From Mathematics to Blockchain: Go Yamamoto on Fixing the Internet

Dr. Go Yamamoto is a senior scientist in the NTT Research Cryptography & Information Security (CIS) Lab, where he is a member of the blockchain research group. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Mathematical Sciences and a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Tokyo. He joined NTT in 2002 and recently obtained an MBA from the Graduate School of Management at GLOBIS University.

Dr. Yamamoto is currently focused on certain aspects of digital transformation, in particular, the idea of “trust” and the creation of dependable digital infrastructures that are accessible to all without barriers. He believes that if new technologies are to fuel our growth, we must first build foundations that are, above all, secure and reliable. For more on Dr. Yamamoto’s background and thoughts on how to fix a broken internet, possibly with the capabilities of blockchain, please read the following Q&A:

You have a predominantly mathematical background. How did you become interested in cryptography, software engineering, distributed computing and blockchain?

I started my journey in mathematics because I was a computer hobbyist in my childhood and learned that the essence of software coding is in mathematics. I started my career as an applied mathematician with fundamental motivation in continuous innovations from computers and networks. Working on campus network operations, I learned how the internet works. I got interested in cryptography because it would become the key technology in the future of the internet. In my opinion, distributed computing and blockchain are direct successors of the idea of the internet, so I am naturally interested in them.

After joining NTT, I have been working on applied cryptography and cybersecurity with some business opportunities. Experience has taught me that we need two skillsets to upgrade the world at scale. One is in the technology area with depth, and the other is wide fluency in the language of business. So, I also obtained a degree in business administration. 

How would you say the internet is broken today? Is it the way it has grown more centralized, with control vested in large providers of related services? Or is it something more basic, for instance, related to internet protocols? Or are there multiple causes?

I think the current internet is broken because we need to rely on something we cannot control. There are multiple causes. In my opinion, the root cause is the current architecture of the servers. It requires the entities of centralized computation, which we need to rely on, and it also requires continuous operation without error that is far beyond an ordinary user’s capacity of control.

You are proposing that state synchronization can replace the internet server, correct? And that function is something that blockchain can provide?

Ideally, yes. Practically, we can say it will help in repairing the internet. Some people are working for resilient system architectures, such as the idea of NoOps in which servers are decentralized and are capable of self-recovery when failed. I think blockchain will implement infrastructure for self-resilient systems or self-operating systems because it upkeeps the states with highly resilient mechanisms by design. If self-operating servers become available for ordinary internet users, it will solve most of the problems associated with the current broken internet.

When you say that a measure of success is the number of autonomous systems that can connect to each other, what exactly are you aiming for? What does success mean in practical terms?

The autonomous systems mean responsible organizations with self-operating mechanisms. For example, imagine starting a shop on the internet, and doing so by configuring a small box that works as the server. After the configuration is done, you can plug the box into the power and the network. The box is replicated to some cloud service providers as a virtual machine. The replicated virtual machines work as the nodes for the distributed computing that implements the server’s function in total. When the shop is busy, the distributed nodes automatically increases the number of nodes to accept the increasing demand. The box owner does not need to pay special attention to keep the box working and can update the box’s content anytime to improve his business. This is an autonomous system of the internet shop, and the owner can focus on his core competence.

Getting free from the server operation, the owner may by trial-and-error improve efficiency by connecting to other autonomous systems. For example, the shop can automate delivery by connecting another autonomous system responsible for fulfillment services. Please note that the shop retains the customer relationship thanks to the self-operating mechanism, and the fulfillment service is a replaceable part for the shop. In this way, the autonomous systems are fated to connect for the sake of greater competition power. We can imagine the ecosystem of the autonomous systems will upgrade our world to the next level of productivity.

My goal is for such meshed autonomous systems to become common. I think with more technologies for secure synchronizations, in addition to the current technology set, we can realize it.

Does your recent paper “Equilibrium of Blockchain Miners with Dynamic Asset Allocation” reflect your ongoing research? Does the “outstandingly cost-efficient miner” pose a real threat to the blockchain ecosystem?

Yes. The paper is about the sustainability of blockchain systems, and sustainability is the most important feature in our vision. Many public blockchain systems such as Bitcoin cover self-resiliency, including their finance, because the protocols implement paying the fee for operation by self-issuing crypto assets. The big question was whether such systems are sustainable. Our answer from the capital growth theory is affirmative under some conditions. Blockchain systems are usually sustainable. But stakeholders who might not need to pay taxes or who have free or extremely cheap sources of energy or who are shielded from the risk of bankruptcy or who are otherwise unconstrained by certain standard rules of business, they could be potential blockers of sustainability. What does that mean? We will need some regulations in this field, and perhaps we will need to upgrade blockchain if we want a public self-resilient infrastructure. It is an early work, and we are still working on this topic.