The US agency responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military wants to get a better understanding of permissionless blockchains
A “permissionless blockchain” means that anyone can join the network, participate in the process of block verification to create consensus and also create smart contracts. A good example of permissionless blockchain is the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, where any user can join the network and start mining.
A permissioned blockchain restricts the actors who can contribute to the consensus of the system state. In a permissioned blockchain, only a restricted set of users have the rights to validate the block transactions. A permissioned blockchain may also restrict access to approved actors who can create smart contracts.
Clearly, Bitcoin has not found favor with the military, as DARPA is looking for alternative methods where monetary incentives, those normally acquired through mining, are bypassed. Permissionless distributed protocols such as Bitcoin, compensate miners with coins as they add blocks and shore up the network.
The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has sent out a request for information (RFI) on those aspects of permissionless distributed consensus protocols which as yet have not been adequately explored, such as how these blockchains function without monetary incentives. DARPA has stated future programmes rely on responses to the RFI:
“For the purpose of this RFI, DARPA is solely interested in permissionless distributed consensus protocols … While there is a substantial amount of publically and privately supported research and development in distributed consensus protocols, DARPA seeks information alongside several, less-explored avenues of permissionless distributed consensus protocols. Such information could help inform a future DARPA program.”
DARPA is clearly keen to utilize blockchain in a defence strategy; this renewed interest in blockchain technology marks a return to new communications tech, as two years ago DARPA was reported as working on a blockchain based communications platform resilient to cyber-attacks, with self-destruct messaging.
Earlier this year, the US overseas military personnel announced a voting system via a blockchain mobile app so that servicemen could vote in midterm elections. 144 military personnel stationed overseas from 24 counties cast their ballots on a mobile, blockchain-based platform called Voatz.
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