What is Hashgraph?

Masterclass with Inventor Leemon Baird

The above video is an interview Mike Maloney did with Hashgraph inventor Leemon Baird as part of his quest to understand cryptocurrency. Leemon is the cofounder of Hashgraph, a new technology that allows us to build a full-consensus ledger faster and more efficiently than blockchain technology.

In this video, Mike and Leemon discuss:

  • What is Hashgraph?

  • What does Hashgraph do?

  • Will Hashgraph replace blockchain?

  • What are the benefits of Hashgraph?

  • What’s the future of Hashgraph?

The Vision for Hashgraph

Leemon Baird: So it’s funny, the ledger field is very broad, and people come to it from very different directions. Some people thirty years ago were coming to it from making computes to not have faults. But they’re also concerned with how to create cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and short term information. Or how to do databases. The database world has been doing this for decades. My interest was slightly different.

What I wanted to do was to enable collaboration. My goal is to have anyone on Earth at any moment can just wave their hand and carve out a chunk of cyberspace. Carve out a world of their own, without having to pay anything. For free. Create a world of their own and invite some friends. And now we have a shared world.

Hashgraph enables collaboration and connection with full trust

Anybody should be able to create this shared world. In this shared world, you and I should be able to create documents and create movies and create 3D objects. And we should be able to collaborate with each other, and talk to each other. We should be able to interact in ways where I’m not the dictator of the whole world. I can’t delete everything arbitrarily. We should have rules enforced. So maybe it’s a fair world where I can’t delete things you’ve created. Or maybe it’s a fair world where we vote on things. Or maybe it’s a world in which we have a stock market and you can make sure that the first bid gets matched up with the first DAX, not the later ones. A world that you and I can trust and that our friends that we have invited and maybe the strangers we’ve invited can trust is going to work the way want. Where we can trust that if my computer dies and is erased, I can get all the data back. The data will never disappear.

But to do it totally for free, no server involved, just the computers that people have involved, with complete trust without having to trust any one person in any way, and be able to have this shared world that has the fairness and then the speed… I mean I want to be able to play games in this world. I want a ledger where I’m recording every single time a person moves or shoots or picks something up. You want to be able to do a game at, we’re talking hundreds of thousands of transactions per second maybe. We want huge speed. And we want complete security.

We want privacy, we want no one spying on us, this isn’t funded by advertisements. You want to spy on me so I have better advertisements? We want it just to be something that appears out of nothing that’s just living in our computers. And then, when we’re able to have a shared world, we want to have multiple shared worlds that connect to each other. So maybe you and I and a few friends set up a little stock market just for ourselves to send things back and forth. The banks do this, they’re called dark pools. It’s like a little tiny stock market, just for a few players that trust each other sort of, but not entirely. I don’t entirely trust you–and there are even problems with dark pools where maybe banks are taking advantage of some of the information involved. Maybe one bank is hosting the server but they can manipulate the timing a little bit. And we have to worry about this. I don’t want that. I want a completely trustworthy stock market that maybe you and I and a few banks set up. But then I want to have a different stored world that maybe keeps track of a cryptocurrency. And I want them to be able to link. So that that cryptocurrency is used to buy and sell our stocks.

The future of distributed ledger technology: Hashgraph

I want to be able to have a game world that links to a Wikipedia world where it appears that pieces of Wikipedia are actually part of our world and as they change in the Wikipedia world, they change in our world. You’re going to have shared worlds that are interlocking with each other. That will allow shared trust even across these things. This is the vision for what we want the internet to be. It will change the way we even look at what cyberspace is, what the internet is. What are networks? Even, what are computers? This is what’s going to happen. And twenty years from now, when the children who are born then are growing up, they’re not even going to think about websites and emails as a separate thing. Internet and hacking–and many of the hacking attacks that we have today–they’re just going to take it as a matter of course. Anytime I want to I can just wave my hands, I get a shared world, it’s free, it’s easy, it’s trustworthy and reliable. I can invite two friends or a million friends and it all just works. And it will change the way we think of what the internet is.

That is what I started being interested in building. And this is the direction that we’re going. And this is what distributed ledgers do–is they will ultimately allow us to do that. There are a lot of rough edges, we have growing pains in distributed type ledger technology today. But we’ll get over the growing pains. We’ll get to a world that really is fast and secure and fair. And we will be enabled to then have this vision of shared worlds. Big public ones, little private ones, everything connected. That was the idea.

That was five years ago. I like playing with math. So I kept playing around with how would you do it, and I convinced myself that it’s impossible. You can’t do that. There’s no way that you can have really high throughput and also have all of these security and fairness properties. You just can’t do it! Because ultimately you have to tell everybody what you think and then tell people what other people thought, and then you have millions or billions of extra votes and receipts of votes flowing around and it just doesn’t work.

So, I was able to convince myself it’s not possible. I set it aside and it would come back and haunt me. It would keep nagging at me. So I would pick it up again. I would spend a couple of days going through it, and going through the math and realizing, no, I was right! It really is impossible. You can’t do that! I set it aside again. And this kept going on for years. I have lots of math problems, some of them I’m working on for decades. They just, for whatever reason, I don’t know why, they just latch onto me and I can’t get away from them.

Graphic depiction of the gossip protocol used by Leemon Baird's Hashgraph technology

Eventually, I said, wait a second. If worlds are talking to each other, and you include a tiny bit of extra information, we could each end up with a complete history of exactly how we talk to each other in what order. But if I had that, I would know exactly how information flowed through our community. I would know what you know. I would know when you learned it. I would know what you know about what Alice knows. And what you know about what Alice knows about what Bob knows. And about when they learned it. I would know so much that I could take one of those huge impractical, impossible, too-slow voting algorithms, and do with no votes at all. I could just sit here and say, “Oh! I know how you would vote. So don’t bother voting. Don’t tell me your vote. I know it. I’ll just pretend that you voted and I’ll just get to the conclusion.”

So all we do is we just talk the way we talk anyway to send out our transactions, we add a tiny bit of information and it gives us this entire history. The history is called a Hashgraph. It lets you see such incredible amounts of information about who knows what when, then you get consensus for free.

That’s where we’re going and we’re at the very early stages. I mean the planning is at the early stages of what ledgers can do. And I think whatever you think that ledgers might be able to do, they can do that but they can also do more. We’re just as a species beginning to learn what the final limits are. We’re pushing as fast as we can along that path.

Is Hashgraph the Future of the Internet?

Mike Maloney: So this is the gateway to the next net?

Baird: This is it. This is the next net. Technically, the geeks will always know well, there are multiple layers and the internet is still down there at the bottom just like it always has been. But for the users, what they think of when they think in their mind of what the net is, is changing. And that is what’s going to be different.

Energy Costs of Hashgraph Technology

Maloney: At a low energy cost?

Baird: Ahh! Let’s talk about energy costs.

Maloney: You can run this on your cell phone, am I correct? The processor is enough to actually run Hashgraph?

Baird: Absolutely. There are systems that would require you to buy a supercomputer. It’s called a mining rig. It’s a big box full of specially built chips that don’t do anything useful for humanity, they just mine–which means they solve math problems that have no inherent use. The purpose of them is to slow down the network. This doesn’t sound good. Just on the face of it.

Maloney: Right.

Baird: I’m going to spend a lot of money on a supercomputer and then I’m going to use a lot of electricity to run my supercomputer and the whole point of this supercomputer is to slow down the network. But that’s what it is. Proof of work systems work that way. Proof of work is really exciting because it was the first to show us all the possibilities of ledgers. But it’s the first generation. We clearly need to move beyond that. And we will, I think, overtime. So with Hashgraph, yes, you can run a full node on your cell phone.

The Future of Hashgraph

Leemon Baird in an interview with Mike Maloney

Maloney: You’ve accomplished something, a tool that is extremely powerful. What are your hopes and dreams?

Baird: My hope and dream is that this pushes us forward along this path to an internet of shared worlds like we’ve been talking about. Where anybody can collaborate with anybody and the data is stored. You don’t have to pay for a server to hold it. It is secure, it is private, where you have the rules enforced. We could set up an organization and trust the elections aren’t being rigged because the rules are enforced. You don’t have to trust any one person. We can have money and trust that no one’s going to inflate the money supply because the rules are enforced, and it’s guaranteed. We could store the deed to your house and at any given moment I could know that we’re all seeing the same answers to who owns it. So that you can’t sell it to one person and also sell it to someone else at the same time. You’ll get caught because it’s a publicly visible thing that everyone knows everyone else is seeing the same thing.

I envision a world where the whole internet works this way. Where we all know that we can all see the same thing. That rules are enforced, that we have collaboration. To do that, we need speed, we need security, we need fairness. My goal is that what we’re doing pushes us along that path. Because that’s the goal that we need to get to. Where the nature of the internet itself is different because it has a trust layer.

For more info, watch the rest of Leemon Baird’s HSOM 8 bonus features.