Eth Global Paris

2023 ethglobal Paris hackathon is crazy about identity verification tooling. Polygon ID, Mina, guys with orb scanning eye iris code - worldcoin, hyperlane, safe, others, which names are hard to remember or even get. Most companies came here to offer their tooling for safe verification. ZK stands for zero knowledge.

Zero-knowledge is not such a bad thing if we talk about passing secrets. It basically means that you can prove who are you or that you have smth, without revealing this smth. Sounds unrealistic, but wait a bit.

They all (literally) implement a scheme with a so-called Trusted Verifier. You show your ID once to that verifier (since this it is no more zero knowledge - 0.5 knowledge) and receive some token. And all other parties should trust this token or check its validity from the verifier.

Other buzzwords are Permission less, trust less, and so on. All ideas are around this. I have listened to 3 workshops by different companies, talking about kinda different tooling they created, but each single one boiled down to that verification idea. I guess, people just got tired of crypto coins and switched to the next step - what else can do with blockchain?

Workshops revealed another thing - how the whole party works. The total prize amount is close to half a million dollars. A team can get up to 5K I think. And I was told if a company wants to attend and dime into prize fund 5K - it should pay the whole 20! Quite valuable for organizers, huh? Or maybe not, since gossips tell the whole event price is about 2-3 million today. That’s huge I think.

But companies are happy to do it. Mostly, some faces looked a bit depressed. I guess, the hackathon itself is a playground to have real usages and adopters of that. I saw people in booths work with hackathon participants quite heavily, listen to pitches and give bits of advice, get feedback. Winners kinda prove that the tech they choose is feasible. So going there, pitching tools, and motivating people to base their projects on tools provided - that’s the ultimate target of a company. If the winner used PoligonID, for instance, the next day another good bunch of startups start using it as well. Like Formula 1 ads. Everyone wants to have the same bank card as drawn on a winner's car or drink the same shit that racers pretend to drink.

But why is that obsession with not sending secret data? Most websites have long-living tokens anyway, nobody cares. HTTPS seems to cover that quite ok. Samples and use cases say about getting credit in a bank without sending your passport data. But in this case, the one who provides verification should be bank trusted. And people trusted. And maybe governments trusted. This is a challenge

But having said that, I've got a new thought. The whole mess with data verification might be the first tiny step to make crypto tech closer to the real world. Chatting around with colleagues we came to an idea - you out your ID to the verifier once. And it can be some physiological verification like eye iris code. then you buy a flight ticket with that verification, just by having a code in a phone. No name/surname/date of birthday thing anymore. But when you are in the airport scan your iris and compare the received code with what they used for a ticket. If they are close enough - you can have a seat on a plane. Passport in a pocket.

Maybe. To me, the passport itself is not so bad also. What I really missed there - the ability to listen to all pitches. I thought it would be the best and the most valuable thing. But they made it in a closed format. The pitch was told only to judges. Even if you did a project - you won’t hear about other projects until they select winners. Of course, you can wander around and try asking sleepy tired programmers about what they did over the last 48 sleepless hours.

Anyway, the event throws new trends for digesting. Oh, and guess what? Several projects are named after seafood :) there is Bacalhau virtual machine, and I noticed in a queue couple of hackers with a Seabass name in the presentation. Interesting how did they come to such naming? Especially Bacalhau. This is a dried salted cod fish, sold usually in Portugal in every food store as big white smelly chunks…

Maybe it’s also symbolic that such an event happens in Paris. Lots of gorgeous buildings and fancy food, but it is the same in every corner - crowded, noisy, and urinated. Hackathon is well organized, fancy, and expensive. The venue is literally a palace. But it is just exploration facilitation. Be careful and watch your steps.