Girl Gone Crypto Video Interview with Brandon Koerner
Discreet lead developer, Brandon Koerner, appears on the Girl Gone Crypto podcast.
Lea Thompson, famous on social media as “Girl Gone Crypto” sat down with Discreet’s Lead Developer, Brandon Koerner, for an interview this week. The pair discussed the fascinating tech behind the Discreet Project, and the ways in which Discreet is positioning itself as the ultimate privacy coin.
Thompson is a huge proponent of privacy coins and was thrilled to dive into the nitty gritty of the project. “Can you tell that’s what I’m most excited about,” Thompson said as the discussion turned toward the technology behind Discreet’s impressive privacy features. “I’m like, ‘no, let’s go deeper!’” Her first question was about how Discreet is able to promise more privacy than a leading privacy coin like Monero.
Koerner conceded that Monero was “the standard in privacy coins. If there’s new tech, if there’s something to be researched, Monero is likely behind it.” This is what makes Discreet’s tech doubly exciting, because it uses novel technologies based on cutting-edge research that Monero simply has not (or cannot) integrate.
Koerner explained the difference between “anonymity” and “confidentiality”, characterizing the latter as a “solved problem”, but the former as much more exciting since recent breakthroughs in mathematics and technology have allowed for the degree to which a person or a transaction is anonymous to be greatly enhanced.
This led into a discussion of Triptych, the subject of research from a former member of Monero’s research labs. “[Triptych] smashes the proof-size down for signatures,” Koerner explained. “There’s this thing in privacy called signatures, and these things can get really big, because what you’re doing is you’re trying to hide who’s signing what. …We found a way to incorporate this new technology, and we actually implemented that. And the cool thing about that is that we can achieve six times more privacy than what Monero has right now,” due to six times the number of obfuscated signatures bundled to each block on the Discreet DAG.
Digging deeper into the mechanisms behind Triptych, Koerner talked briefly about sub-linear ring signatures. “It’s logarithmic,” said Koerner, “so you can have 2 to the power of N number of people in your anonymity group and that means you only have a transaction size of N. So, obviously, you need to keep track of the indices, but those are negligible when you’re dealing with the size that we are—our anonymity set is 64.”
Elaborating, Koerner explained that Discreet uses an efficient technique called multi-exponentiation, “which simplifies the calculation down to a simple problem and we do that using a series of weighted, aggregated proofs, and then we do batch verification, so we’ve optimized for that as well.” This is what allows Discreet to theoretically achieve “tens of thousands of transactions a second, and process those on a reasonably standard computer.”
Thompson inquired why Discreet chose to build a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) as opposed to a standard blockchain, and Koerner pointed out that while DAGs and blockchains serve the same function, DAGs were structured in a way that would complement the technology and capabilities Discreet is building. “It’s closer to what Nakamoto wanted [in 2008] with the timestamp server,” said Koerner, “which is a causal ordering of the transactions based on the time that they were minted, so you cannot have a double spend.” Koerner continued, “DAGs actually are a bit more general in that sense, in that you can refer to multiple parents and they, by nature, do not have any cycles in them, which means they work perfectly for what we need them for.” DAGs are ideal for “representing communication into the network, because communication is necessarily both asynchronous and also causal; you can order every single message in a network, ...and because of that [DAGs] work really well for consensus.”
At the mention of consensus, Thompson expressed curiosity about Discreet’s compelling consensus algorithm, powered by Aleph. Koerner explained that Aleph is a “protocol that was developed in 2018, and presented at the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Conference in 2019, so it’s been peer reviewed by a very, very old and established committee.” Continuing, Koerner briefly outlined the way Aleph works. “There are two levels it operates on, the level of communication and the level of protocol. Communication being the actual process of minting and propagating blocks, and the consensus protocol sitting on top of that, distributing the necessary information for consensus. Those achieve two things; they have associated communication complexity, (which is ‘how complex it, how much time will it take to send all these messages based on the number of nodes on the network’), and protocol complexity. Aleph minimizes the communications complexity and the protocol complexity for DAGs. More than that, it offers insight into a lot of other consensus mechanisms because it’s based on well-established research and showcases what the “best” is in terms of consensus in blockchain right now.”
Koerner walked Thompson through the future use-cases of Discreet. “There are a lot of use cases [covering] a large section of the market, ...but once we launch, we’re offering services within the traditional crypto sphere within the community of privacy coins. It’s going to be very similar to Ethereum, it’s going to be very similar to what Bitcoin does; a decentralized cryptocurrency that offers currency services/value transfer to a large number of people, but the big advantage that separates us from them is we are anonymous, and private. Programmability is probably the more interesting thing for people.”
The conversation shifted to another of Discreet’s exciting and unique features, its programmability. According to Koerner, programmability is quickly becoming table stakes in the crypto world. “It’s a necessary component of a blockchain right now. If you can’t offer those services in a blockchain, then you’re really not showcasing what blockchain can do in the first place.”
Indeed, there has been a great deal of interest in Discript, which is the name of Discreet’s programming language. Discript will be the key to unlocking the power and potential of Discreet’s underlying technologies. And because Discreet is a lightning-fast DAG with built-in, rock-solid anonymity features, completely anonymous smart contracts are possible.
Many projects striving to achieve a level of programmability simply move to support an executable protocol like WebAssembly for their runtimes inside of virtual machines. However, there is power in a purpose-built programming language, Koerner said. “Having your own language is very helpful because there are a lot of concepts that exist in blockchain that don’t exist elsewhere.”
“We’re exploring two different methods right now,” said Koerner, speaking of the programmable aspect of Discreet. “One method that’s actually really popular right now is off-chain computation with on-chain verification. The way that works is that the amount of computational problems you can solve scales linearly with the size of the network,” a feature that is notably lacking in the prototypical programmable chain, Ethereum. The goal is to “minimize the verification time, while having an arbitrary computational time.” The other method Discreet is exploring is traditional on-chain computation and verification, but further testing will be undertaken to optimize that aspect of the project.
Koerner recognized that unseating a leading privacy crypto like Monero wouldn’t happen right away. “People who like Monero, well, they’re probably going to continue liking Monero, but they’re going to be interested in us. And especially from what I’ve seen from our user base, it’s mostly an academic and research crowd that’s interested in us.”
The 20-minute interview concluded with a discussion about Discreet’s tokenomics, and a glimpse into the work the Discreet team is doing right now.
Watch the interview with Brandon Koerner and Girl Gone Crypto on YouTube, and don’t forget to like the video and leave a comment!