The SNARK Age is a pop-up newsletter exploring and celebrating technology that we believe will have fundamental and deterministic impacts on privacy, computing, crypto and money in the years to come. Today we begin with an exploration of why we think SNARKS are the technology of the coming decade. Bitcoin emerged in a time of massive turmoil for the financial system. Bitcoin was the first breath of fresh air in an environment that seemed to be stagnating, not only in the financial industry, but in the tech world as well.

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Mina Foundation

Mina Protocol, the world’s lightest blockchain, powered by participants

By Pranay Mohan

Welcome to SNARK Age, a pop-up newsletter exploring and celebrating technology that we believe will have fundamental and deterministic impacts on privacy, computing, crypto and money in the years to come. We’ll share (mostly) small issues highlighting key events, milestones, and people in space.

Today we begin with an exploration of why we think SNARKS are the technology of the coming decade.

“Each set of technologies is going through a difficult and prolonged period of stretching as the impending exhaustion of its potential becomes increasingly visible… The widespread shift to the ‘logic of the new’ requires two turbulent three decades of transition from one. on the other, when the successful installation of new higher capacities accentuates the decline of the old one. By the time this process has taken place, the end of the previous revolution is little more than a whimper. “

– Carlota Perez, Technological revolutions and financial capital

Bitcoin emerged in a time of massive turmoil for the financial system. The global economy had quickly plunged into recession, and average people were losing not only their jobs, but even their homes. In contrast, international bankers had just been bailed out by their respective governments, each claiming that the financial industry was “too big to fail”.

The injustice of this situation was palpable, and people around the world clearly saw that they were getting the deal’s gross end.

This feeling and the exhaustion of the status quo was the backdrop on which Bitcoin was born, with the genesis block indelibly etched with the following statement:

“The Times 03 / Jan / 2009 Chancellor on the verge of a second bailout for the banks.”

It was a clear call to action from Satoshi Nakamoto – the big bang moment for a new technological and financial paradigm. Ten years later, we see it in the form of a rapidly maturing blockchain industry and a sudden surge in public interest in fundamental crypto. Bitcoin was the first breath of fresh air in an environment that seemed to be stagnating, not only in the financial industry, but in the tech world as well.

Technological exhaustion

The top five U.S. companies by market cap are all tech companies, each besieged by its own share of controversy. Facebook and Google are mired in controversy over their retention and use of data. Amazon and Apple are testing the limits of centralization and control of their industries. And Microsoft, while in the background since the antitrust era, has just signed a major agreement with the CIA.

This controversy is not limited to big tech companies. Major data breaches happen every week. Last year: Marriott, Capital One, MoviePass, and Doordash, to name a few. Not only do businesses lose our data, they also misuse it. Online lenders are not free from discrimination, in fact they speed it up. 23andMe sells your data to pharmaceutical companies and the police can use the DNA of relatives to locate suspects with genetic matches. Everyone is exhausted by this – just like with the financial crisis, we know we are getting the rough end of the deal. Data-hungry companies grow too big to fail and then grope or abuse our data. And nothing is ever done to solve this problem.

What if we changed this arrangement? What if we never had to provide our data to these companies? What if we could, without trust, interact with other parties and be assured through cryptography that our data would never be disclosed? This is where zk-SNARK comes in. In the same way that Bitcoin was a call to action to reassert our financial ownership, SNARKs in the same vein will help us assert our IT ownership.

What are SNARKs

Most people don’t know about SNARKs. If you are one of them, I recommend that you start here for a quick explanation. If you are familiar with SNARKs, it probably comes from their implementation in the blockchain world. That said, it’s easy to think of SNARKs about privacy (like ZCash) or scalability (Coda or zk Rollups). But SNARKs aren’t about any of those things. SNARKs are basically about IT integrity.

What does this mean though? Well, think about every time you enter a password when logging into a website. The company / department you are using needs to know who you are, and you send them your password to let them know “hey I am who I say I am”. The problem arises because every time you press Submit on the login form, you trust this company to properly encrypt and store your password. And when they don’t, you’re screwed.

SNARKs are reversing this dynamic. With SNARKs, I can just send a little proof guaranteeing “I am who I say I am”, and the company can verify it without a doubt – never knowing any sensitive information like your password. Essentially, you can perform some action on your computer and then generate a SNARK proof, and the receiving party will know that you did it with integrity. If that sounds like magic, then buckle up, because it will revolutionize the future, and we are only at the very beginning.

SNARK State

Zk-SNARKs are yet another brand new technology in a rapidly evolving field. In 2019 alone, more than 11 articles were written on new SNARK variants.

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Not only is research exploding, but tooling is also improving rapidly. Zokrates, Bellman, snarky, Circcom – there are more libraries added every day in more languages ​​that help developers write SNARK circuits. Even E&Y is in the fray, with a library that uses SNARKs for their blockchain.

But to be honest, outside of the blockchain world, SNARKs are non-existent. This is because as mentioned earlier, it is still very, very early. While SNARKs hold tremendous promise for reinventing software, they are still crude. SNARK’s build times still need to be optimized, and they require coordinated multi-party compute ceremonies to get into place. In addition, it is difficult to create SNARKs – only a few hundred people fully understand how they work, and ordinary software engineers cannot easily implement them yet. In short, it will take another 5 to 10 years for SNARKs to really develop their potential.

But that’s OK – because if you’re reading this now, you’re one of the lucky ones. You are witnessing the birth of a new paradigm. You might even see SNARKs move from an esoteric subdomain of crypto to a fundamental pillar of the new internet. But the future is not certain. There is still a lot of research to be done on optimizing SNARK test times, setup transparency and universality. For production projects currently using SNARKs, there is still a lot of work to be done. And while people are exhausted with the old paradigm, it doesn’t go smoothly in this good night. There will be turbulence as the unknown of the new paradigm will take some time to adapt. But when the dust clears, we will hopefully have created a more just world, where even in the digital realm ordinary people will have control over their data and sovereignty.

If you are excited about this, then join us to be part of the zk-SNARK revolution. Subscribe to the SNARK Age newsletter to get the next issues on SNARKs. We’ll cover in more detail the key SNARKS milestones over the past year, our predictions for the future, the innovators we think you should watch out for, and more.

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through Mina Foundation @O1 Laboratories. Mina Protocol, the world’s lightest blockchain, powered by participantsRead my stories

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