Proof-of-Trust: A Wealth-Unbiased Consensus Mechanism for Distributed Systems
28th August, 2023


Traditional approaches to rate-limiting the creation of things like coins, tokens, and identities in distributed networks rely on computational (proof-of-work) or financial barriers (proof-of-stake) as a source of scarcity. While effective in some contexts, these methods are wasteful and unfairly favor those with more resources.

What is Proof-of-Trust?

Proof-of-Trust offers an alternative by utilizing the scarcity of reciprocal trust between individuals as the primary resource for rate-limiting various network activities. Unlike existing models, Proof-of-Trust does not inherently favor participants with greater computational power or financial means.

The Prisoner's Dilemma Analogy

In the classic Prisoner's Dilemma, two participants must choose between cooperating for mutual benefit or defecting for individual gain at the other's expense. In a similar vein, Proof-of-Trust involves two existing network participants who must decide to cooperate or defect when attempting to create a new user.

Participants must first stake something of value—such as their ability to create new users for a set period. The outcome varies based on their choices:

  1. Both Cooperate: A new user is created.
  2. One Defects: The defector gains two new users under their control, while the other participant is penalized by losing their staking privilege for a period.
  3. Both Defect: Both participants are penalized.

Flexibility of Outcomes

The exact nature of the rewards and punishments is flexible and subject to further refinement. This allows for the fine-tuning of incentives to achieve desired operational outcomes, such as controlling the rate of new user creation.

Versatility in Application

While the creation of new users serves as an illustrative example, Proof-of-Trust can be applied to a wide range of network activities requiring some form of rate-limiting or conditional access.

The Ethical and Practical Benefits

Proof-of-Trust levels the playing field by not favoring those with more resources. In a world where social and economic status often determines access and influence, this mechanism offers a more equitable way to participate in a network.

Additionally, Proof-of-Trust naturally encourages meaningful human interaction. Because the system relies on trust between participants, people are motivated to get to know each other better. This need for trust not only enhances network security but also serves as a catalyst for building community and forming meaningful human connections.

Legal Considerations

Speculatively, joining the network could require users to consent to a legal agreement, collected by their sponsors. Analogous to the GNU General Purpose License, this contract would outline essential ethical norms and explicitly prohibits "cheating," including any form of coercive behavior. Non-compliance would risk penalties or exclusion, reinforcing the network's foundation of mutual trust.