Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric


Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric

What’s more important than transaction speed, volume, and latency? The programmability and the programmer base. In this episode of the Metaverse Podcast, host Jamie Burke speaks with Dean Tribble of Agoric on his project and why having more programmers being able to code in your language is important.

Posted by Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric - April 2022


Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric Outlier Ventures

  • Worked at Xerox PARC many years ago
  • Worked on the first production smart contract in 1989
  • Was one of the early cypherpunks
  • Before Agoric, he was working on a multi-billion dollar payment instrument in the US
  • Before that, he was working on secure operating system research at Microsoft

History Of Agoric

Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric Outlier Ventures

  • A Proof-of-Stake chain with composable JavaScript smart contracts
  • Dean and Mark S. Miller, the Chief Scientist, have been working on Agoric for 3 decades
  • Dean worked on the first production smart contract back in 1989 when Mark did his open Agoric open systems papers back then
  • Agoric (the company) was founded in December 2017
  • Zooko from Zcash, a friend of theirs, knew that they had a deep background in smart contracts and security. Organized a group and invited them in

The Innovation They Bring To The System

  • Most important innovation — programming smart contracts using hardened JavaScript
  • Scaling is difficult and comes in many different forms
  • The hardest and most important form of scaling is to scale the number of programmers in the world who can program the blockchain

And that’s why our focus is on how do we have something that’s programmable by millions of developers, not thousands of developers, and that’s programmable rapidly, where they can put together stuff quickly, and have the result have a high chance of being safe.

– Dean Tribble

  • They have worked with the JavaScript Standards Committee to drive hardened JavaScript into JavaScript
  • Have worked with Salesforce, Bloomberg, and NodeJS in developing that core technology
  • Also working with CosmJS, Keplr, and MetaMask

Why Is JavaScript Safer Than Other Languages?

Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric Outlier Ventures

  • As an accident in history, JavaScript was standardized in the ECMA Standards Committee, the web bindings for it in W3C, and the node bindings in the node foundation, etc.
  • Committees defend their territory by using user mode-system mode separation
    • User mode: part of your OS where applications are run
    • System mode: The kernel has all the power
  • The boundaries between those 2 modes is the core of how you make program interaction safe on a platform
  • Because of the accident in history, the user mode-system mode separation in JavaScript is stronger than in any other languages
  • People have the perception that JavaScript is insecure because things are very changeable
  • However, the hardened JavaScript that Mark S. Miller drove into JavaScript made it very well-specified and secure

And that means that we really can have an environment that we download and run arbitrary JavaScript code in a box, and it really can’t get out and, and touch, talk to, or steal secrets from other parts of the system. So we get real encapsulated execution.

– Dean Tribble

  • JavaScript is highly composable — developers could use components from other developer’s frameworks instead of writing it from scratch

And the net result is a beginner with several months of training can do better than an expert used to be able to do because you have these frameworks that are really well designed.

– Dean Tribble

On Composability

  • In 2018, people did not understand composability
  • People discovered that Ethereum transactions could involve multiple interactions with different smart contracts in a single transaction
  • For example, Uniswap plugged the Compound governance elements into their system and it was a success
  • dForce did the same thing, but lacked the background knowledge and suffered an exploit as a result
  • Composability means that it’s easy to copy other people’s code but it is not very maintainable or extensible

Design Principles, Lack Of Scaling, And Ethereum

  • Important to note that things have scaling limitations and that starting with small applications is fine as well
  • At the beginning, HTTP was terrible. It had no security, pipelining, etc.
  • However, this was necessary to get the world kickstarted. It led to the development of HTTPS, HTML5, JavaScript, etc.
  • Does not want to second guess the design decisions in Ethereum

Differences In Approach Between Solana And Agoric

  • Thinks that the hardest scaling is programmability
  • Solana and other L2 solutions are scaling transaction rates, volume, latency, etc.
  • Solana is building a high frequency trading engine
  • Agoric’s focus is on scaling programmability and the programmer base
  • Each project has its own focus and target market

Key Primitives That They Have Been Building

  • In 2015, Mark Miller wrote a paper for financial cryptography in a JavaScript-like language
  • The paper resulted in the electronic rights transfer protocol, which is an API rendered in JavaScript that enables the trading and exchange of fungible and non-fungible digital assets
  • Agoric has been built around the trading/exchange of digital assets
  • Users will be able to bridge a token from another chain to Agoric
  • The growth of JavaScript frameworks ramps up programmability and the reusability of components

As A Cypherpunk, Where Does This All Fit In?

  • As a cypherpunk, he wants to enable people to permissionlessly implement and deploy some new way of cooperating with people they want to cooperate with
  • The elements to make it easier and safer is through these reusable components

Cypherpunk Culture And US Regulation Around DeFi

  • Wants stuff to be as permissionless as possible
  • Agoric (the company and the employees) is working very hard to be as compliant and as transparent as possible with regulators

What’s Coming Up On Their Roadmap?

  • Just finished their incentivized testnet. Have received lots of feedback on it
  • Will be rolling out their phased Mainnet in Q4 2021
  • Join their Discord

Rapid DeFi, with Dean Tribble of Agoric Outlier Ventures

This podcast summary was prepared by The Reading Ape in collaboration with Outlier Ventures. The Reading Ape is a humble servant of the written word.

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