Consensus Through Herding
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State Machine Replication (SMR) is an important abstraction for a set of nodes to agree on an ever-growing, linearly-ordered log of transactions. In decentralized cryptocurrency applications, we would like to design SMR protocols that (1) resist adaptive corruptions; and (2) achieve small bandwidth and small confirmation time. All past approaches towards constructing SMR fail to achieve either small confirmation time or small bandwidth under adaptive corruptions (without resorting to strong assumptions such as the erasure model or proof-of-work).
We propose a novel paradigm for reaching consensus that departs significantly from classical approaches. Our protocol is inspired by a social phenomenon called herding, where people tend to make choices considered as the social norm. In our consensus protocol, leader election and voting are coalesced into a single (randomized) process: in every round, every node tries to cast a vote for what it views as the most popular item so far: such a voting attempt is not always successful, but rather, successful with a certain probability. Importantly, the probability that the node is elected to vote for v is independent from the probability it is elected to vote for \(v' \ne v\). We will show how to realize such a distributed, randomized election process using appropriate, adaptively secure cryptographic building blocks.
We show that amazingly, not only can this new paradigm achieve consensus (e.g., on a batch of unconfirmed transactions in a cryptocurrency system), but it also allows us to derive the first SMR protocol which, even under adaptive corruptions, requires only polylogarithmically many rounds and polylogarithmically many honest messages to be multicast to confirm each batch of transactions; and importantly, we attain these guarantees under standard cryptographic assumptions.
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