What Makes the Cosmos Hub a Virtual Port Cityby@cosmosnetwork
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What Makes the Cosmos Hub a Virtual Port City

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Many next generation blockchains are built to scale, defined narrowly as increasing the number of transactions, validators, or shards. As a result, these platforms end up imposing arbitrary blueprints onto prospective residents. Cities emerge to serve the needs of their citizens, to foster exchange of goods, services, and ideas. The Cosmos Hub will be a place that facilitates discovery, brings people and resources together to create their own self-governed communities. The Hub will represent the next wave of interchain infrastructure. It’s not a central bank, but a clearing point, but an exchange point.
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Blockchains are virtual cities: districts of economic and cultural exchange, where common infrastructure gives rise to a mutual sense of place and a shared social fabric.

Bitcoin is a city. The original application-specific chain. Despite its minimal feature set, Bitcoin is surrounded by a rich ecosystem of clients, exchanges, and layer-2s. Likewise, Ethereum is a sprawling metropolis with a rapidly expanding financial district, so much so that the cost of living is pushing people to the suburbs.

There are plenty of small cities that serve their residents perfectly well, but many next generation blockchains are built to scale, defined narrowly as increasing the number of transactions, validators, or shards. As a result, these platforms end up imposing arbitrary blueprints onto prospective residents. Utopian projects like Brasília should serve as cautionary tales for such top-down planning.

1958 Brasília under construction © Marcel Gautherot, Instituto Moreira Salles

While cities for an imaginary civilization can be built in the middle of nowhere, this isn’t how we should go about making a place we want to live. Urbanization is best understood as a consequence, not a precondition or an end unto itself. Instead, cities emerge to serve the needs of their citizens, to foster exchange of goods, services, and ideas, to establish protocols and norms that facilitate cooperation, information exchange, creation, and discovery. Great cities aren’t built to show off the latest construction material, or to indulge the machinations of influential architects, but grown, organically, by and for their citizenry.

The Cosmos Hub is a Port City

Of course, cities do not exist in isolation. They are embedded in the larger political landscape of empires, nation states, republics, and loose federations of sovereign city states. Connected globally by shipping lines and trade-routes, airports and distribution centers, they are caught in a perennial ebb and flow of sovereignty and hegemony, isolation and interconnection.

While each city is unique, some cities play a special role in supporting this great web. These are port cities, gateways to uncharted territories and places beyond borders. You’ll find port cities where the trade winds empty into new worlds, on peninsulas and river deltas where oceans meet inland waterways. From there, trade routes form; markets where merchants exchange spices for silk and maps for navigating the stars. Port cities are where distant cultures and economies and imaginations come together as dynamic, vibrant living spaces.

Apollo 11 star chart used in training for the 1969 lunar landing mission. National Air and Space Museum

The Cosmos Hub is one such port city, with trade routes to the largest blockchain economies. It’s a city that’s enriched by connection. A city that supports those with whom it connects. Rather than impose a political and economic system onto its inhabitants, the Hub competes on even footing to provide the best possible service. It does so by attracting the best validators, merchants, developers, and blockchains who want to form connections, exchange, and participate, whether it’s establishing themselves on the Hub, or simply passing through.

Systems of Flows, from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture’s Palermo Atlas (2018)

So what kind of place are we trying to create together? And what culture can the Hub bring about? We want to build a city where people actually want to live and grow. A city that has a vibrant economy and unique culture; a good quality of life, opportunities for newcomers; a place people are proud to live because its rich history is something they want to be a part of. New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul: these are cities that people fall in love with. Their ports receive people who cross oceans to find inspiration and possibility—places where they find community, a sense of pride, and civic responsibility. That’s what we want for the Cosmos Hub.

William Zeckendorf’s unrealized Manhattan Airport (1946)

What’s in a Hub

A hub isn’t a kingdom, but a port city. It’s not a central bank, but a clearing house. It’s not an ISP, but an exchange point. It’s not an airline, but an airport. A good hub isn’t a ruling dictator, but a servant leader. The Cosmos Hub will play precisely this leading role in the expanding universe of blockchains in need of interchain services. The Hub will be a place that facilitates discovery, secures trade, promotes exchange, brings people and resources and opportunities together to create their own self-determined, self-governed communities that represent the next wave of interchain infrastructure, commerce, and culture.

The Hub will be valuable for the growing interchain for the same reason a great city is valuable to people with ambition and talent and creativity, because it’s where you find new people, new ideas, new possibilities. It’s a place with the best tools, resources and collaborators to start a new project, and see it grow as the city grows with it.

Today the Hub has a minimal set of facilities for decentralized organizing, but these coordination capabilities will need to be expanded significantly to become a premier venue for developing interchain products and services, and bringing them to market. A self-improving social and technical infrastructure will enable the Hub to become a nexus for a wide variety of individuals, collectives, companies, institutions, DAOs, and autonomous agents to work together, aligning incentives toward a common goal.

Bernard Tschumi, Manhattan Transcripts (1983)

ATOM then, is a stake in this flourishing economy and the talents of the community invested in the Hub’s success. To date the Cosmos Hub’s core teams, validators, and investors have built the technology securing upwards of $30B, but the Hub’s true value proposition, and that of the greater Cosmos ecosystem will only be fully realised with the activation of IBC. With Stargate shipped, these stakeholders are now turning their attention to a single question: what’s in a hub? The first port city of the new interchain economy. The Hub will need a core set of infrastructure, much of which is already in development and planned for launch in phases over the coming months and years. This roadmap includes essential interchain services like chain registries, automated market makers, bridges to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the wider digital economy. It includes shared security and fundraising for new blockchains, interchain accounts and facilities for capital formation. Together, this infrastructure will offer new functionality for ATOMs, an improved experience for blockchain users, simpler means to deploy high-security blockchains, and countless services for the thriving ecosystem of sovereign, interoperable blockchains beyond the Cosmos Hub.

Five years ago the original Cosmos white paper laid out the vision of interoperable, application-specific blockchains. With the release of Stargate, its foundations are now complete. But with the dawn of interoperability, the Hub’s story is just beginning. It’s time for the next chapter; for a shared vision of where the Cosmos Hub goes from here. Now it’s time to lead by example, to demonstrate what it means to serve Cosmos as a Hub for the Internet of Blockchains.

Aurora borealis illustration, A Our Earth and its Story: A Popular Treatise on Physical Geography (1887)

Appendix: A Survey of Post-Stargate Features

These proposed features contribute to the security of the network and its ability to grow as an Interchain marketplace for goods and services. The Hub should be the premier place to custody and manage cryptocurrency assets and to house blockchain-native organizations, i.e. “A great city to live.” The Hub’s services marketplace should make it the most attractive venue for Interchain economic flows i.e. “A great port to route through.” While the Hub should strive to provide real utility and delight users, it should remain application-specific, focusing on this core value offering. By applying a principle of practical Hub minimalism, we can strike the right balance. Including features like shared security will allow the Hub to safely expand the scope of offerings secured by ATOM, while keeping the security surface of the main chain to a minimum. While we believe this vision and initial feature set will be important for the Hub’s success, there are countless opportunities for community members to help shape the direction of the Cosmos Hub and participate in bringing this city to life.

Follow development on the new Cosmos Hub GitHub project board.

Written by: Ethan Buchman & Sam Hart

Previously published here