Blockchains provide compelling security properties that enable powerful systems to be constructed without reliance on trusted third parties. Their rise has created successful, multi-billion dollar systems and has had a transformative impact on venture funding and the financial industry. Blockchains as currently designed, though, fail to enforce fairness for their users, meaning equal opportunities for fast transaction processing. The project investigators will seek to address the pervasive fairness deficiencies in blockchain systems. The project's novelties include a systematic investigation of fairness lapses in blockchain systems and the exploration of new techniques to enforce fairness across different layers in these systems. The project's impacts are rigorous measurement of fairness gaps in existing blockchain systems and the creation of new design principles and techniques to address these gaps.

The investigators systematically explore failures of fairness in blockchain systems both through measurement of active systems and by means of formal definitions and theoretical analysis. They design and implement solutions that approximate or fully realize the ideal properties they formalize. The investigators also explore options for obtaining fairness properties on top of existing blockchains, despite their underlying lack of fairness guarantees. They seek to achieve this goal through novel design of smart contracts, applications that execute on top of blockchain platforms. The investigators leverage rigorous cryptographic and game-theoretic modeling in their work, and also aim to deploy software solutions that are mature and practical enough for adoption by practitioners.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Cornell University
United States
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