There is increasing interest in distributed systems where partici- pants stand to benefit from cooperation, but do trust one another not to cheat. Although blockchain-based commerce is perhaps the most visible example of such systems, the problem of economic exchange among mutually untrusting autonomous parties is a fundamental one independent of particular technologies.
This talk argues that such systems require rethinking our notions of correctness for distributed concurrency control and fault-tolerance. Addressing this challenge brings up questions familiar from classical distributed systems: how to combine multiple steps into a single atomic action, how to recover from failures, and how to coordinate concurrent access to data. Commerce among untrusting parties is a kind of fun-house mirror of classical distributed computing: familiar features are recognizable, but distorted. For example, classical atomic transac- tions are often described in terms of the well-known ACID properties: atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability. We will see that untrusting cooperation requires structures superficially similar to, but fundamentally different from, classical atomic transactions.
Maurice Herlihy has an A.B. in Mathematics from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from M.I.T. He has served on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University and the staff of DEC Cambridge Research Lab. He is the recipient of the 2003 Dijkstra Prize in Distributed Computing, the 2004 Gödel Prize in theoretical computer science, the 2008 ISCA influential paper award, the 2012 Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize, and the 2013 Wallace McDowell award. He received a 2012 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Lecturing Fellowship, and he is fellow of the ACM, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.