Blockchain companies have seen billions of dollars in investment and many Fortune 500 companies are now exploring applications with distributed ledgers. By now, it’s clearly on the road to mainstream adoption. But to make the most out of blockchain technology, it helps to have an understanding of the concepts that make it so powerful.
The characteristic known as “ Byzantine fault tolerance ” (BFT) is one of those concepts worth understanding. The ability to tolerate what computer scientists call “byzantine failures” is a crucial part of blockchains’ ability to maintain reliable records of transactions in a transparent, tamper-proof way.
The Byzantine Generals’ Problem
BFT is so-named because it represents a solution to the “Byzantine generals’ problem,” a logical dilemma that researchers Leslie Lamport, Robert Shostak and Marshall Pease described in an academic paper published in 1982. Essentially, it imagines a group of Byzantine generals and their armies surrounding a castle and preparing to attack. To be successful, these armies must all attack at the same time. But they know that there is a traitor in their midst. The problem they face is one of launching a successful attack with one, unknown bad actor in their system.