Constrained Liberal Radicalism and the future of the zkCREAM project

And welcome to our substack blog!

The zkCREAM project started as a collaboration between myself, Dan Lipert, and Kazuaki Ishiguro of Tokyo-based Couger Inc., an AI and blockchain research and development studio. As part of Couger's ongoing research, a side project to enable a new use of the mixer technology that powers projects like Tornado.cash was born that allows new methods to ensure confidential, reliable and anonymous voting. Our project started as a proof-of-concept but once that was finished we weren't sure what the future would hold for zkCREAM.

Thanks to Gitcoin and the Gitcoin Grants project, we've been enabled by the community's support to continue our work and research and we're excited to share that with you here on the zkCREAM blog. We have a lot of exciting work to share with you, but first let me thank all of our supporters as well as the Gitcoin team for enabling that to happen. And full disclosure, I was the VP of Engineering at Gitcoin during the creation of Gitcoin's CLR funding, so its definitely a project near and dear to my heart. 

At Devcon 5 I gave a lightning talk about CLR:

The tl;dr of that talk is that it describes the purpose of Constrained Liberal Radicalism and our early findings as we integrated the system into Gitcoin Grants. In some ways, its similar to the impetus of the zkCREAM project: clearly there are problems with the way we as a society and as the crypto community make decisions, whether that be the well-known system of "one person, one vote", or made autocratically through edicts issued by those who have the most power, economically or otherwise.

CLR seeks to limit the downsides of both systems, and temper the ways bad actors try to game the system. Via CLR funding, people vote with their dollars to fund projects and communities they find valuable within their community. I'll be vague in describing the denominations and communities in question as CLR funding has not just been used to fund open source projects like ours, but also has been used to fund small, locally-owned businesses through the Downtown Stimulus project, created by Kevin Owocki, the founder of Gitcoin.

So with this crowdsourced funding, additional donor monies are matched with a concept called Quadratic Funding, or QF. There are many varieties of QF, but in general, the premise is as follows: QF seeks to find the signal in the noise by using the crowdsourced funds to identify worthwhile funding recipients but acknowledges that the amount donated to each project and its relative importance to that donor is dependent on the donor's socioeconomic status. A donation of $5 is, in this sense, "worth" a lot more when it comes from someone with $10 to donate vs someone with $1000 to donate. Indeed, just the fact that someone donated any amount at all is a very strong signal vs not donating altogether.

QF distributes the matching funds by weighting smaller donations from users very strongly vs simply a 1:1 match. The weight of these donations is determined via the CLR algorithm which creates a matching curve once all of the donations are tallied across all of the donors and recipients. You can find a real-time updated curve for each project in the Gitcoin Grants program.

The concept of CLR was created by Vitalik Buterin and Glen Weyl, and Vitalik assisted us greatly in the development of his algorithm - also a big shoutout to the lead engineer, Aditya Anand who did the lion's share of the implementation. In addition, a lot of anti-collusion work was done by other members of the team; I'll give another shoutout to Frank Chen who did a lot of the analysis to find instances of collusion and test out preventative methods.

So through this mechanism, I'm happy to say that it appears zkCREAM will have received over $20,000 in DAI, ETH, and other tokens and coins through the last several matching rounds. This money, along with support from Couger Inc. has allowed us to spend more time working on this project and we'll soon begin work on the open-source work we're creating and further advocate for blockchain-based voting solutions.

It's especially exciting that the CLR and QF mechanisms, themselves an example of voting technology, have enabled our research and advocacy to move forward. We have a lot of information to share with you all on our upcoming work, including support for more types of voting such as instant runoffs, as well as a command-line tool and user-friendly app that allows you to create and administer cryptographically secure and secret ballots. These tools will allow end-users to utilize zero-knowledge voting without needing to be immersed in the crypto(currency/graphy) community as you and I are.

Please stay tuned to this blog, as well as our Twitter @zkcre_am to stay in touch with this project as we'll be sharing the results of our research, development, as well as little diatribes like this about the greater ecosystem. Thanks again for everyone's support for making this possible!