Gravity: a scalable infrastructure for the crypto-economy

Even with the market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies recently eclipsing $100 bn and interesting new use cases increasingly solidifying, the full potential of blockchain technology is still far from realization. As the number of high profile Ethereum-based Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) keeps increasing, the path ahead to maturation and widespread adoption needs to address the current scalability problems, particularly as we bear witness to the reality that Ethereum remains many orders of magnitude away from exhibiting capacity to support applications with millions (let alone billions) of users.

Ethereum’s “World Computer” architecture — run by every node of the network, processing and replicating every piece of information run by every application in the system — has tremendous benefits in terms of transparency and fault tolerance. However, it also introduces redundancies that can be inconvenient for many applications, particularly in terms of low consensus speed and high entrance costs. It also highlights the need for off-chain solutions for large dApps, raising questions about the security of those transactions.

These worrisome shortcomings were epitomized with Brave’s Ethereum-based launch of its Basic Attention Token (BAT), as it infamously raised the equivalent of $35million in 30 seconds during its ICO at the end of May. As Vitalik Buterin reported, only 185 transactions were successful while over 10,000 failed; one buyer paid the equivalent of $6,600 in fees, and the Ethereum blockchain capacity was full for 3 hours after the sale started. In addition to this, half of the BAT network was purchased by only 5 addresses, while ⅔ of the available coins was shared among only 20 buyers.

BAT top 100 token holders. Source: etherscan.io

With the recent ICOs of Bancor and Status revealing similar weaknesses in the World Computer architecture, it has become increasingly clear that ICOs are simply becoming another way for old forms and old divisions to reproduce themselves. An awareness is growing of the need for an alternative and more flexible infrastructure for the burgeoning crypto-economy.

From World Computer to World Computing Fabric: A New Infrastructure for the Crypto-Economy

Value production is inherently networked. Therefore, in order to thrive, it needs an architecture as granular, scalable, and flexible as possible in order to accommodate the kinds of diverse applications and interactions that will, in turn, support its self-organization. Here at the Economic Space Agency, we want to build an ecosystem in which everyone can launch and participate in crowdsales, and exchange tokens without breaking the network. For these reasons we are building GRAVITY: a new common infrastructure for the crypto-economy. As mentioned in our previous post, GRAVITY is an open source, general purpose computing fabric based on an object-capability paradigm. The logical decentralization that this affords introduces important innovations in terms of scalability and speed, and also the possibility to host on-chain solutions for multi-blockchain integration.

Public and Private Contracts
Gravity’s logically decentralized post-blockchain protocol enables distributed atomic transactions among an interdependent network of contracts. In this approach, private agents and private contracts are possible, and the parties to a contract are in control of who can participate in its execution and verification. If an external authority is used for verification, the transaction data in the private contract can be revealed only to the verifier, who reveals only whether the given transactions are valid. This enables verifiability and non-repudiability (proof) on interactions among autonomous agents on the network, while preserving privacy, unforgeability, and auditability.
Scalability and Speed
As a result of its flexible network capabilities, Gravity allows much more scalable and resilient applications to be built on top of it. It also provides infrastructure for a much faster network that can accommodate thousands of committed transactions per second. This is not possible with the logically centralized blockchain technology in which every node in the network participates in maintaining the single public state of the network (e.g., Ethereum can currently handle 13 transactions/second).
Enabling Multi-blockchain Solutions for Distributed Commons
Gravity enables multi-blockchain space integration seamlessly. Alongside the built-in transmittable authorization of object capabilities, Gravity can transmit the protocol types and specifications necessary to interact with a remote contract’s API, eliminating the manual work of interoperating with remote services. Building on this, we are able to create higher-order abstractions such as the Remote Access Object that make interoperating with multiple remote heterogeneous contracts nearly as straightforward as programming to a local library. Gravity contracts are not restricted from communicating with external systems, as is the case with Ethereum and Bitcoin. A developer could write their own protocol bridge linking any other blockchain system — such as Ethereum — to the Gravity Public Network. This allows for VMs within the Gravity ecosystem to exchange value with a range of other DAOs built on other protocols, from Bitcoin sidechains, to Ethereum, and beyond.

We believe Gravity provides a powerful new world computing fabric that will allow us to collectively make the next leap in advancing the blockchain ecosystem. Its flexible network capabilities allows developers to tune the properties of their applications based on their desired outcomes, by making it possible to create custom topologies, consensus algorithms, and failure recovery methods. We see this as an exciting step towards unlocking substantially more of the potential for new economic, social, and financial relations afforded by this revolutionary technology.

If you are curious about what we are doing and want to participate in Gravity’s realization, join in GRAVITY development in Github and the developer mailing list.

And, as always, you are welcome to our slack.