About the mit digital currency initiative
Our purpose is to create a future in which moving value across the Internet is as intuitive and efficient as moving information
As with the Internet, blockchain technology has the potential to affect all aspects of business, from supply chains, to financial transactions, to audit trails. We can imagine a tipping point at which growing numbers of customers start to demand the autonomy, openness and new value-generating potential of digital currencies and blockchains.
But there is still a great deal of fundamental research and development needed if this technology is to deliver on these promises. And in that endeavor, academia has a vital role to play. Venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and a new breed of “crypto investors” have collectively invested billions in blockchain-based startups and so-called “ICOs,” at the same time that Wall Street banks, marquee technology companies and even government and international agencies have rushed to establish blockchain research labs. Yet leading experts in cryptography and economics are only now starting to weigh in on questions around the security of this technology and its broader impact on the economy.
That’s why the MIT Media Lab launched the MIT Digital Currency Initiative. The goal of the DCI is to bring together the brightest minds at MIT and elsewhere to conduct the research necessary to support the development of digital currency and blockchain technology.
Together with collaborators at other universities and research institutions, we are working with interdisciplinary groups of faculty, students, and research scientists to author research papers, run pilot use cases of the technology, and develop relevant open-source software.
To conduct research on blockchain and digital currency topics, broadly defined within two categories:
Core software and infrastructure development that addresses questions about security, stability, scalability, privacy, and the internal economics of these systems
Pilot projects and other research initiatives aimed at exploring and testing applications and use cases for the technology within business, government and society at large.
To be a neutral convener for governments, nonprofits, and the private sector to research and test concepts with high social impact.
To foster diversity and inclusion in the development and adoption of this technology by promoting access to educational resources among a wider body of students inside and outside MIT.
To equip students with skills to drive innovation in blockchain technology
Serve the public good
Integrity and rigor
Courage to rethink everything from the ground up
Challenge everything and be fearless
Why does blockchain matter today?
Many observers have compared the potential of blockchain technology with that of the Internet. The Internet enabled people to easily call each other without a phone company, send a document without a mail carrier, or publish an article without a newspaper. As a result, today more than 2.9 billion people depend on that decentralized communications protocol to more efficiently communicate with one another.
Similarly, the blockchain—the underlying technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies—is a decentralized public ledger of debits and credits built on the principle that no one person or company owns or controls it. The intent is that users control it directly. This new system promises to let people transfer money without a bank, write simple, enforceable contracts without a lawyer, or turn personal property such as real estate, digital music, or a household’s rights to locally generated solar energy into digital assets that can be transferred or pledged with near-zero transaction fees. Many are projecting that the impact from what is being called the “Internet of Value” will be similar to that of the “Internet of Information”—disrupting traditional industries, challenging existing regulations, and significantly increasing the volume of commerce by both dramatically lowering the cost to transact and allowing two parties to enter into exchanges without trusting each other.
For comparison, the Internet had more than 20 years to mature in academia and government before its tremendous impact on mainstream commercial and personal use was realized. The first bitcoin was created in January 2009, almost eight years ago. While it shows enormous promise , it’s clear that much work still needs to be done before this technology can become truly safe, secure, and significant. At the DCI, we believe we can make important contributions to its technical safety, security, and reliability through rigorous academic research.