A few days ago Bitcoin Magazine reported that Joi Ito, director of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, was about to unveil a plan for the institute to become what he called an independent, neutral home to help with Bitcoin standards development.
“I think within a couple of weeks we’ll be announcing something which will be a little bit more substantive,” said Ito. “And I’m not pushing it, but I’m offering MIT as a neutral academic home for some of the conversations and the technical coordination.”
MIT has now formally announced the launch of a Digital Currency Initiative, to be directed by former White House senior adviser for mobile and data innovation Brian Forde, who joined the MIT Media Lab as director of digital currency. Forde will work with researchers across the institute and leading experts at other universities around the world to address some of the most critical challenges to creating a safe, stable and secure digital currency.
“As a technologist, there’s no more exciting place to work than the MIT Media Lab,” said Forde. “The innovations that come out of the Media Lab have made a truly global impact. I look forward to working with the faculty and students and collaborating with developers, academics, entrepreneurs, governments, and nonprofits to help us get closer to a more robust and viable digital currency that could have tremendous benefits around the world.”
At the White House, Forde was responsible for determining how the Obama administration would leverage open data and emerging technologies to address the president’s national priorities.
“While at the White House, Brian led extraordinary initiatives to leverage the power of tech and innovation to make the future of America ever brighter,” said Todd Park, White House adviser for technology.
“We are fortunate to have Brian join the Media Lab to help organize an important research agenda to get cryptocurrencies right,” said Ito. “Brian’s experience mainstreaming emerging technologies from the rural mountains of Nicaragua to the White House will be invaluable as he tackles the challenges of digital currency – one of the most promising emerging technologies for the next 10 years.”
In a Medium article, Forde gives more information about the MIT Digital Currency Initiative. He is persuaded that we are at a pivotal point for the digital economy.
“Getting digital currencies right and realizing the projected impact, present daunting challenges that will require significant research and development to overcome,” he says.
Several renowned MIT experts of economy, cryptography and system security, mentioned in the Medium article, will actively participate in the Digital Currency Initiative together with interested companies, developers, and forward-thinking policy makers. The MIT student community, including Jeremy Rubin, the undergraduate who launched the MIT Bitcoin Project, also will be involved.
According to Forde, the goals of the MIT Digital Currency Initiative are to:
- Conduct research and engage more students on digital currency topics that address questions about security, stability, scalability, privacy and economics.
- Convene governments, nonprofits and the private sector to research and test concepts that have high social impact.
- Provide evidence-based research to support existing and future policy and standards.
There is an overlap between these terms and those of the Bitcoin Foundation. It seems likely that, in view of the troubled history of the foundation, the Bitcoin community could welcome MIT as an alternative, prestigious venue for leadership and coordination of the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Forde hopes that the MIT initiative will provide the support needed for the digital currency community to help realizing the “tremendous opportunities to increase access to critical financial services for all, create more transparent democracies, and develop services that dramatically reduce barriers for global commerce,” and looks forward to connecting with anyone who has feedback or new research.
Giulio Prisco is a writer specialized in science, technology and business. He is persuaded that Bitcoin and its underlying technology are about to bring disruptive positive changes to finance, business, and society.