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EthDenver 2/28 Day in Review

Lincoln Murr

Summary: The EthDenver conference kicked off February 23rd, but the main event goes from this Thursday, 2/29, to Sunday, 3/3. In the days leading up, enthusiasts from around the industry gather to network, announce new protocols or projects, or find future partnerships. Today, EthGlobal hosted Pragma, their pre-conference with notable founders from protocols like EigenLayer, NEAR, Polygon, ...

The EthDenver conference kicked off February 23rd, but the main event goes from this Thursday, 2/29, to Sunday, 3/3. In the days leading up, enthusiasts from around the industry gather to network, announce new protocols or projects, or find future partnerships. Today, EthGlobal hosted Pragma, their pre-conference with notable founders from protocols like EigenLayer, NEAR, Polygon, Arbitrum, and more. Let’s dive into this anticipated event and learn about the intersection of crypto and AI, the risks of EigenLayer, and blockchain privacy solutions.

Interoperability and mainstream adoption were the most prevalent topics. As Henri Stern of crypto wallet startup Privy explained, a major priority needs to be empowering mainstream users to harness the benefits of decentralization. This means building easy-to-use solutions for self-custody, portability between apps, and preserving user control. The ultimate goal should be global, multi-chain wallets that allow smooth movement between Layer 1s, Layer 2s, and traditional finance. Stern also touched on the trend of embedded crypto wallets, which don’t require users to set up a separate browser extension or account. These have huge potential to onboard crypto-curious folks who would otherwise be deterred by the technical obstacles of getting started.

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Another interesting tidbit that came from a panel made up of Doug Petkanics (Founder & CEO of Livepeer), Illia Polosukhin (co-founder of NEAR), and Niraj Pant (co-founder of Ritual) about the fusion of AI and crypto, specifically related to incentivizing the production of high-integrity data sets and models. For example, blockchain's anonymity and permissionless payments could enable properly aligned crowdsourcing of training data to reduce systemic bias in AI systems. There was also discussion around models becoming open-source public goods, with network coordination and crypto payments used to fund continuous improvement. However, presenters acknowledged many open questions remain regarding governance, value capture, and mitigating potential harms like misinformation.

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Sandy Peng, co-founder of Scroll, spoke briefly about their vision of how to stand out as an L2: focusing on growing community in a specific region. Indeed, they mentioned focusing their efforts on Asia has proven successful and allows them to have a stickiness that other projects may not have. She mentioned the importance of innovative and creative dApps and expressed excitement over many dApps building on Scroll with launches coming soon. 

Sreeram Kannan, the founder of crypto restaking protocol EigenLayer, now 4th in DeFi apps regarding total value locked, delivered one particularly enlightening talk. He walked through how EigenLayer enables Ethereum stakers to make credible commitments that they will validate transactions correctly without needing to put up additional collateral. This is accomplished via “actively validated services” (AVS) - specialized smart contracts covering use cases from layer 2 chains to oracles to DeFi. EigenLayer introduces attributable slashing conditions, so these AVS contracts can allocate security budget from the base stake pool. There is also a permissioned veto committee to minimize risks. Kannan was most excited about the concept of trusted APIs - the ability to run complex off-chain computations with on-chain settlement facilitated by economic guarantees. This could allow radically more advanced dApps covered under Ethereum’s existing security framework. However, he acknowledged potential issues around leverage and liquidity if speculation emerges around EigenLayer’s liquid restaking token from protocols like Ether.fi or Kelp. Overall, EigenLayer offers a glimpse into the future possibilities of generalized validation services extending blockchain functionality without compromising decentralization and clearly outlines the risk profile of these activities.

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EthGlobal’s Pragma did not disappoint, and the following days will only get more crowded and interesting as the main conference begins. We’ll be providing coverage of the event called by Bitpush AI a “leading community event” throughout the weekend.

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By Lincoln Murr

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