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With the proliferation of blockchain designs, we see a proliferation of proposals for languages and systems to script the rules governing transactions on these blockchains, generally known as smart contract languages. Despite the name, these languages are usually fairly conventional programming languages used to impose constraints on the transactions permitted to transfer assets and manipulate data stored on the blockchain.
Given the high financial stakes and widely publicised exploits on first generation (Bitcoin) and second generation (Ethereum) blockchains, the third-generation Cardano blockchain places a strong emphasis on functional programming and formal methods. This includes a new approach to contract languages based on state-of-the art research in programming languages and the increased safety provided by functional programming. The benefits of functional programming go even further: instead of having to invent yet another custom language, we simply use Haskell for the job, we design a functional blockchain architecture, and we seamlessly combine on-chain and off-chain computations.
In this talk, I will outline how IOHK’s Plutus team combines programming language theory, functional programming in Haskell, and theorem-proving in Agda to develop a radically new approach to blockchain contract development. This work has resulted in the Plutus Platform, which uses meta-programming in Haskell for distributed contract applications operating on the Cardano blockchain.
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