Our Reflections on SBC: Key Takeaways and Insights

At O(1) Labs, we focus on building products and solutions for the future. And this starts with our Business Development and Product teams staying informed about the latest in our industry.


At O(1) Labs, we focus on building products and solutions for the future. And this starts with our Business Development and Product teams staying informed about the latest in our industry. At the end of August, Steve Pack, our Head of Product, and Phil Kelly, our Head of BD, headed out to sunny Stanford, California to attend Science of Blockchain Conference ’23 (SBC).

This research-centric conference brings together professors, students, practitioners, and other enthusiasts living and breathing the bleeding edge of blockchain and cryptography. Co-organized by the Stanford Center for Blockchain Research (CBR), IC3, and Berkeley RDI, the three-day event organized talks and workshops across topics such as Cryptographic Primitives, Efficient SNARKs using Folding, and Smart Contract Security.

Not to be left out are the 40+ side events that happen alongside the conference! Phil and Steve were able to squeeze in the Blockchain Application Stanford Summit (BASS) hosted by the Stanford Blockchain Club, the MEV workshop by Flashbots and Ethereum Foundation, Fully Homomorphic Happy Hour by Sunscreen, and Builders Night by Aspecta, Manta, and others. Reflecting on the discussions and presentations from these jam-packed days, we are pleased to share three key takeaways that we feel encapsulate the essence of this year’s gathering.

Crypto Focus on Finance and Security

Finance continues to be a dominant focus of the cryptocurrency industry, with substantial attention directed towards AMMs, DEXs, and payment infrastructure. And another central topic was, to no surprise, security. It remains a paramount concern, as discussions covered a wide range of security (conceptual and actual) threats and vulnerabilities across the blockchain stack, including MEV and attacks on the mempool and consensus.

A new TEE (Trusted Execution Environments) attack, SGXonerated, was presented, showing both a theoretical and practical application of the attack. We think this is one area where zero knowledge proofs (ZKPs) can help build trust not just in Web2, but also in a Web3 context. In our opinion, highly confidential compute use cases should not rely only on the physical security of TEEs in a CPU and Data Center, they should rely on cryptography. We believe this is one area where Web3 will influence Web2 over time — not because of decentralization, but because of better security.

Growing Interest in Zero Knowledge

We are happy to report that the crypto community is witnessing significant advancements and growing interest in ZKPs. SNARKs are becoming more efficient, promising improved scalability and privacy. ZKPs are also recognized as a powerful tool for enhancing security and trustlessness, particularly in the Web3 space, where they are seen as a solution to the limitations of traditional security models.

ZKPs are transformative, but introduce new concepts that come with a learning curve. That’s why we, at O(1) Labs, chose TypeScript for our zk library and embedded DSL, o1js. We believe you shouldn’t need to learn a new language to leverage zk. o1js brings the power of zk to the more than 10 million strong JavaScript developer community, along with natively supporting tooling.

Usability and Use Case Exploration Gap

We observed a strong interest from the market in usability, calling out the need to make crypto solutions more user-friendly through new portals and as-a-service offerings. It is becoming clearer that different use cases require different zk approaches and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ model. From zkVMs to data attestation and oracles, we were part of many interesting discussions! Finally, despite the technical advancements, there is a noticeable lack of in-depth exploration and discussion about practical use cases for blockchain-based applications, indicating a need for greater emphasis on real-world applications in the crypto space.

Phil and Steve representing O(1) Labs at SBC ‘23

Final Thoughts

Our experience at this year’s Science of Blockchain ’23 conference has been nothing short of enlightening. The event reaffirmed the crypto industry’s objectives in finance and security and shed more light on the ever-evolving challenges and solutions within the blockchain landscape. The rising prominence of ZKPs continues to spark excitement and innovation, promising a more secure and scalable Web3 future. However, we must address the usability gap and the necessity for tailored zk approaches to meet diverse use cases. As we navigate the intricate terrain of blockchain technology, bridging the theoretical with the practical is vital to its continued growth.

If you’re as passionate as we are about these topics and would like to engage in discussions or learn more, we encourage you to drop a DM to Phil, our Head of BD, on Twitter (@Phil_Kelly_NYC). Let’s keep the conversation going and explore the world of zk together!

And while we’re on the topic of events, our next stop is zkSummit10 in London next week. We’ve got an exciting talk on o1js lined up, and we’re hosting a casual social gathering for you to meet the team, RSVP here. See you at zkSummit!