Research and development funding is one of the cornerstones that advance the new cool technologies we have in our society.
It also provides an avenue for a future for individuals and businesses within the new knowledge economy.
At E-Crypto News, we subscribe to this and when we saw that SafePKT obtained funding from the European Commission’s NGI initiative, we were interested.
We reached out to Caleb James DeLisle who is the Lead Developer at PKT.cash blockchain.
Here is what he had to say.
Caleb James DeLisle Lead Developer at PKT.Cash Blockchain
Congratulations on securing funding from the LEDGER consortium! What’s next for PKT?
So regarding what’s next for PKT, this is a good opportunity to explain that PKT itself is a fully decentralized blockchain and open source project similar to Bitcoin.
There are a lot of things going on in the PKT ecosystem but all of the projects are managed by different teams and companies.
This project, SafePKT, is about bringing software verification technology to the Rust programming language in order to help other projects in the PKT ecosystem evolve more quickly and safely.
How exactly did the process work for you guys, as per the European Commission LEDGER commission prospect? Did they reach out to you, or did you reach out to them? What happened? Please, can you tell us the details?
So the process for a research project like this is to find the funding bodies and look over the calls, and then find a call which you can probably answer and make a proposal.
One of the key things is to read the entire call and all supporting documentation.
People who don’t have as much experience in research often make the mistake of proposing a good project, but a project which does not match the call, and then the funding body is forced by their mandate to reject it.
What plans exist for PKT this summer?
Well that’s a complicated question because PKT is a decentralized project, but inside of the PKT ecosystem there is a laundry list of different businesses and initiatives who have taken on parts of the PKT vision and decided to build out the roadmap.
One of the things I’m most excited about is the PktPal company which is releasing a device called the PKT Cube which will allow regular people to mine PKT and also have a secure PKT wallet stored at their house but controllable from their computer or mobile device.
How is internet utility changing? What are the new trends that everyone should take notice of?
I think it’s rather a foregone conclusion that in 10 years from now, we’re not going to be buying overpriced slow internet from big legacy telecommunications companies.
So I think whatever form that disruption might take, this is something we can pretty much count on happening.
When it comes to innovation, research, and development, what are the various challenges faced by creative people? What solutions do you propose as possible solutions to those challenges?
I think one of the biggest impediments to successful innovation is the romanticised notion of the big break-through, solving the ultra-difficult problem that thousands of researchers had failed at.
People end up sacrificing themselves on the altar of a problem like P=NP or prime factorization, and these types of problems are almost never where significant breakthroughs occur.
As a researcher, I do the opposite. I go for really boring solutions and “tricks” which work around hard problems by relaxing requirements or otherwise changing the dynamic so that the hard problem is not actually relevant.
So when more academically trained researchers look at my work, they tend to say “you didn’t solve anything!”, and that’s exactly the point.
My goal is to solve problems that are facing people in the world without ever trying to solve the problems that academics build their careers around.
How is PKT going to change the way we use the internet?
The vision of the PKT project is to decouple the technical and administrative aspects of internet service from the hard infrastructure, similar to how Uber decouples the administrative and technical aspects of taxi service from the infrastructure of cars and drivers.
To put it concretely, we envision a world where anyone can put an antenna on their roof or out their window and become part of the internet infrastructure, and likewise people can sign up for a Cloud ISP which buys access to that infrastructure in a decentralized bandwidth marketplace, and repackages that bandwidth into internet service.
Please, can you tell us more about SafePKT?
SafePKT is focused on improving software verification technology for the Rust programming language. Rust is a powerful programming language which is focused on safety but as Rust is a relatively young language, much of the infrastructure for software verification has not yet been migrated to Rust.
We hope that with SafePKT, we will be able to more quickly and safely evolve production code in the PKT ecosystem, but another exciting opportunity for SafePKT is in evaluation of smart contracts which are beginning to be written in Rust.
Smart contract bugs have led to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency theft, including not only the famous Ethereum DAO hack but also the more recent $600mn hack of Poly Network.
We think this is perhaps the most exciting opportunity for software verification to shine.
Please, can you tell us more about software shipping and logistics? What will be different this time for the PKT ecosystem?
Software is almost universally updated while in production.
Validating these updates before pushing them out can be very challenging and time consuming, and even the biggest players get it wrong.
The recent bug in Chromebooks which prevented people logging in is testament to the fact that even a company the size of Google, with a laser focus on software development, is unable to prevent broken software updates from reaching production.
It’s our hope that with automated software verification, we can reduce the risk and cost associated with updating software in the field, and as PKT is a very software-heavy project, it is important to us to be able to develop software quickly and efficiently.
Please, can you tell us about LEDGER and its participating partners?
The LEDGER project is itself a consortium project which consists of Dyne, BLUMORPHO, and FundingBox, three established organizations with a track record for excellence in software and cryptography, business development, and grant making.
The LEDGER project has a 7 million euro budget and its objective is to fund sub-projects like SafePKT while also providing the business and technical coaching to make these projects successful.
How can the European Commission’s (NGI) Next Generation Internet change the way business research and development ecosystems operate?
It’s kind of universal knowledge these days that nation-states need to invest in research, yet most major breakthroughs are the result of stubborn and rebellious people working in relative isolation on ideas that are unfashionable, if not entirely rejected, in the wider research community.
I don’t want to devalue abstract thought and incremental innovation, but for NGI’s ambitious goal to shape the future of the internet, we need bold and actionable visions.
This is why I think projects like LEDGER are so important.
By empowering people to bring their dreams to the MVP stage while also providing the business coaching to make those ideas sustainable, LEDGER creates the exact formula where technological paradigm shifts have been proven to take place.
What advice do you have for world governments who want to spur creativity and innovation within their domains?
I guess it’s obvious at this point my opinion on competitive grant based funding, but in addition to that I think it’s important to recognize the importance of the access to information that comes with reliable low cost internet.
Also there is clearly a cultural component, and while Americans are often derided for rejecting established science, it’s undeniable that the cultural value of believing in one’s self while questioning everything else has served American inventors well.
What other SafePKT applications should we expect to see within five years?
Software analysis and verification is well known to languages like C, but what’s so exciting about these techniques coming to Rust is that Rust eliminates a lot of the corner-cases which have historically limited the power of compilers and analyzers.
I think this technology will prove to have wide and unexpected applicability, including use cases like compiler optimization and even automatic parallelization to make use of the thousand-plus core processors of the future.
Please, can you tell us how PKT evolved from the cjdns mesh networking protocol?
PKT is a philosophical and technological extension of cjdns as a project.
The vision of cjdns has always been to lower the barrier of entry and make it possible for individuals and businesses to own and operate pieces of the internet infrastructure.
Whereas cjdns initially focused on the technical aspects of this, with automatic decentralized routing and IP address assignment, PKT extends this to cover the administrative aspects.
One realization we had after years of developing cjdns was that networks need administrators, people can’t have their primary internet connection, their “window to the world” rely on a decentralized protocol with nobody to call if it goes wrong.
As a result, we created the concept of Cloud ISPs, location-independent tech companies who lease bandwidth from node operators and convert it into a holistic internet service offering which they can provide to their customers.
While a Cloud ISP does control the flow of network traffic for its customers, we envision a great many of them to choose from, negating monopolistic behavior.
Exactly under what circumstance can internet sharing become profitable within the PKT ecosystem?
Whenever the price of bandwidth is higher than the price of hardware.
In general though, I think the infrastructure operation business most closely aligns with real estate because it is local in nature and provides mostly passive income.
How will SafePKT interact with the Internet of Things (IoT)?
As the old saying goes “in IoT, the S stands for security” – and we’re now just beginning to see the scope of impact that can come from hundreds of little devices in every home which can be remotely hacked and taken over.
Rust language is a nice fit for IoT devices because it has the performance and low memory footprint needed to run on the small low power devices but has a much better safety story than other low level languages like C.
Adding a second layer of security by way of software analysis and verification will probably be a significant thing going forward, especially as infosec liability evolves.
How can young people get involved with research and development?
In my opinion, the best place to get started is in open source software. Maintainers don’t ask you how old you are or what credentials you have, and you can get your foot in the door by doing “menial” tasks like writing documentation.
When you have a clearly defined project that you are working on, there are a lot of places to acquire funding, for people who are completely new to the space I recommend applying to NLnet because whereas LEDGER is structured around small businesses, NLnet can directly fund individuals, including young people (with parental consent).
How critical is research and development in the 21st century to economic growth?
I think the best way to answer this is to look at developing countries who have done everything more or less right, but haven’t put the requisite focus on R&D.
What happens to these countries is known as the middle-income trap. Manufacturing and export pulls people up out of abject poverty, but without the high-value jobs created by R&D, countries get stuck in this economic doldrum where wages cannot rise without exports becoming uncompetitive and so everyone just kind of muddles along.
Do you have any secrets you want to tell us? Care to spill the beans?
I can’t even think of any secrets I don’t want to tell, but one thing that’s not a secret but I think not enough people know about is the fact that PKT is a decentralized coin project similar to Bitcoin.
There is no “core team”, ICO, premine or venture capitalists.
Anyone can come into the PKT project and start a business and be equal to everyone else.
But unlike Bitcoin, PKT has a built-in mechanism to fund R&D, so if you’re interested in working on open source technologies that are relevant to the PKT community, you can apply for grants inside of the PKT ecosystem to get your salary funded while you work on it.
If you had three wishes and a Genie that could make them come true, what would they be for SafePKT?
I would like to see 1000 open source developers and 1000 entrepreneurs come join us building businesses and projects in the PKT ecosystem.
PKT is not just a token where you buy it and hope the price goes up, we have a roadmap full of identified opportunities for entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses.
For open source developers who want to work on the commons infrastructure that everybody needs, there is a funding mechanism in place so that this can be your full time activity.
Disrupting the telecommunications industry is not something that any one person or company can do alone, it’s going to take a massive group effort, but it is something that can be fun and profitable for everyone.