Announcing the MIT Bitcoin Project

Announcing the MIT Bitcoin Project

29 Apr, 2014 |
Events

The MIT Bitcoin Club is excited to share the news below on behalf of Dan Elitzer and Jeremy Rubin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MIT Students Plan Campus-Wide Bitcoin Distribution

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Two MIT students have raised half a million dollars for a project to distribute $100 in bitcoin to every undergraduate student at MIT this fall.

Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore studying electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, and Dan Elitzer, founder and President of the MIT Bitcoin Club and a first-year in the MBA program at MIT Sloan, have undertaken an ambitious project aimed at creating an ecosystem for digital currencies at MIT. Plans for the MIT Bitcoin Project involve a range of activities, including working with professors and researchers across the Institute to study how students use the bitcoin they receive, as well as spurring academic and entrepreneurial activity within the university in this burgeoning field.

Through the MIT Bitcoin Project, Rubin and Elitzer aim to help MIT continue its long tradition as the preeminent educational institution at the forefront of emerging technologies, and establish MIT as a global hub where Bitcoin-related research, ideas, and ventures are studied, discussed, and developed. The bulk of funding for the project is being provided by MIT alumni with significant additional support from within the Bitcoin community. The total of over $500,000 already pledged will cover the distribution of bitcoin to all 4,528 undergraduates, as well as infrastructure and informational activities related to the initiative.

“Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the internet era,” said Rubin. When the distribution happens this fall, it will make the MIT campus the first place in the world where it will be possible to assume widespread access to Bitcoin.

The organizers admit they do not know how students will decide to use their bitcoin. However, they plan to use the time between now and when the bitcoin is distributed to build up the Bitcoin ecosystem at MIT. This will include working with members of the MIT Bitcoin Club to educate merchants around campus and help them get set up to accept Bitcoin payments.

To begin preparing the MIT community for the widespread availability of Bitcoin on campus this fall, Rubin and Elitzer have engaged with HackMIT, MIT Society of Women Engineers, MIT Bitcoin Club, and the College Cryptocurrency Network to organize the MIT Bitcoin Expo on Saturday, May 3rd. The event will feature presentations and technical workshops from prominent figures within the Bitcoin community, including Gavin Andresen, Chief Scientist and Board Member of the Bitcoin Foundation; Sean Neville, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of Circle Internet Financial; Alan Reiner, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Armory Technologies; Ryan X. Charles, Software Engineer at BitPay; and James D’Angelo, Founder and Host of the World Bitcoin Network. Further information about the event is available at mitbitcoinexpo.org.

The MIT faculty and staff supporting this project include Andy Lippman, Associate Director, MIT Media Lab; Hal Abelson, Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering; Cesar Hidalgo, Director of Macro Connections, MIT Media Lab; Nickolai Zeldovich, Associate Professor of EECS, CSAIL; Frans Kaashoek, Charles Piper Professor of EECS, CSAIL; Kyle Judah, Program Director, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship; Alex Pentland, Director of Human Dynamics Laboratory, MIT Media Lab; Elizabeth Bruce, Executive Director of Big Data Initiative; Sam Madden, Faculty Director of the MIT Big Data Initiative; and Thomas Hardjono, Executive Director of MIT Kerberos & Internet Trust Consortium.

Many supporters see the openness of the project as one of its greatest strengths. Thomas Hardjono, Executive Director of the MIT Kerberos & Internet Trust Consortium, sees the project as an opportunity to get people to rethink how data can be used. “Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies pave the way for personal data to be recognized as a new digital asset class. The MIT Bitcoin Project is a truly exciting venture that will provide the foundation for research into other classes of digital assets,” said Hardjono.

Rubin and Elitzer are developing details of the academic studies and logistics for the disbursement of the bitcoin in consultation with the supporters listed above, with emphasis on maintaining close communication with the MIT administration in order to address any potential concerns. They are seeking IRB human subjects approval for the academic studies in collaboration with MIT’s Big Data Living Lab, which includes allowing students to decide whether to opt-in.

Elitzer explained, “We decided to announce this project now to give students lead time. We want to issue a challenge to some of the brightest technical minds of a generation: ‘When you step onto campus this fall, all of your classmates are going to have access to bitcoin; what are YOU going to build to give them interesting ways to use it?’”

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For more information, Jeremy Rubin and Dan Elitzer can be reached at bitcoin@mit.edu.

Twitter:
@delitzer
@JeremyRubin

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