Orcfax: the trust machine revisited

Peter Van Garderen
Coinmonks

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Orcfax is a brand new decentralized oracle platform. It publishes authentic and auditable information about the real world to the Cardano blockchain. This data is used as trustworthy inputs and triggers for Cardano smart contracts and decentralized applications.

The Orcfax project is a deliberate attempt to contribute a solution to a growing crisis of trust.

Our modern world is experiencing a trust crisis

More and more often we are left to wonder if the information we are receiving and using every day is authentic and accurate; is it trustworthy? This is true whether it comes from traditional media, social media, a back-end database controlled by a global IT firm, or a new AI interface. Meanwhile, the deliberate spread of mis-information and dis-information (often powered by deep fake technology) is adding more fuel to the fire.

We are all confronted daily with information appraisal tasks that we’re not really qualified to tackle. This message, this data, this record; is it authentic and accurate? Can I trust myself to make decisions or form opinions based on this information?

This is true at a personal level but also within sophisticated, global business-to-business systems. These must have guarantees that the data they are going to use as inputs to their software code is authentic and accurate. If not, it can have very serious consequences, including fraud, theft, sabotage, productivity losses, data corruption, as well as mis-informed, socio-political decision-making. Technology designers and users are often left wondering, can I really trust the data that is used as input for this software code and business logic?

DeFi smart contracts

This problem has become especially acute in the distributed consensus space where second-generation blockchains allow for the execution of smart contracts. These are software programs that execute conditional logic upon receiving specific inputs, e.g. when event X happens, trigger action Y. Because smart contract source code is immutably stored and run on decentralized blockchain networks, they can constrain the range of permissible user actions and their effects.

This gives modern society a whole new technological capability. Namely, the option to trust immutable, deterministic code outside the control of any third party. We no longer have to wonder whether intermediaries are performing information management tasks in a trustworthy way. Centuries of human interaction have proven that this trust is often abused and therefore lost. That’s true whether we’re speaking about governments, corporations, or individual agents.

Rescuing blockchain’s unmet potential

The breakthroughs we’ve experienced in distributed consensus computing are on par with TCP/IP and GSM as revolutionary new technologies that can fundamentally change the way modern humans live, play, and work.

The Economist recognized this as far back as 2015. It published a detailed analysis of how the blockchain technology underlying the upstart new Bitcoin cryptocurrency network could be used to disintermediate, streamline, and democratize all kinds of human interactions, ones that currently rely on trusted intermediaries like governments and banks. It coined the clever term “trust machine” to describe the emergent qualities of this revolutionary new technology.

Since then, fortunes have been made and lost on hyping this mostly unmet potential. In the meanwhile, the promise of a new decentralized global order, run smoothly and fairly by trustworthy distributed consensus technology, is slipping away.

We’ve only just scratched the surface on the full potential of blockchain technology. Worryingly, there have been a series of charlatans, fraudsters, or even just unqualified technologists that have manipulated the hype around blockchain’s promise for their own financial gain or otherwise misunderstood it all together when deploying elaborate new web3 technological stacks.

True decentralization advocates have a small window of opportunity left to correct our industry’s course before society decides to throw the blockchain baby out with the fraudsters’ bathwater. Orcfax is a deliberate attempt to rescue this unmet potential, by focusing on a key data authenticity blind spot known as “the oracle problem”.

The oracle problem

Smart contracts are the key enabler for the explosion of the trillion-dollar decentralized (DeFi) finance industry. Billions of dollars per day are being exchanged as a result of the execution of on-chain smart contract code. What most people don’t realize however, is that the vast majority of DeFi smart contracts are critically dependent on off-chain data provided by a very small group of service providers known as “oracles”.

In the ancient world, oracles were people who channelled messages from the gods to the mortals. In the blockchain world, oracles publish data about the real world to blockchain smart contracts.

First-generation oracles have a number of fundamental trust shortcomings that Orcfax has solved with a comprehensive and well-engineered new technology infrastructure. These shortcomings all boil down to a simple question, “can I trust the data that is serving as inputs to my smart contract code?

A Cardano native oracle

Orcfax is an oracle designed to publish trustworthy data to smart contracts on the Cardano blockchain. Cardano has been a top 5 smart contract blockchain by market capitalization and user community for many years.

Instead of using the flawed global state design of EVM-based chains like Ethereum, Cardano built its smart contract capabilities on top of the proven Bitcoin UTXO design. It is also the most decentralized proof-of-stake network in production today which means it doesn’t rely on compute-intensive mining that is environmentally unsustainable.

Orcfax has developed and open-sourced the Cardano Open Oracle Protocol (COOP) as a purpose-built set of software tools and processes to publish datum to the Cardano blockchain. By implementing COOP, Orcfax is able to provide Cardano developers with well-structured tools and schemas to consume trustworthy off-chain data in their smart contracts.

A solution based on archival science

One key differentiating factor is that Orcfax approaches the oracle problem from the framework of archival science, a centuries-old field of scholarship and practice. Orcfax implements a number of its best practices, principles, and ISO related standards.

In fact, Orcfax is designed from the ground up to be a standards-compliant record-keeping system that integrates on-chain publication with decentralized data collection, validation, and archiving. Such a system is capable of proving that the information under its curation is authentic. In particular by documenting the process of data collection, normalization, validation, and publication. Then protecting that information from alteration while making it easily accessible for reference and audit.

This means that users of the Orcfax oracle service can “trust but verify” the data that they are relying on to trigger Cardano smart contract decisions. This will become increasingly more relevant as blockchain infrastructure continues to expand its social and economic impact.

I have applied an archival science framework to the oracle problem because I am a professional archivist, software developer, and consultant with world-renowed expertise in the design, development, and maintenance of digital archives systems. Archivists like myself have served society throughout the centuries by ensuring that we preserve and provide access to trustworthy records that can be relied upon to frame our collective memories and make sound governance and business decisions.

I am now proud to lead a highly-qualified team of IT professionals and fellow digital archivists to launch an oracle platform based on archival science principles and related ISO standards. I spoke recently about my background and archivist’s agenda at the recent Quantum Miami conference.

The Orcfax mission

Solving the oracle problem for blockchain smart contracts using archival science is a major accomplishment on its own. However, Orcfax is more ambitious than that. The Orcfax oracle infrastructure will be leveraged beyond smart contracts to serve as a fact publication platform for all information and human activity.

By solving the oracle problem for blockchain networks and by leveraging and improving upon their distributed consensus capabilities, Orcfax supports the archival profession’s mission to provide our modern and rapidly advancing society with a real trust machine worthy of the pithy name.

The Orcfax roadmap

In Q1 of this year Orcfax launched an Initial Stake Pool Offering (ISPO) which is a fund-raising mechanism that is popular within the Cardano blockchain community.

The basic principle is that ADA delegators forego their ADA staking rewards each epoch (5 days) in return for a proportionate share of a particular Cardano native token. In our case that is $FACT, the utility token used for fees, staking, and rewards in the Orcfax decentralized oracle pool network.

The ISPO has been well-received and was fully subscribed within a few epochs. The ISPO funds will be used to launch a fully decentralized Orcfax platform on Cardano mainnet by the end of 2023. Depending on market conditions the project will also hold a token sale within the next twelve months via the LCX.com platform. An overview of $FACT tokenomics is provided in the FAX ISPO Prospectus.

A detailed breakdown of the tokenomics will be provided in the Orcfax whitepaper that will be published in May 2023. The whitepaper also includes a detailed description of Orcfax features, architecture, and business plan.

We will also launch free COOP-compliant price feeds on Cardano mainnet in Q2 2023. These will be sourced by our current federated network of Orcfax Ltd. operated validator nodes.

Throughout Q3 and Q4 we will be running our incentivized testnet for decentralized oracle pool validator node operators. By the end of 2023 we expect to fine-tune the testnet code and analysis and then switch the entire Orcfax platform to publishing on Cardano mainnet using data sourced from a fully-decentralized validator pool network. Oracle pool node operators will provide a small stake of $FACT to secure their validators and receive the same as rewards for providing validator compute functionality to the Orcfax network.

Follow us!

If you’d like to stay up to date on the latest developments in the Orcfax roadmap then the best way is to join some great community discussions already happening on our Discord server and by following the Orcfax Twitter feed.

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Peter Van Garderen
Coinmonks

digital archivist. decentralization enthusiast. pragmatic idealist. http://vangarderen.net