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Talk Abstract: Jan Camenisch

The Internet Computer: Evolution of Cryptography

For centuries, cryptography has been the art of encrypting messages. But, in the late 20th century, the invention of public key cryptography gave rise to a new science. In the decades following this breakthrough, cryptography grew to become an immensely powerful tool — for both misuse and societal benefit. For instance, it has shown how a set of mistrusting and potentially malicious parties can jointly compute a function in a secure way using distributed cryptography. Or the discovery that cryptography allows one to protect the privacy of billions of users in a digital world.

Despite these ground-breaking discoveries, cryptography was still primarily used to encrypt messages. Then, in 2008, cyberpunks altered the trajectory of technology with the Bitcoin protocol — a piece of distributed cryptography implementing a decentralised system with an enormous social impact. As a result, this sparked a new wave of innovation in cryptography and gave rise to the Internet Computer Protocol.

The Internet Computer extends the functionality of the internet from connecting billions of people to also providing millions of developers and entrepreneurs with a public compute platform — creating a revolutionary new way to build websites, enterprise systems, DeFi, and open internet services. In this talk, we briefly review this evolution of cryptography and explain the basics of the Internet Computer Protocol, with a focus on cryptography.