three distinct security considerations:

Network Partitions

We are familiar with the idea of blockchain miner or validators communicating simultaneously to maintain a unanimous ledger record, but what happens when they lose contact between each other? That’s when network partitions, or Forks as we commonly know them, occurs.

Such forks are often accidental and result from a small number of nodes going offline. To prevent the blockchain consensus mechanism from grinding to a halt, other validators continue to log the transaction records and offline nodes reconcile their ledger later when they come back online. During the session, Charlie also reiterates that some systems avoid forks by opting to halt when a certain number of nodes go offline. This leads to a trade-off between maintaining a blockchain’s operation and preventing fork formations, and it is impossible to have both at the same time.

Forks could also be caused intentionally by malicious attackers who take down critical nodes with a a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), or they could maintain a number of forked nodes that will disrupt the consensus mechanism when launched given enough resources.

Public Blockchain Considerations

Public blockchains rarely run into major security considerations, but a severe code defect could potentially cause operational issues. That is why blockchains usually have teams of developers behind them that constantly reviews its code and processes to ensure the blockchain functions like a well-oiled engine.

Private Blockchain Considerations

An enterprise or consortium blockchain is able to provide a better degree of control with regards to its transaction logs security and data access, thanks to the smaller number of participants within the chain. While Charlie highlights that a modicum of trust between the user and the organisation utilising the private chain is needed, the closed infrastructure makes it harder to cheat the system while protecting users from dishonest internal actors as well.

Click here to watch the keynote session by Charlie Kaufman.


Technology Track Panel Discussion moderated by Ian Huang

Speakers - Dr. Radia Perlman, Charlie Kaufman, Dr. Raj Jain, and Alice Lim

To wrap up the technology track of the ISBA2022 symposium, the distinguished speakers were invited back onstage for a round of panel discussions centred around the advancement of blockchain technology, with the session being moderated by ParallelChain Lab’s Founder, CEO and Chief Architect, Ian Huang.

What problem would blockchain be a good solution for? What are other ways of solving that problem?

To Dr. Perlman, permissioned blockchains would be an example of a good solution since teams are able to create secure databases where needed. Yet this needs to be considered objectively since current centralised systems still hold up well, and the technology should not be a solution looking for a problem. On the other hand, ParallelChain Lab’s Distinguished Engineer Alice Lim finds that the term ‘blockchain’ has been loosely thrown around as a fixed packaged solution. Instead, components such as smart contracts and deterministic codes should be seen as independent elements of the blockchain rather than being an intrinsic part of it.

Taking a more applicable view of the question, Dr. Jain points out that blockchain applications are already being used in real-world situations. Supply chains, for example, are boosted by blockchains to provide greater transparency of goods and movements with immutable records. Plus, banks are exploring private and consortium chains to enhance financial transaction speeds and reduce the overhead cost as well.

Blockchain as a core technology will change and improve in time, just like the original UNIX and database technology. What do you think the next frontier of blockchain will be?

As a technology veteran Dr. Raj sees the potential of blockchain being a successful technology, but he predicts that other key technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and quantum computing could heavily influence the next advancement in blockchains. Conversely, Charlie believes that the status quo will be swayed by popular demands in decentralised applications, and blockchain development will progress to make these apps function frictionlessly.

Alice takes the contrarian approach by emphasising the need for blockchains to be relatable for everyday use. To her, blockchains are making leaps in its advancement but it lags in its promises to become more accessible to everyone and that is the next step that blockchains should take. It is a point that Dr. Raj agrees with although he is optimistic that demand will follow when the technology is developed, to which he quotes the invention of cloud computing and smartphones as examples.

If blockchain becomes widely adopted like the internet, how would that change society?

Ian believes that it is still too early to tell how blockchain advancements will lead to societal change, but we should keep an open mind on its potential even though we cannot see the finishing line. Drawing from his personal anecdote where his IBM computer designs were put down by his superiors, we now know that such designs would be widespread in hindsight.

On the other hand, Dr. Raj foresees that it could spur a new age of instantaneous information flow that is easily accessible on current mobile and desktop devices, while Charlie points out that it is the apps on the blockchain, and not that technology itself that will drive societal change.

Is blockchain an essential technology for Web3, and does that mean blockchain needs to be more powerful and scalable?

Ian answered this interesting take about Web3 from the audience by defining Web3’s paradigm as that of true ownership, and blockchain is an enabling technology that will continue to grow and evolve with time as it achieves that goal.

Taking a more pragmatic approach from a technological viewpoint, Alice sees the complexity of blockchains as being a centralising force in itself since only a handful of experts can understand the underlying implications of the technology. With current blockchains being able to achieve high scalable speeds, the current constraint that holds blockchain advancement back is the lack of killer apps that makes it relatable and more democratised.

Click here to watch the panel discussion moderated by Ian Huang.

If the technological possibilities of blockchain advancements have piqued your interest, then you will be interested in the Workshop sessions for Day 1 here, or catch our speakers in action with the full video of Day 2’s Symposium speeches here.


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