Dive Into the Stellar Consensus Protocol: Interstella 5555

Exploration of the socially motivated mechanisms behind the Stellar consensus protocol.

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Dive Into the Stellar Consensus Protocol: Interstella 5555

Humans are social creatures and society is based on interpersonal trust relationships. If you hear from the CEO of an oil company that global warming is not a man-made phenomenon, you may believe that he might be biased, and such information would be taken into account in deciding whether or not to take him at his word. By the same measure if you read an article on Cointelegraph that recommends the Stellar Consensus Protocol, you would be favourably disposed to investigate it, because you know that the author of the piece is a highly cultivated gentleman and a distinguished scholar. We weight the value of the information we receive by the degree to which we trust the source of that information. This is a remarkably effective heuristic for filtering through the deluge of information that seeks to DDOS our senses in the digital age. 

The world’s most cited scientific journal is titled Nature, because ideally the goal of science is to discover and utilize fundamental characteristics of the natural physical world and universe. The Stellar Protocol recognizes the natural information provenance heuristic described above and applies it in an ingenious way to the manufacturing of consensus in a distributed system.

It just so happens that the information provenance heuristic is the selfsame one that the author of this article used in his initial evaluation of Stellar. Blockchain transaction networks are distributed systems, so one would expect that the knowledge required to create the file sharing platform eDonkey, would serve as a solid foundation to bootstrap one’s appreciation of cryptocurrency systems. The world’s first Bitcoin exchange is associated nowadays with chicanery and malfeasance of the highest order, however that was mostly the work of “MagicalTux” a.k.a. Mark Karpelès. Before Mt. Gox imploded, it was the brainchild of Jed McCaleb who began the exchange after having created eDonkey. McCaleb sold Mt. Gox to Karpelès in 2011. Subsequently McCaleb conceived the idea of the Ripple payment protocol, one of the undisputed darlings of the Blockchain ecosystem with multi-million dollar venture funding rounds under its belt and large global financial institutions among its list of satisfied customers. This is interesting pedigree and with knowledge of the history of the organisation, and when one is made aware that McCaleb is also a co-founder of the Stellar Development Foundation, it might provoke one to consider Stellar more closely.

Even if McCaleb was the sole operator of Stellar, that would have been enough to peak the curiosity of most people, however, Stellar also has Professor David Mazières in the role of chief scientist. At Stanford University, Mazières leads the Secure Computer Systems Group and if these qualifications are not enough to convince you to take a look at Stellar, Mazières is also a past master in the subtle art of UX, as is evidenced by his phenomenal personal website.

Now that you know a bit about Stellar, and your information provenance heuristic has been satiated, the next logical question that comes to your mind is “how can I interact with Stellar myself?” - fret not - in that regard we also have you covered.

Stellar aims for the stars, and the nearest star system to us is Alpha Centauri! The next step towards getting there is a functional app for sending and receiving payments with Stellar. Centaurus is the first wallet application build for deployment on the Android platform and was recently awarded best wallet in the Stellar Build Challenge.

As the ecosystem around the Stellar network continues to grow and flourish, it will be interesting to see how the system develops. The information that you decide to propagate to the nodes in your social network, and what you choose to say to those nodes that trust your personal judgement, will have no small part to play in that story.