The Oxford Internet Institute is excited to welcome Ben Garfinkel from the Future of Humanity Institute for the talk "Recent Developments in Cryptography and Why They Matter".

Historically, progress in the field of cryptography has had enormous political consequences. Over the past century, for instance, cryptographic discoveries have played a key role in a world war, made it possible to use the internet for business and private communication, and raised difficult policy questions concerning the trade-off between privacy and security. In the interest of exploring the impact the field may have in the future, I consider a suite of more recent developments. My primary focus is on blockchain-based technologies (such as cryptocurrencies and smart contracts) and on privacy-preserving technologies (such as zero-knowledge proofs and secure multiparty computation). I provide a high-level introduction to these technologies that assumes no previous knowledge of cryptography. Then, I consider eight speculative predictions about the long-term consequences these emerging technologies could have. These predictions include the views that a growing number of information channels used to conduct surveillance may “go dark,” that it may become easier to verify compliance with agreements without intrusive monitoring, that the roles of a number of centralized institutions ranging from banks to voting authorities may shrink, and that new transnational institutions known as “decentralized autonomous organizations” may emerge. I close by outlining the technical and political difficulties that could prevent such predictions from being fulfilled.

About the speakers

  • Ben Garfinkel

    Affiliation: Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford
This page was last modified on 24 April 2018