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MIT Bitcoin Expo Day One Focuses on Technology

by: Nick Abouzeid

MIT Bitcoin Expo Day One Focuses on Technology

Following last week's DC Blockchain Summit at Georgetown University, the MIT Bitcoin Club kicked off its annual Expo this weekend, bringing together Core Contributors such as Peter Todd, academics such as Assistant Professor Arvind Narayanan of Princeton University and founders such as James D’Angelo of the World Bitcoin Network in the first of a two-day event discussing the future of Bitcoin.

Saturday’s lectures were focused on the technology behind Bitcoin, covering a wide variety of topics surrounding the future of the community given the current block size debates and specific user technical issues. Every lecture was streamed live on YouTube, and can be viewed here.

Cory Fields, a Core developer working at the Digital Currency Initiative, started the day of lectures with an overview of the community, lauding the merits of debate during times of dissension.

"Bitcoin is a system designed to resist change and hostile takeover. We've lost if the fighting stops and it’s easy to change." - Cory Fields

Cory was followed by James D’Angelo, who continued Fields’ discussion by proposing that the entire block size debate is a “proxy war” for third party interests in Bitcoin technology. He then went on to question the community's definition of “decentralized” as “we cannot confirm who owns any portion of the current hashing power,” proposing a “one vote for one person” system in order to reach consensus over certain technical debates.

Following D’Angelo, a panel group of developers, which included Core Contributor Jonas Schnelli and Lighting Network white paper co-author Joseph Poon, discussed risks and challenges faced by Bitcoin wallets and other elements of the network. RSK Labs’ Sergio Lerner gave an overview of RootStock, a smart-contract platform and payment network similar to Ethereum built with a Bitcoin sidechain.

After lunch, Princeton University’s Arvind Narayanan took the stage, drawing parallels between the histories of gold mining and telephone line installation and Bitcoin, and encouraging closer collaboration with academia and the Bitcoin community. He also discussed a paper he wrote at Princeton that concluded “only 28 out of nearly 200,000 websites registered with NameCoin led to non-trivial websites” at the time of publication.

Core Contributor Peter Todd followed, dissecting an issue with the Bitcoin protocol in which false transactions can be confirmed on light wallets. Sia CEO David Vorick also took the stage, discussing the structure of Sia’s decentralized data storage platform. Vorick pointed out that Sia allows users to distribute data packets between hundreds or thousands of independent servers, without a central failure point for prices below those of popular data-hosting services such as Amazon Web Services.

The first day wrapped with a demonstration from BlockCypher Developer Advocate Josh Cincinnati and a talk, titled “Bitcoin: Forked to Death” from Pindar Wong, who co-founded the first licensed ISP in Hong Kong and organized Phases One and Two of Scaling Bitcoin. Wong described certain lessons that Internet governance, the development of an evolving Internet, can learn from the Bitcoin community.

Hosted in the university's new Samberg Conference Center, MIT Bitcoin Expo Day One wrapped as the sun set over the Charles River and the crowd prepared for a second day of lectures focused on the non-technical side of Bitcoin: business, finance and emerging markets where Bitcoin can succeed. Bitcoin Magazine coverage will continue.

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