In the past, people have relied on trusted third parties to facilitate the transactions that define our lives: how we store medical records, where we get our news, how we share information about ourselves with scientists and advertisers, and how we communicate. Advances in distributed systems and cryptography allow us, in principle, to eschew such parties. Today, we can create a global, irrefutable ledger of transactions, events, and diagnoses, such that "rewriting history" is computationally infeasible. Our goal is to explore the consequences of contracts and promises written in mathematical ink. For example, these ledgers (and related cryptographic primitives) may empower individuals to have more control over their personal data and its use by others, including social networks, industry, the healthcare system, and scientists. Our Initiative is an open, highly connected place for everyone on campus, across the different departments and schools.
The Stanford Distributed Trust Initiative is a university-wide multi-disciplinary program with the following goals:
- Bring together Stanford expertise in cryptography, big data, privacy, health, sensors and devices, and economics
- Provide a forum for discussing and setting future directions of distributed trust and identity
- Foster collaborations among Stanford researchers and industry
- Provide a forum for the early communication of new results
- Foster communication between industrial sectors
- Push the forefront of real-world blockchain applications
- Help to set standards for blockchains
- Provide multi-dimensional training for students and postdocs
The DTI arose from discussions with security researchers (such as Sydney Li at the EFF), Silicon Valley venture capitalists and technologists (such as Bril Wang and Humphrey Polanen), and Stanford undergraduates and faculty.