Aleo Grants: Solve meaningful world problems with zero-knowledge
November 03, 2023

Aleo Grants: Solve meaningful world problems with zero-knowledge

Traditional blockchains reward developers for small computations, like making the right DeFi trade or signing up for an airdrop. But what if you could get rewarded for large computations that make a meaningful impact? From climate modeling to deep learning, your Proofs of Useful Work (making proofs of large computations) could contribute to real-world change.

If helping people solve big, verifiable math problems or physics simulations using zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) — and getting instantly rewarded for it — sounds interesting, we encourage you to apply for a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Proof of Useful Work Blueprint Grant

Problems you can help solve with ZKPs

Computer scientists typically categorize problems based on their theoretical complexity; for example, simple problems, like sorting through a supermarket aisle to spot the cheapest bread, and complex problems, like finding the shortest route through a list of cities

Many institutions and organizations are already working hard to find solutions to complex problems. The University of California at Berkeley’s BOINC science projects use collaborative computing to study and investigate diseases, climate change, and pulsars, and conduct many other types of scientific research.

Another initiative is folding@home, where developers can contribute their computing capabilities to help combat global health threats like COVID-19, Alzheimer’s Disease, and cancer. 

There are even more issues awaiting computational solutions: 

The bigger the challenge, the more computation it takes to solve it. You can verify large — very large — computations within Leo, Aleo’s programming language, and by leveraging ZKPs. The amount of computing power that some problems require is unbounded, so it’s more advantageous to outsource them to trusted and untrusted parties (ZKPs let you quickly and securely verify the latter). 

While driving important work, systems like BOINC and folding@home don’t financially reward workers for their solutions. Additionally, many previous attempts to reward Proofs of Useful Work focused on niche problems (see Primecoin). 

Aleo’s Proof of Useful Work Blueprint Grant offers another approach. The Aleo Network already rewards developers for creating ZKPs. Now you can let others offer rewards for solving computational problems that make a difference. 

Bounties for Useful Work

If your RFP is approved, you will be eligible for a grant to build Leo programs that have encoded problems. These programs instantly reward bounties to people who submit correct solutions to the encoded problems. 

With a distributed ledger like Aleo, anyone can create bounties for computational problems without trusting a mediator. Bounties can incentivize developers to tackle challenging issues. For example, you can create a Leo program to reward finding new, large Mersenne Primes, improved solutions to the traveling salesperson problem, or various other stochastic local search problems

ZKPs are critical to Proofs of Useful Work. If a solution to a complicated problem takes a long time to verify, it’s expensive to post decentralized bounties on a distributed ledger. ZKPs allow for instant verification of a single or entire batch of solutions. Moreover, they can ensure that users only get paid if the solution is revealed to the proper parties. 

Some readers might recall that Primecoin also uses Proofs of Useful Work as an integral part of their consensus algorithm. To be clear, the bounties we propose do not contribute to consensus and are only intended to reward solvers. Unfortunately, there are no sound theoretical foundations attesting to the stability of using Proofs of Useful Work for consensus.

Want to take on big problems? Apply for an RFP.  

Now that you know the problems you can solve, you can think about how to tackle them.  There are many ways you can help make Proofs of Useful Work a reality, from technical challenges around special-purpose encryption to building a website where people can submit issues and solutions.

For this RFP, we want a Leo program that allows users to add Aleo credits as a bounty, where each deployed program rewards solutions to one specific problem. The bounty is only paid out if a particular computational problem is solved. (Note that different computational problems will need different Leo programs.)

Making the right DeFi trades can impact you, but solving real, challenging problems can affect people and the planet. We hope you apply for this unique Aleo grant — and we can’t wait to see your proposals for Useful Work.