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The Future of AO - An Application Consensus Interaction System with infinite scalibility, a event record between Sam, the founder of Arweave, and Outprog, the founder of EverVision

Validated Project

Author: PermaDAO

Translator: Jomosis

Reviewer: Kyle


The term "narrative" is very popular in the cryptocurrency industry. It originated from a sociological concept called "Metanarrative" proposed by the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard. It is used to describe stories in political propaganda that serve as universal ideals with foundational legitimacy.

However, the cryptocurrency industry is increasingly misled by an idea that seems to suggest that the "narrative" determines the value of a project, rather than the project itself providing productivity enhancements or improvements in relations of production. Since the launch of the hyper-parallel computing network AO on February 28th, it has been largely interpreted as a narrative upgrade for Arweave. It transforms Arweave from simply decentralized storage to "storage and computation" and becomes part of the Ethereum killer lineup.

It would be a pity if the understanding of AO only stays at a "narrative" level. When you attempt to delve into understanding AO, you will discover its enormous potential, with the opportunity to bring profound changes to the cryptocurrency industry. Unlike the blockchain networks we are familiar with, AO seems to have no boundaries, no limitations, and everything is possible. We have noticed that in less than a month, a series of exciting applications have been developed based on AO, including instant messaging software, social platforms, games, and more. Perhaps in a few years, the entire cryptocurrency industry will realize that our current position is not just a crossroads of narrative upgrades but the beginning of a true paradigm shift!

To allow developers, researchers, and investors in the cryptocurrency industry to gain a deeper understanding of AO, PermaDAO invited two founders of AO for an in-depth conversation about AO's origin, evolution, and future vision. They are Sam Williams, the founder of Arweave and CEO of Forward Research, and Outprog, the founder of EverVision and proposer of the SCP paradigm, who was involved in the early AO concept design.

The History of AO

Firstly, Sam recalled AO's development. During the initial lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Arweave team held discussions via Zoom meetings and formulated a concept: Creating a neutral decentralized computing log system capable of deducing the state of any program. Based on this idea, they quickly developed a basic smart contract system called SmartWeave and released it as a proof of concept. SmartWeave quickly gained success, attracting numerous teams to join the Arweave ecosystem in the summer of 2020, building projects based on SmartWeave, which became the core of the Arweave ecosystem. Subsequently, Outprog proposed the Storage Consensus Paradigm (SCP), expanding the concept of computing logs to all types of data logs, and wrote a series of articles laying the foundation for understanding the core theory of AO.

The vision of AO further proposed implementing SmartWeave within bundled interactions, where data entries can have their own tags, unrestricted by scalability limitations but with different data availability attributes, foreshadowing the possibility of an arbitrarily scalable computing system. The core design of AO is message passing, abandoning the traditional interaction way of SmartWeave and adopting message logs that can come from users or other processes. This design was under development by the Forward Research team from the summer of 2021. By the end of 2022, AO's architecture was proven feasible and capable of horizontal scalability. The internal testnet was launched in January 2023, quickly attracting 30 active developers. It was then publicly released at the end of February, attracting about 3,000 developers and projects in just three and a half weeks, demonstrating the community's widespread acceptance and interest in AO.

Outprog also described the history of AO's birth based on his experience and connection with Arweave. Since July 2020, he joined the Arweave ecosystem and started researching, attracted by its potential as consensus data storage, believing it opened up infinite possibilities for computing.

EverVision Labs, founded by Outprog, is an active builder in the Arweave ecosystem with the goal of promoting widespread adoption of Web3. everVision Labs developed everPay, the first multi-chain payment network on Arweave and a bridge between the Arweave ecosystem and other blockchains, which received investment from Arweave in May 2023. everPay is entirely gas-free and requires no waiting time, with all data uploaded to Arweave for verifiability. The decentralized trading platform Permaswap integrated into everPay provides instant, gas-free and slippage-free trading experience for assets within everPay, making it the first and currently the most mature DEX product in the Arweave ecosystem.

During the Token2049 event in Singapore in 2022, everVision hosted Arweave Day in Asia. Sam also came to Singapore to join the event. In the evening, during a dinner organized by the renowned institution SevenX, Outprog and Sam discussed the possibilities of parallel computing based on consensus data. As the conversation deepened, they gradually put down their chopsticks and picked up whiteboard markers. What was initially a social gathering turned into a technical workshop. In June 2023, at the Arweave ecosystem meetup in Berlin, Outprog was inspired during his communication with Sam and designed the Message Protocol for trusted communication between SCP applications, which can be seen as a precursor to AO.

AO Design and Improvement Process

Sam mentioned that in the early stages of the project, the team envisioned building AO as an extension layer on top of Warp. However, they soon realized that this approach would require fundamental changes to the SmartWeave architecture, which were impractical in practice. With the team's continued focused development on AO in the latter part of last year, they reached a breakthrough "Eureka" moment by the end of the year, confirming that the designed architecture was not only feasible but also capable of horizontal scalability. When using AOS for the first time, the team experienced a completely new way of operation: they could log in and start any number of processes within the system, all running in an unbounded flat space. Users could easily log into processes, issue commands, and seamlessly communicate with processes of other users, a communication method that is not only highly composable but also possesses powerful scalability.

Why AO is Called the Global Parallel Computer

Sam explained that AO provides a Single System Image, allowing users to experience a unified and singular computing environment composed of numerous underlying computers. This system supports parallel execution of an infinite number of processes in a decentralized environment, achieving true parallel computing as if creating a powerful decentralized supercomputer. The design inspiration comes from the concept of distributed operating systems, which aim to enhance their capabilities by adding more computers at home, office, or workplace, while users feel like they are using a single computer. AO's test network runs on over 220,250 different nodes, and anyone can connect their computing unit to this system, enhancing overall computational power, making AO a democratized supercomputer that users can access and perform computing tasks from various devices like laptops or smartphones. This design not only promotes widespread user participation but also improves the accessibility of decentralized computing, whether through running nodes or using services for computation.

Outprog recalled that initially, AO's concept was an omni state machine, a platform akin to an all-powerful and trustworthy computing platform, where clients, operating systems, and all running programs originate from Arweave. AO itself does not solve the issue of verifiability; through the SCP paradigm, verifiability is provided by consensus data on Arweave.

In practice, AO's role is to replace traditional HTTP communication protocols with the Message Protocol, providing a decentralized messaging mechanism for SCP applications, thus facilitating communication among decentralized applications. According to the vision in July 2020, if both user requests and server responses go through AO, it is possible to rebuild a truly decentralized internet, migrating the entire internet onto Arweave. AO's value extends beyond storage; it can also record present-day stories and distribute future value in a decentralized manner, transforming Arweave's "Library of Alexandria" into a platform for recording and distributing value.

What’s the difference between AO and other blockchains like Ethereum and Solana, and ICP which claimed to create a world computer?

Sam:

1. Comparison with Ethereum

Ethereum is described as a "world computer," but in reality, it is more like a "world calculator." While Ethereum has enabled many innovative applications, it has not achieved the original vision of a global computer. AO, on the other hand, adopts a different architecture by not optimizing global shared addresses or memory space. Instead, each contract has its local private memory and interacts through message responses, which is fundamentally different from Ethereum's model.

2. Comparison with other blockchains like Solana

Solana and other blockchains (such as Sui, Aptos) have adopted vastly different architectures, but the key difference with AO lies in its message passing approach. AO believes that to achieve scalability, optimizing global shared memory space should be avoided, based on practices outside the realm of distributed systems and traditional network worlds.

3. Comparison with ICP

ICP handles both computation and consensus through consensus, while AO adopts a lazy evaluation computing approach. AO has a dedicated subnet, the compute unit, for executing these computations. This method differs from ICP in how it handles computation and consensus. The ICP community seems to face challenges in forming instant consensus, whereas AO, through its compute unit subnet and staking mechanism, can provide more reliable and economically guaranteed computing outputs.

4. Unique Features of AO

AO's design inspiration comes from the historical lessons of distributed operating systems, particularly the limitations of shared memory methods learned in the 80s and 90s. AO adopts a message passing approach, foundational to the internet, transmitting messages via TCP/IP and computing across a wide network. AO brings this concept to blockchain, achieving scalability both on-chain and off-chain. AO does not directly form consensus on interaction results (i.e., computing outputs) but on interaction inputs and their order. This means AO focuses on data order and availability rather than directly forming consensus on computing results. Despite not directly targeting computation results, AO's outputs are still trustworthy and verifiable due to its dedicated compute unit subnet, even on the test network, with many computing nodes waiting to execute computations and provide staked, verifiable responses. With AO's deterministic virtual machine and consensus on interaction order, consensus on computation results is also ensured, making outputs consistent and predictable even if not immediate.

  

Outprog:

1. AO as a New Interaction Layer

Traditional blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum primarily solve the Byzantine Generals' Problem, achieving consensus on a single event in a distributed network. AO and SCP (Storage Consensus Paradigm) no longer focus on blockchain and objective truth issues, as these problems have been well addressed in blockchain systems through proof-of-work (PoW) or proof-of-stake (PoS). AO establishes a completely new interaction layer on top of the existing blockchain infrastructure.

2. Separation of Consensus and Computation

SCP emphasizes that consensus occurs at the storage layer, using Arweave for immutable storage to ensure security and verifiability. On Arweave, there are Merkle trees and consensus on data order, not on data computation state. Essentially, AO does not solve the verifiability issue, and the functions of AO and AR are entirely separate.

3. AO's Computation Handling

AO is responsible for computing data sequentially organized on Arweave to generate states. Since AO cannot change the data order on Arweave, it also cannot change consensus. Ethereum, Bitcoin, Solana, and ICP all employ on-chain computation, which is markedly different from AO's design philosophy. AO only performs computations, calculating and generating states based on data with established sequences on AR. AO cannot alter the data sequence on AR, meaning AO cannot change the consensus.

What are the use cases for developers that were not achievable on traditional blockchains but can be realized on AO?

Sam provided some examples for developers:

1. Decentralized Computing Infrastructure

AO offers a new form of network space with the potential to decentralize global computing infrastructure, making the cost of running computations comparable to running them on cloud services like Amazon EC2, while also providing the verifiability of smart contracts.

2. Massive Scale Computing as Smart Contracts

AO allows developers to build massive scale computing smart contracts, something that is not possible in other existing smart contract systems. These smart contracts can perform financial interactions such as automated algorithmic funds that adjust buy and sell orders based on market data and news automatically.

3. Trust-minimum Financial Services

Developers can create trust-minimum financial services, such as decentralized algorithmic funds, where users can deposit tokens without trusting fund managers, and all operations are executed automatically on-chain.

4. Decentralized Data and Information Processing

By using services like 0rbit Oracle, developers can process and verify vast amounts of data from the internet on AO without trusting centralized Oracle providers. This service can minimally trust access and process HTTPS encrypted data from the entire internet.

5. Autonomous AI Agents

In the long run on AO, one can envision a network space composed of autonomous AI agents that live and interact in their own virtual universes, unrestricted by physical laws of the real world.

6. Brand New Financial Systems

AO enables developers to build a brand new financial system with autonomous financial agents that can make decisions autonomously, based on market information and allow users to deposit or withdraw funds at any time.

AO's Future Development and Roadmap: When Will the Mainnet Go Live?

Sam elaborated on AO's future roadmap.

Current Development Stage

The mainnet V1.0 version has been built and is currently running as a testnet. The core data protocol has been completed and no major changes are expected. While the data protocol itself does not provide security, it forms the foundation of AO.

Goals for the Second Stage

The aim is to operate with a set of nodes and three different subnets through a staking mechanism, where each subnet is responsible for specific tasks and staking ensures these nodes and subnets operate as intended, enhancing system security. The staking mechanism not only ensures the normal operation of nodes but also provides security for computation, message passing, and process scheduling. Although the related smart contract designs should remain simple, they must undergo thorough testing to verify their reliability. Nodes will also act as "watchman," monitoring processes, sub-nodes, and conducting network voting upon detecting behaviors that violate security policies. AO's core protocol infrastructure consists of the underlying data protocol, off-chain implementations of nodes, and smart contract layers, allowing staking and penalties to construct a decentralized and trustworthy computing environment.

Goals for the Third Stage

The long-term development goal of AO involves gradually implementing strict security protocol executions for computation units, message passing units, and scheduling units by combining a hybrid proof-of-authority system and staking proof mechanism. This process will involve creating software to enforce security rules and smoothly upgrading the system after running for a period, allowing staking for scheduling units and enabling users to autonomously run scheduling programs. AO aims to progressively increase decentralization and ultimately become a permissionless decentralized staking proof system. The transition from various testnet versions to mainnet preview and candidate versions is expected to take several years until the data protocol and smart contract layers reach 99.5% stability, at which point the system will officially become the mainnet.

Future Development of AO

The AO team hopes to adopt an approach similar to Solana's "mainnet beta" in the early stages until reaching version 2.6. Over time, the team can improve in this aspect. It's almost certain that a solid foundation has been established to provide protocol guarantees to the world, indicating that the core architecture of the system will not undergo significant changes. Although it has taken approximately six and a half years to develop AO, there's hope that the future development process can be shorter and more mature. The team ensured before starting to build AO that they had an architecture that was almost optimal from a scalability perspective and realized they could have done better in early naming and version control. The team is expected to take a more mature approach on AO to optimize the development process and timeline.

What’s the next plan of EverVision? What contributions did EverVision make to the AO ecosystem, and how will it participate in AO construction in the future?

Outprog:

everVision is a laboratory aimed at exploring large-scale blockchain applications. AO may be one of the best practices for large-scale blockchain applications at present. The team will refactor the results of the past few years' work according to AO's specifications, which means EverID can become a universal identity standard on AO, making it easier for ordinary users to use these applications. At the same time, the cross-chain capabilities of everPay will also transform into native cross-chain capabilities on AO. AO's "sub-ledger" can greatly solve the problem of payment scalability, all of which are key points that we need to integrate technically.

Permaswap has launched the AO test token CRED, and now you can provide liquidity for CRED/AR and easily trade CRED on Permaswap or provide liquidity to earn fees. Permaswap is a very mature DEX product, comparable to Uniswap in the AO ecosystem. Next, Permaswap will also be highly integrated with AO, allowing tokens on AO to easily create trading pairs on Permaswap and support multiple liquidity curve options.

everPay will also be deeply integrated with AO, becoming a bridge connecting the AO ecosystem with other ecosystems. EverID is committed to becoming a universal identity layer in the AO ecosystem, aiming to solve the challenges posed by the high threshold of public-private key account systems for users entering Web3.

Sam said that losses caused by protocol changes on other blockchains won't be repeated on AO.

Changes on Ethereum once led to damages for projects like Aragon, highlighting the risks associated with protocol changes. Concerns have been raised about building applications on AO, especially when the system is labeled as a testnet. People are concerned about the stability and integrity of the system. Despite the potential communication challenges, the team chooses to clearly communicate the current status of the system and potential future changes. When building protocols, the team emphasizes the importance of providing users with immutable and guaranteed rights that should not be controlled by any individual or organization. To manage user expectations better, the team uses terms like "mainnet preview" and "mainnet candidate version" to describe the current state of the system and anticipates future changes. When the system reaches a nearly finalized state, it will be called the mainnet, with appropriate permissions for upgrades and forks to ensure long-term stability and protect user rights.

How to understand the concept and function of sub Ledgers in AO?

Sam:

Sub Ledgers provide a mechanism that allows the system to increase additional computing threads by creating new processes (i.e., sub Ledgers) when the single-threaded computing capacity of a single process reaches saturation. This approach is similar to creating new tables or shards in traditional databases to distribute loads and improve overall processing capabilities. Sub Ledgers enable computing capacity to be naturally dispersed in a decentralized network, which means that computing resources can be dynamically adjusted and expanded based on the available resources in the network.

The interaction and data transfer between sub Ledgers are designed to be flexible enough so that users and application developers do not need to be aware of the underlying complexity. Users can seamlessly trade and interact between different sub Ledgers as if operating on a unified ledger. Tokens between sub Ledgers can be interoperable, meaning that tokens on one sub Ledger can be seamlessly transferred to another sub Ledger, and both can be combined into a unified balance. This design enhances token liquidity and simplifies the complexity of managing multiple accounts for users.

The concept of sub Ledgers makes it more feasible and efficient to build payment networks on AO. In theory, this can support the creation of a global payment system where users can easily use any currency to make payments anywhere using their mobile phones. Through the design of sub Ledgers, AO achieves unlimited scalability, which means that the system can expand infinitely with growing demand without encountering the scalability bottlenecks common in traditional blockchain systems.

Summary

Through this in-depth conversation about AO, we have learned that the SCP theory is one of the theoretical foundations of AO. While SCP applications have unlimited scalability, they lack interoperability. AO originated from efforts to address interoperability between different SCP applications. Later, AO was designed as a parallel computing network with a single system image, achieving almost unlimited scalability through multi-threaded parallel computing. At the same time, AO uses a single system image to hide complexity, so users and developers still interact with it as a single network. In the future, AO will steadily iterate through different mainnet versions, striking a balance between iteration speed and system stability.

Recording:https://www.notion.so/permadao/The-Future-of-AO-An-Application-Consensus-Interaction-System-with-infinite-scalibility-a-event-re-60e6462ef2524b89be2f79526f9126b2?pvs=4#74ed6e2bcc9542b4a751a09882fe9699


🔗 More about PermaDAO :Website | Twitter | Telegram | Discord | MediumYoutube

 💡 Initiated by everVision and sponsored by Forward Research (Arweave Official), PermaDAO is a "Cobuilding Community" focus on the theme of Arweave consensus storage. All contributions from PermaDAO contributors form the bedrock of data consensus. Let's embark on a journey starting with data consensus and delve into a novel paradigm for decentralized collaboration - Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs)!

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