A New Day for Cryptography: Enabling Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Consensus 2018 (Whit’s panel is the last session on Day 1)

Marconi Fellows Whit Diffie and Marty Hellman have been widely recognized not only for their work on public key encryption, but for being the first civilians to make incredible advances in a field that had been traditionally reserved for government.

Whit says of their landmark 1976 paper, “My vision was to secure all the 100M telephones in North America. I was not thinking about Internet commerce because I did not know how to manage the signatures that underpin commercial transactions. I had been thinking about how to negotiate keys for five years.”

A few years after publishing the paper that began, “We stand at the brink of a revolution in cryptography,” Diffie thought that the field might have run its course. But it keeps coming back stronger than ever. In 1997, the RSA Conference exploded from hundreds to thousands of people. We now see a new emergence of cryptography in the context of blockchain and crypto currency.

Privacy and security in a decentralized world are at the heart of the current discussions as we prepare to safely operate in a world with more people, more regulatory regimes and more business models than ever before.

Cryptography is an unusual field that depends on a balance of development work with offensive market forces that are always trying to break the technology. This healthy tension is at the heart of Whit’s work at Crypto Labs and of other leading edge developments in the space.

For more insights into the history and present state of cryptography for blockchain and crypto currency, check out the video above.