What you can do
Secure computing is a team effort, built on open protocols. And this vision that we are outlining here is already shared by a number of communities, and startups. Web3 is a term that also encapsulates a number of shared key ideas. We should try to forget everything we know and expect about how computers and the internet operate. We need to rethink things from scratch, with a solid understanding of the security properties enabled by secure computing.
Perhaps the most important then is to start thinking about how we interact with hardware, software, services, and businesses not in terms of what they do well, but in terms of what they could do if they were powered by secure computers. The DeFi community is an amazing example of how fast the idea can spread, and what it enables. Starting a bank used to be a multi-year, multi-million dollars journey that involved hundreds of people. Secure computers enable anyone to build a bank and operate it with immense security. Instead of vaults, firewalls, security teams, audit teams and complex processes, we 'just' have a set of smart contracts that are running with extremely strong security guarantees.
Once we have a good understanding of what we're missing out on, then we can start to see the opportunities, and get to work. We must challenge everything we have come to accept as normal and demand integrity, availability, confidentiality, authenticity, possession and utility from the software we interact with. We're embarking on a journey that will lead to profound changes in how software is built, hardware is designed, and how businesses, services and our society operates. While we do not know what is in store for us, we should also remember the values that enabled this in the first place. Openness, transparency, integrity, and good governance.
Perhaps the most significant challenge will be to get the ball rolling. Each of the communities of information security, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, zero-knowledge proofs, multiparty computation, fully homomorphic encryption, crypto anarchists and cypherpunks have a reasonably clear vision of how they are advancing their agenda and information security. Getting at least parts of each community to join a broader movement to build secure computers will be a gradual process, one that will probably require compromises to individual visions.
The biggest 'secure computing' community is undeniably the ethereum community. Ethereum used to call itself "the world computer" and we're getting closer to this vision everyday. Think of Ethereum's mainnet as a particular secure computer. Polygon, Binance, and other layer2/sidechain solutions all can be thought of as Ethereum-compatible secure computers. The EVM is to secure computers what x86 is to CPUs. While ethereum itself does not have built-in confidentiality, a number of teams and startups are working on enabling it. And if you'd like to learn more about ethereum, check out your local meetups and events. Of course if you're in Bangkok, join us!
If you're in the US, consider joining the secure and private compute summit 2022 in Washington. Consider also joining the fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) community run by zama.ai. And for sure there are many more amazing communities in the same space with a shared vision. Feel free to edit this page on GitHub at https://github.com/atato/securecompute and let everyone know you!
How can you contribute? The most important if you can is to contribute your time, and there are a number of things you can do it you're ready and willing to do this. Check-out our practical propositions of what we as a community should be working on right now.
You might contribute your knowledge, and provide feedback on the model we outlined here, point out things that do not sound right to you and help us outline a better vision for everyone. You might be part of one of the teams we spoke about here, or be a user of their products. If this article sounds interesting to you then spread the word, our goal is to assemble like minded people to get to work on building secure computers.
You might have access to people you think can help the secure compute community make progress. If you do, please get them engaged with this material and the community. Building secure computers will not be a one-company thing, just like no single company built the internet. We're going to need help with all the different layers of secure computers to make them a reality, and it's only by working together that we will make this vision a reality.
You might be looking to deploy capital, and make investments into startups who want to rethink the way computers are built and operated, in this case please keep an eye on the companies active in the community, and if you're unsure who's working on what then take some time to join us and learn more. We're going to need all the help we can get.
After 50 years, computer science is experiencing a paradigm shift. This shift will affect every facet of information technology; how we build products, what problems they solve, and how they integrate into our lives. Cryptography and blockchains are the driving forces tearing apart the notion of personal computers and inventing privacy-preserving, secured computing. The implications for individuals, families, businesses, and society are profound and not fully understood. An enormous amount of work lies ahead to create tomorrow’s computing. Companies like atato are building what will power tomorrow’s tech industry. Come and join us!