Proof of Process

From 2015 — 2017, I worked with the team at the Paris-based company Stratumn to develop their approach to creatively utilise emerging blockchain technology.

The fruit of this effort which became the core document of the company is called Proof of Process. The paper breaks down the fundamental concepts of proof systems and cryptography that are often not clearly understood or articulated in both popular media and industry discussion, and lead to a different way of envisioning the functionality and possibilities of blockchain technology.

My role principally involved illustrating abstract concepts by developing the foundation of visual language for fundamental concepts of cryptography and proof systems, as well as editing the writing for clarity.

Visual Language

The conceptual complexity of the ideas presented in this paper demanded clarification through clear visual symbols. After becoming familiar with basic ideas, I drew upon fundamental graphic design basics as well as symbolism from Eastern spiritual traditions (Tibetan Buddhism, the I Ching) to create modular iconographic language that would be repeatedly used in a variety of business proposals and explanatory material.

Proof System

This illustration breaks down several concepts implicit in commmunication we often take for granted:

  • The Prover: the party making a claim
  • The Verifier: the party ascertaining the validity of a claim
  • An Exchange of Information
  • A Claim
  • Public Indication of Trust

Types of Proofs

Proof of Process illustrates five key types of proof that are required to provably record a process.

  • Proof of Data Integrity
  • Proof of Actor Non-Repudiation
  • Proof of Anteriority
  • Proof of Context
  • Proof of Applicability

The symbols here draw from abstract Eastern spiritual traditions to represent equally abstract mathematical concepts. Each proof is color coded by one of the five Tibetan elements and denoted by its corresponding hexagram from the I Ching: Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, and Space.

Proof of Data Integrity

The most fundamental tool of bitcoin and any blockchain is the cryptographic digest. This underlooked piece of innovation from the 1970s halls of the DARPA is difficult to imagine because it is essentially pure logic. Here, the idea of data integrity seemed analogous to the notion of terra firma.

Proof of Actor Non-Repudiation: Digital Signatures

Digital Signatures are another integral component of online cryptographic systems that are poorly visualized and articulated due to their abstract nature.

These representations of the creation and validation of such signatures build upon the previous symbols for algorithms and cryptographic proofs and introduce new symbols for public and private keys.

Here the notion of actor corresponds with wind — there has to be someone breathing that is ultimately responsible for this proof.

Proof of Anteriority: Trusted Timestamping

Building upon the ideas of private and public keys, this diagram introduces the idea of including information (a Timestamp, in this case) from Trusted Source as part of the above processes.

In this proof, water is associated with time. As the Talking Heads famously sang: Letting the days go by, water flowing underground ...

Proof of Context: Hash Chain

Finally, we see the bigger picture in which each of these abstract cryptographic methods come together in the form of a hash chain that provides a provable sequence of information and action.

This proof is represented by Fire, in which the results of the three previous types of proof are combined to irrevocably burn their connection into an immutable record (not illustrated is the fact that the Link Hash ought to be embedded in some kind of blockchain or distributed ledger that is external to this graph of process segments.)

Proof of Process

These four types of proof, in addition to the implicit Proof of Applicability, form a symbol for the whole idea of Proof of Process.

Zero-Knowledge Proof

After breaking down the fundamentals of proof we present the cutting edge of cryptography — zero-knowledge proof — by illustrating that data can be kept secret and separate yet still provably associated with “graphs” of proofs.

The Proof is in the Paper

The entire paper more fully articulates the logic and technical application of these concepts and provides examples of games and real-world use cases for clarity.

It was a joy to collaborate with such intelligent and learned individuals to better my understanding of digital systems and articulate abstract ideas.

The value proposition articulated by this document and supporting material (in addition to numerous proof-of-concept applications) lead to an 8M euro Series A fundraising as well as inclusion in NASDAQ’s ventures program. Proof of Process continues to act as the foundational principle behind Stratumn’s product offerings.

Read the Proof of Process Whitepaper