At the 20th edition of the recently concluded International Conference on Autonomous Agents and MultiAgent Systems (AAMAS) 2021, MLL researcher Anurag Jain won the Best Poster Design Award for innovatively capturing constraints faced in scaling blockchain technology with the help of a comic strip.

Network Disparity Affects Scalability

Blockchain technology is slowly gaining traction across sectors and countries, the researchers have attempted to put the spotlight on its scalability. With current legacy platforms such as Visa whose network settlement times and transactions per second far outstrip those of cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin offers 3.5 transactions per second), global efforts on building blockchains that offer scalability are underway. Explaining this in terms of an improvement in blockchain performance. This means that from the current 4 transactions, it can achieve 40 or even 1,000 transactions per second.

Deviations From Protocol

In the current blockchain scenario, with low transaction rates, the miners have equitable rights (in terms of computing power) to mine a block. In their paper, the researchers have tried to analyze what happens to the systems when they are scaled. “We are probably the first ever to analyze the effect of differences in network speeds on scaling up the blockchain ecosystem,” says Dr. Gujar. Referring to the famous blockchain scalability trilemma which states that scalability is possible but at the cost of decentralization and security, the research team claims that in this case, scalability will lead to unfairness in the system because of network disparity. With the help of mathematical modelling, they demonstrate how miners with relatively slower network bandwidth are at a disadvantage for mining blocks. They will lose interest and either drop off or try to act strategically by undercutting or petty mining rather than following prescribed protocols honestly. “Both these scenarios defy the purpose of blockchain technology”, says Dr. Gujar.

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