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Cardano against all odds

Not so long ago the word blockchain was used almost exclusively to refer to Bitcoin or decentralized applications (DApps) on Ethereum.

Ethereum, the blockchain founded by Vitalik Buterin, has remained in the spotlight year after year. Although it has certainly come a long way, a number of issues persist, namely that the feasibility of Ethereum 2.0 remains hotly contested within the blockchain community. This debate originated within the core Ethereum team, which spawned both Polkadot and, of course, Cardano.

Cardano, the brainchild of Charles Hoskinson, was long derided for being a ghost chain (something we covered in a previous article, DApps on Cardano: a short overview of a multi-faceted blockchain). However, Cardano has grown up and is now giving Ethereum a run for its money.

Let’s cast our minds back on how Cardano got where it is today: in a position to potentially dethrone Ethereum.

Cardano: a solid foundation

It is common knowledge that Charles Hoskinson launched Cardano just two years after Ethereum. However, few people are aware that both Hoskinson and indeed his entire firm have viewed Cardano as a viable alternative to Ethereum almost since the very beginning.

“An alternative!? There isn’t any need for one!”, some of you may object, adding that “Since day one Ethereum never stopped innovating and building tomorrow’s art, finance, and social interactions!”

Indeed, Ethereum’s contributions have been proven beyond doubt. Playing them down would betray at best a poor grasp of the subject and at worst bad faith. Nevertheless, Ethereum’s scalability and sustainability issues remain unresolved.

Question marks have been hanging over Ethereum’s scalability since the very beginning. These debates have gone round and round in circles, caught in the Blockchain trilemma posited by Buterin himself.

Ethereum 2.0 (that’s Serenity to the purists) is supposed to resolve this trilemma. This is an update the Ethereum team has been working on ever since… ever since Ethereum was first launched!

So why did they waste time laying railway tracks for the “Serenity” high-speed train (still at the proof of concept stage) when the “Ethereum” steam locomotive wasn’t even running yet, let alone carrying any Dappsengers?

Because this is all part of Ethereum’s vision: as the slow (~15 TPS) and polluting (~14,400kWh per day) locomotive is chugging along engineers are running ahead of it, extending the rails so as to satisfy an innovative community keen to go further and further. Meanwhile, other Ethereum engineers are replacing the rails to pave the way for their high-speed train 2.0, which is electric, much faster and, as we’re sure you’ll agree, less polluting.

The difficulty here is two-fold. Not only must the two trains not collide, but once the slower of the two has been set in motion and reached its maximum velocity it cannot be stopped.

When Charles Hoskinson first set up the Cardano project he took the approach espoused by many mature companies today: let the first movers launch, have their moment of glory, then get bogged down in the various problems they will inevitably encounter. Meanwhile, we will monitor them closely, learn from their successes and mistakes, design our own version, and go on to become tomorrow’s winners.

This is why Cardano has taken its time implementing its validation scripts for smart contracts, all the while remaining alert to all of the problems plaguing competitors so as to avoid repeating their mistakes. This is different to what other blockchains are doing. What’s more is, Cardano uses the programming language Haskell, a powerful combination of mathematical concepts and software engineering, which means its code is based on mathematical proofs.

As you can imagine, this programming language is much more complex than those used by other blockchains. Yet it has the notable advantage of contextualising transaction rules, thereby dampening the potential downside at the execution stage.

Thus, Cardano, the most active crypto on GitHub in 2021, is one of the few protocols in the “Fix it now, release it later” innovator category. This resonates with the idea of blockchain being more about long-term vision than poorly thought out, non-scalable, and very limited releases.

The security, predictability, and complex process simplification benefits which flow from this are sizeable. In short, Haskell is a complex, but sustainable language with unlimited possibilities that’s a perfect match for Cardashift’s vision.

Some of the biggest blockchains suffer from security breaches. For instance, while Binance Smart Chain and Solana are doing well thanks to a DeFi that’s accessible to all, they have in fact encountered centralization problems. In Solana’s case, its architecture has given rise to substantial security issues: 3 DDOS attacks in the space of a few months! Launching a sustainable decentralized economy under such conditions was clearly a non-starter for Cardano.

In order to enhance its sustainability, Cardano not only relies on its language, but also on its architecture. Since it is a Proof of Stake blockchain its power consumption is about 1300x lower than that of Bitcoin King.

In addition to helping reduce energy consumption, this architecture also enhances scalability. Multiple transactions can be executed on Cardano at the same time. For instance, multiple NFT purchases can be validated in a single block. By comparison, secure but complex blockchains such as Tezos would have to validate these consecutively in 3 separate blocks.

All of these technological choices are fully in line with Cardano’s vision, which is what sets it apart from Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana, and various other blockchains. The focus is on paving the way for a fairer, more inclusive, sustainable, and accessible world, resolving the societal and environmental problems we’re currently facing. Cardashift couldn’t agree more.

Cardano: a blockchain for the common good

“Infrastructure is always a challenge for us Africans.”

Marius Reitz, Managing Director for Africa at Luno

The vast majority of blockchains focus on onboarding and retaining either crypto natives and/or crypto sceptics. Meanwhile, Cardano continues to buck the trend by targeting not just those interested in financial services or speculative investments, but also those passionate about how blockchain can resolve banking issues the world over.

After all, isn’t that precisely Bitcoin’s primary objective — to empower everyone to dispense with the current banking system by building the finance of tomorrow?

Bitcoin, Ethereum, as well as other first and second generation blockchains are helping to achieve this through mining. We can all partake in this process at our own level. But the fact remains that mining in no way allows everyone to participate in the security of the network in a way that’s profitable.

Today, the only miners who remain profitable have expensive equipment and/or access to cheap electricity.

It’s worth remembering that in 2019 nearly 840 million people still lacked access to electricity — that’s roughly 11% of the world’s population!

One day all of these people will get access, which is in fact something Cardashift and the Cardano ecosystem are actively working towards. When this day comes we’ll need to hit the ground running, onboarding these newcomers and thereby reducing inequality — if we don’t, existing mining bases will only grow bigger.

How can we fully include all of these newcomers and treat them as equals, despite their smaller economic clout?

Cardano is implementing Proof of Stake in a unique manner (the Ouroboros protocol). Both its power consumption and its hardware requirements are low. Thanks to all of these factors every ADA holder (no minimum required) can set up a node. Small ADA holders or “minnows” can cooperate through a stakepool, which allows them to wield the same power as “whales” (further information can be found here).

This desire to simplify blockchain access for countries in immediate need of solutions in spheres as diverse as banking, ID document certification, and education was reaffirmed by Charles Hoskinson himself in a speech he gave to the Cardano Africa community in 2021:

“The first countries to hold credible, free, fair, and verifiable online national elections will likely be African nations. The first countries to have an end-to-end digital identity and economy, there’s great potential for that to be African nations — not Germany, not France, not England, not the United States, not China or Japan. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of progress and new systems.”

However, a great deal still needs to be done in order for us to make Hoskinson’s vision a reality.

Cardano: a blockchain of conviction backed by a committed community

We’re crazy enough to dream that we can.

Charles Hoskinson

In order to develop and democratize while ignoring detractors a project needs to have a strong community behind it. A community that firmly believes in the project’s success and the impact that it will have on our future. Since 2018 the Cardano community has confirmed:

  • its ability to operate globally without the need for intermediaries, all thanks to decentralized governance
  • the power and scope of collective human intelligence
  • its determination to help build a better world

The community is no idle spectator: it is taking concrete action to launch decentralized identity projects (Atala PRISM) and build robust partnerships (with iceaddis, a pan-African incubator for tech start-ups). It has also entered into agreements with a number of states. For instance, Ethiopia chose Cardano to certify the diplomas of 5mn of its students and plans to entrust Cardano with the certification of the identity documents of its 110mn citizens.

Of all the aforementioned challenges, interoperability will be by far the most important in the coming years. As adoption gathers pace we will need to onboard ever greater numbers, and this in a world which, according to the United Nations, will be home to 11 billion people by the end of this century! In the short-term it may be impossible to onboard everyone at the same time without having to impose some restrictions on what people can or can’t do. This is why choosing Cardano, the “one blockchain to rule them all”, was a no-brainer for Cardashift.

It’s not up to you to defend your values by getting involved in the projects of tomorrow.

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You can also follow us on Twitter and learn more about us on our Website.⚡️

Edited by Anaïs Bouchet — Impact Project Manager

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