Fall 2019

Proofs, Consensus, and Decentralizing Society

Aug. 21Dec. 20, 2019

Proof protocols ­­­­­­— probabilistically checkable proofs, interactive proofs, and zero-knowledge proofs — have seen exciting advances in recent years, from theoretical aspects all the way to deployment. At the same time, blockchain technology — enabled by techniques from decentralized consensus protocols, cryptography, and game theory — not only is challenging centralized financial control in the context of real­-world systems like Bitcoin and Ethereum but also has the potential to be a foundation for real­-world distributed systems used for public benefit.

These two strands, proof protocols and blockchain technology, are intertwined. On the one hand, proofs can enhance the auditability and accountability of decentralized systems while preserving user privacy; for this reason, proofs are a key ingredient in the future growth and evolution of blockchains. On the other hand, decentralized consensus protocols could themselves be used to design improved proof protocols and other cryptographic primitives.

The stability and success thus far of blockchain­-based systems raise pressing questions in distributed algorithms, cryptography, and game theory. Such decentralized public systems also raise economic, legal, and ethical questions whose study is intimately tied to the underlying technology and its trajectory.

This program brought together researchers from computer science and beyond whose research is contributing to three subthemes: proof systems, decentralized consensus, and applications of these to society, economics, and cryptocurrencies.

This program was supported in part by the Institute for Business & Social Impact.


Alessandro Chiesa (UC Berkeley; chair), Eli Ben-Sasson (Technion Israel Institute of Technology), Yael Kalai (MSR and MIT), Rafael Pass (Cornell University), Mike Walfish (New York University)

Long-Term Participants (including Organizers):

Ittai Abraham (VMware), Yehuda Afek (Tel Aviv University), Nicholas Arnosti (Columbia University), Eli Ben-Sasson (Technion Israel Institute of Technology), Dan Boneh (Stanford University), Joseph Bonneau (NYU), Ran Canetti (Boston University), Jing Chen (Stony Brook University), Alessandro Chiesa (UC Berkeley; chair), Vincent Danos (CNRS), Primavera De Filippi (CNRS), Srini Devadas (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Stefan Dziembowski (University of Warsaw), Georg Fuchsbauer (INRIA), Eli Gafni (UCLA), Sergey Gorbunov (University of Waterloo), Prahladh Harsha (TIFR), Yuval Ishai (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology), Yael Kalai (MSR and MIT), Yael Kalai (MSR), Aggelos Kiayias (University of Edinburgh), Jacob Leshno (University of Chicago), Mike Luby (ICSI), Dahlia Malkhi (Calibra), David Mazières (Stanford University), Sarah Meiklejohn (UCL), Muthu Muthukrishnan (University of Rochester), Claudio Orlandi (Aarhus University), Rafael Pass (Cornell University), Julien Prat (CNRS), Omer Reingold (Stanford University), Guy Rothblum (Weizmann Institute), Ron Rothblum (Technion), Muli Safra (Tel Aviv University), Amit Sahai (UCLA), Linda Schilling (Ecole Polytechnique), Elaine Shi (Cornell University), Justin Thaler (Georgetown University), Eran Tromer (Tel Aviv University), Mike Walfish (NYU), Mike Walfish (New York University), Vassilis Zikas (University of Edinburgh)

Research Fellows:

Amey Bhangale (The Weizmann Institute of Science), Jonathan Bootle (IBM Research- Zurich), Benedikt Bünz (Stanford University), Justin Holmgren (Princeton University), Giulio Malavolta (Friedrich-Alexander University (Erlangen-Nürnberg)), Oxana Poburinnaya (Boston University), Christos-Alexandros Psomas (Carnegie Mellon University), Clara Shikhelman (Tel Aviv University), Eylon Yogev (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology)

Visiting Graduate Students and Postdocs:

Gal Arnon (Weizmann Institute of Science), Christian Badertscher (University of Edinburgh), Sarah Bordage (École Polytechnique), Xiaowu Dai (UC Berkeley), Chaya Ganesh (Aarhus University), Christopher Hickey (University of Warwick), Muhammad Ishaq (University of Edinburgh), Swanand Kadhe (UC Berkeley), Yun Lu (University of Edinburgh), Orr Paradise (UC Berkeley), Sunoo Park (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Marcel Yves Plouviez (INRIA)


Monday, Aug. 26Friday, Aug. 30, 2019


Alessandro Chiesa (UC Berkeley; chair), Eli Ben-Sasson (Technion Israel Institute of Technology), Yael Kalai (MSR and MIT), Rafael Pass (Cornell University), Mike Walfish (New York University)
Monday, Sep. 23Friday, Sep. 27, 2019


Justin Thaler (Georgetown University; chair), Omer Paneth (Tel Aviv University), Ron Rothblum (Technion Israel Institute of Technology)
Tuesday, Oct. 22Friday, Oct. 25, 2019


Dahlia Malkhi (VMWare Research), Elaine Shi (Cornell University)
Monday, Nov. 18Friday, Nov. 22, 2019


Abhi Shelat (Khoury College of Computer Science, Northeastern University; chair), Helen Nissenbaum (Cornell Tech), Peter Van Valkenburgh (Coin Center)
Monday, Dec. 7Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020


Program image by Luisa Lee

Past Internal Program Activities

Thursday, December 12th, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Yehuda Afek
Thursday, December 5th, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Vanishree Rao
Tuesday, December 3rd, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Vassilis Zikas
Thursday, November 14th, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Marek Olszewski
Tuesday, November 12th, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Jonathan Bootle
Thursday, November 7th, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Stefan Dziembowski
Thursday, October 31st, 11:00 am1:00 pm
Benedikt Bunz
Tuesday, October 29th, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Gal Arnon
Thursday, October 17th, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Ilan Komargodski
Tuesday, October 8th, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Julien Prat
Thursday, October 3rd, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Alex Psomas
Tuesday, October 1st, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Justin Thaler
Thursday, September 19th, 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Alessandro Chiesa
Wednesday, September 18th, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Izaak Meckler
Tuesday, September 17th, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Eylon Yogev
Thursday, September 12th, 4:00 pm5:00 pm
Linda Schilling
Tuesday, September 10th, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Jacob Leshno
Thursday, September 5th, 4:00 pm5:00 pm
Sarah Meiklejohn