Crypto Education: Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT Now Offer Comprehensive Courses on Blockchain

  • Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies have many emerging use cases.
  • Crypto industry professionals have increasingly begun to teach courses are top-ranking universities.

As the crypto and blockchain industry continue to evolve, there’s also a growing demand for professionals who are trained and properly qualified to fulfill key roles in this emerging field of technology. To meet this requirement, there are now many centers of higher learning that offer comprehensive courses on cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technology (DLT).

Management Courses On Cryptocurrencies

Stanford University, a private California-based research-focused university, has been offering an increasing number of courses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Kathryn Haun, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and former US Justice Department (DOJ) attorney, has taught a cryptocurrency management course at Stanford.

Haun is currently managing, or overseeing, many projects under a16z, which is Andreessen Horowitz’s cryptocurrency fund. The former federal prosecutor believes digital currencies have the potential to give “power back to the people.”

Although crypto industry professionals may have different views about cryptos and blockchain technology, academic courses on these subjects must be taught by professionals with industry experience.

Notably, Stanford’s management course on digital assets was also taught by Dr. Susan Athey, who has been working with Microsoft as a consulting economist for over 10 years. Athey is also a member of the board of directors at Expedia, Inc.

Course On Bitcoin

Balaji Srinivasan, the chief technical officer (CTO) of crypto exchange Coinbase, helped teach a course on Bitcoin (BTC) at Stanford. Blockchain industry professionals have not only contributed by teaching courses at the top-ranked university, but they have also invested in various crypto-related education programs.

The Switzerland-based Ethereum foundation and various other crypto firms helped fund and launch the Stanford Center for Blockchain Research (CBR) - which is a collaborative effort that “brings together engineering, law, and economics faculty, as well as post-docs, students, and visitors, to work on technical challenges in the field.”

UC Berkeley, New York University, MIT

University of California, Berkeley, a top-ranked research university, also offers DLT and applied cryptography-related courses such as “Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics, and the Future of Technology, Business and Law.”

As stated in the course description: “Blockchain is ... one of the most interdisciplinary areas, bringing together new questions and opportunities at the intersection of technology, business and law.”

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the course’s instructors aim to help students “explore current and potential real-world applications” of blockchain in many different industries. As covered by CryptoGlobe, New York University (NYU) allows students to enroll in graduate-level specializations in cryptocurrencies.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers some of the most technically in-depth courses on blockchain-based systems such as “Cryptocurrency Engineering and Design” and courses on “shared public ledgers.” Many of MIT’s courses are jointly taught by Neha Narula, who previously worked as a senior software engineer at Google and currently serves as the director of MIT Media Labs’ Digital Currency Initiative.

Bitcoin Veteran Peter Todd: Reducing Bitcoin’s Block Size to 300KB Is a “Dumb Idea”

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Peter Todd is a Bitcoin veteran. Describing himself as an Applied Cryptography Consultant, Peter has been interested in digital money ever since he read Adam Back’s seminal Hashcash paper as a teenager. Having spent a lot of time himself thinking about how to create a digital currency - when the bitcoin paper was released in 2009, Peter realized that the solution had been found.

Formerly a Bitcoin Core developer, Peter has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the space, regularly providing a more technically-based commentary to the changing winds of the crypto scene.

Short, sharp and to the point, Peter answered a few of my questions about bitcoin, crypto more broadly, and what the future holds for the industry.

Avi Rosten: How did you get into crypto?

Peter Todd: Via the Freenet Project, back in highschool. Like any good civics/democracy minded high schooler would be, I believed in freedom of speech and Freenet was an obvious way to promote that.

AR: What are some of the developments in the crypto space in the past couple of years that you find most interesting?

PT: Lightning is probably the biggest one. Monero and Zcash second, although remember that "interesting" doesn't necessarily mean "good".

AR: What do you think about recent talk by some Bitcoin Core developers around reducing Bitcoin's block size?

PT:  Some? I think you mean basically just one, Luke. I think it's a dumb idea that's a mere tweak at high cost.

(Peter explained a little more expansively in this interview for the WhatBitcoinDid Podcast why he doesn’t like small block sizes: “I think his technical arguments for that are good, but I think he doesn’t understand the social side of that, which essentially makes it impossible.")

AR: When the bitcoin block reward eventually goes to 0, will mining fees act as enough of an incentive?

PT: Maybe? Maybe not? It'd certainly have been less risky to have some small perpetual inflation, or at least a Monero-like "tail emission"

AR: What do you think of the Lightning network? Will it enable bitcoin to become a widely-used medium of exchange?

PT: How widely used is widely used? Bitcoin is already a fairly widely-used medium of exchange amongst use-cases that need it - lots of services and people at risk of censorship use it, from Patreon alternatives to file hosting sites.

If you're talking about replacing credit cards and the like, it'll probably never happen.

AR: Do you think Bitcoin should incorporate some privacy features or do you think it would make Bitcoin less useful as financial regulators might then treat it as a privacy coin e.g. Japan's FSA's order to exchanges not to deal with privacy coins?

PT: From a purely technical perspective most of what people think of as "privacy features" are risky to implement, with a high chance of a bug leading to the destruction of the entire system. Monero has already had one inflation bug, and Zcash has had two (including the one caught just prior to initial release).

On the other hand, Bitcoin already has many onchain privacy features, ranging  from the UTXO model to various technical things that make Lightning possible. And on the second layer, having at least some level of privacy isn't just a feature, it's mandatory: without decent privacy you can't get scaling, as to scale you have to make transaction data less widely distributed.

AR: What do you think of the two most recent implementations of the MimbleWimble protocol (Beam and Grin)? If the community decided that Bitcoin needed to have these privacy features, what do you think would be the best way to implement them?

PT: I just don't see that happening for another 5-10 years. These protocols are just too new to trust for something as valuable as the entire Bitcoin system. Better to adopt them as additional layers, as Liquid has done.

AR: If you wanted to work with smart contracts, which of the existing platforms would you use? Ethereum, EOS, TRON, Rootstock (RSK) ...?

PT: They're all bad. Their idea of smart contracts doesn't make much sense for most applications. Lightning is currently the best example of a smart contract system in production, and the on-chain scripts it uses are trivial.

There's very little reason to have complex on-chain smart contract schemes.

AR: What’s your biggest criticism of Ethereum?

PT: See the previous question.

It's just not a model that makes much sense.

AR: How do you think crypto news and media could improve?

I'd say get more competent journalists and give them more time and resources to write articles. But realistically, where's the money to do that going to come from?