Science and Engineering


A final question when discussing the science and engineering of developing a cryptocurrency is how to address transparency. Design decisions are not Boolean and ethereal, coming to developers in dreams and then suddenly becoming cannon. They are derived from experience, debate and lessons learned from earlier mistakes.

The challenge is that a totally transparent development process could influence discussion to become more theatrical than evidence based. Egos, attempts to win over a community, and fear of sounding stupid could force conversations to become sterile and counterproductive.

Furthermore, outsiders could attempt to co-opt the conversation in an effort to force their particular tangent to become the only relevant topic. Everyone has a sacred cow.

So how does one balance the need for a transparent development process, which is owed to the community that has entrusted progress to a set of core developers, with the need for freedom of expression without fear?

With Cardano, we have decided to embrace a standards driven process with directed oversight. The community needs to know that the science and the code are well thought out, checked and actually solve the things that developers claim they do. To this end, peer review should completely satisfy the science component as it has been designed specifically for this purpose and has given us the modern world.

For code, this topic is a bit more opinionated. For Cardano, we have elected to entrust the Cardano Foundation to serve as a final auditor of IOHK’s work. In particular, they are entrusted with the following duties:

  1. Regular review of the source code contained in the Cardano Github to check for quality, test coverage, proper comments and completeness
  2. Review of all Cardano documentation for correctness and usefulness
  3. Verifying the claims that the protocols produced by the scientists are fully implemented

To accomplish this task, IOHK will submit regular and timely reports to the Foundation – and its assigns – to review. The Foundation in turn will release a development oversight report to the Cardano community on at least a quarterly basis.

This first effort is intended to start a broader conversation about how a decentralized project achieves accountability. Development oversight from a trusted third party is a powerful tool to ensure that developers are on track, but it is not sufficient to completely guarantee that the project will always deliver.

For this reason, after the treasury is integrated into CSL, the Foundation will encourage additional development teams to construct alternative clients based upon the formal specifications developed jointly with IOHK. Development diversity has been a great technique used by the Ethereum project to avoid a monoculture forming around a single set of ideas or developers.

With respect to specifications, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from the standards process followed by the WC3 and the IETF. Ultimately, each protocol Cardano integrates requires a specification that is independent of academic work or source code. Rather it needs to be in a suitable format such as an RFC.

One of the Cardano Foundation’s core tenets is to act as standards body specifically for the Cardano protocols and to host conversations to update, add or change standards relevant to Cardano. If the internet (a product of standards) through IETF can reach consensus about what core protocols shall be used, then it is entirely reasonable to assume that a dedicated body could facilitate the same outcome.

As a closing note, it is interesting to explore moving these discussions to a decentralized entity hosted on a blockchain. This concept is called a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and preliminary work is underway in this area. IOHK will develop a reference DAO model for entities interfacing with Cardano to use if desired and it is the Cardano Foundation’s prerogative to decide whether to embrace it under their standards mandate.

Last updated: July 17, 2020 11:40 UTC

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