a16z Podcast

a16z Podcast: Voting, Security, and Governance in Blockchains

Phil Daian and Ali Yahya

Posted February 9, 2019

Whether in corporations, boardrooms, or political elections, voting is something we see in all kinds of social systems… including blockchains. It’s the natural human tendency for how to organize decisions, and in distributed systems without centralized middlemen, it’s the only clear Schelling point we can come up with.

But too many people design voting mechanisms in distributed systems in isolation — sometimes naively “porting over” assumptions from the real world or from simple cryptoeconomic models without thinking through the economic adversaries present in a larger, more rational (vs. “honest”) game-theoretic system. So how are blockchain systems different from real-world paper and electronic voting systems? How can such systems be gamed, and what are the implications for cryptoeconomic security… as well as the governance of distributed organizations?

This hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast covers all this and more. Recorded as part of our NYC roadtrip, it features Cornell Tech PhD student and software engineer Phil Daian, who researches applied cryptography and smart contracts — and who also wrote about “On-chain Vote Buying and the Rise of Dark DAOs” in 2018 (with Tyler Kell, Ian Miers, and his advisor Ari Juels). Daian is joined by a16z crypto partner Ali Yahya (previously a software engineer and machine learning researcher at GoogleX and Google Brain), who also recently presented on crypto as the evolution — and future — of trust.

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