Rethinking Large-Scale Consensus

Rafael Pass, Elaine Shi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In this position paper, we initiate a systematic treatment of reaching consensus in a permissionless network. We prove several simple but hopefully insightful lower bounds that demonstrate exactly why reaching consensus in a permission-less setting is fundamentally more difficult than the classical, permissioned setting. We then present a simplified proof of Nakamoto's blockchain which we recommend for pedagogical purposes. Finally, we survey recent results including how to avoid well-known painpoints in permissionless consensus, and how to apply core ideas behind blockchains to solve consensus in the classical, permissioned setting and meanwhile achieve new properties that are not attained by classical approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - IEEE 30th Computer Security Foundations Symposium, CSF 2017
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781538632161
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event30th IEEE Computer Security Foundations Symposium, CSF 2017 - Santa Barbara, United States
Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings - IEEE Computer Security Foundations Symposium
ISSN (Print)1940-1434


Conference30th IEEE Computer Security Foundations Symposium, CSF 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySanta Barbara


FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationCNS-1561209


    • Blockchains
    • Distributed consensus
    • Permissionless
    • State machine replication


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