Holochain Forum

Why Do You Call it "Holochain?"

We call it Holochain because it takes other technologies and forms a new whole, is structurally holographic, and empowers holistic patterns.

A Unified Cryptographic Whole

Holochain is made from multiple cryptographic technologies, comprising a new whole.

  • Hash chains provide immutable data integrity and a definitive time sequence from the vantage point of each node. Technically, we’re using hash trees—blockchains do too, but they’re not called blocktrees, so we’re not calling these holotrees.
  • Cryptographic signing of chains, messages, and validation confirmation enables the maintenance of authorship, provenance, and accountability. Countersigning the transactions/interactions between multiple parties provide non-repudiation and the “locking” of chains.
  • DHTs (Distributed Hash Tables) leverage cryptographic hashes for content-addressable storage. They randomize interactions by hashing into neighborhoods to impede collusion, and process validation #1 and #2 to store data on the DHT.

Holographic Storage

Every node has a resilient sample of the whole. Like cutting a hologram, cutting a Holochain network in half such that half the nodes were isolated from the other half, would result in two whole, functioning systems—not two partial, broken systems. A similar approach for creating resilience can be seen in natural systems. For example, where is your DNA stored? Every cell carries its own copy, with different functions expressed based on the role of that cell.

And where is the English language stored? Every speaker carries it. People have different areas of expertise, exposure to different slang, or specialized vocabularies. Nobody has a complete copy, nor is anyone’s version exactly the same as anyone else. If half of the world’s English speakers disappeared, it would not degrade the language too much.

The resilience of Holochain is not absolute, of course—cutting a hologram smaller and smaller eventually degrades the image enough to make it unrecognizable. Depending on the resiliency rules for DHT neighborhoods, Holochain would likely share a similar fate. Still, if the process of killing off the nodes were not instantaneous, the network may be able to keep reshuffling data, per redundancy requirements, to keep it alive.

Holarchy

Holochain DNAs are composable with one another into new levels of unity. In other words, one Holochain app can build on the decentralized capacities provided by other Holochain apps, making new, holistic patterns possible. We modelled this on real-world examples of evolution, include organisms that build new unity on holographic storage patterns that cells use for DNA, and societies building new unity on the holographic storage patterns of language.

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