The second day of the MIT Bitcoin Expo, hosted by the MIT Bitcoin Club this weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts, took a step away from technical debates surrounding Bitcoin development and focused on applications in the financial sector and beyond. Speakers included representatives of R3, the digital ledger consortium of 42 banks, and Enigma, a blockchain-based technology that allows computing on encrypted data.
Sunday morning kicked off with opening words from Latanya Sweeney, who serves as Chief Technologist for the Federal Trade Commission as well as Director of the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University. She began by reframing how our current economy is governed.
She went on to describe how racism has pervaded current technologies. For example, on Google, according to her recent paper, a black-identifying name was 25 percent more likely to get an ad suggestive of an arrest record. She stated that The Princeton Review, which offers standardized testing preparation for students, increased prices by 180 percent on average for people living in primarily Asian neighborhoods, and that Asian Airbnb hosts earn 20 percent less than Caucasion hosts when listing their homes. Latanya urged the community to keep these types of discrimination in mind when building new infrastructures using Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
Following a talk from Northwest Passage Ventures Founder and CEO Alex Tapscott about the “Blockchain Revolution,” Nasdaq’s Director of Global Software Development Alex Zinder took the stage to discuss the development of Nasdaq Linq, a blockchain-enabled platform for managing unregistered securities. Zinder walked the audience through the history of financial securities management and specific areas where Linq can streamline the process.
Zinder was followed by Kathleen Breitman, a Strategy Associate for R3 who fielded questions from the audience about the viability and strategy of their private blockchain. Breitman and Zinder were then joined by Digital Asset Holdings CTO Shaul Kfir, Case CEO Melanie Shapiro and Deloitte Consulting Principal Eric Piscini, who sat on a panel discussing the integration of Bitcoin into traditional finance.
Dean Masley, the executive director of the Blockchain Education Network, took the stage following the panel to encourage developers to play with and practice building with the blockchain. He also announced Blockchain Madness, an inter-campus trivia contest between teams from MIT, NYU, Concordia University and others that will take place this March.
Masley was followed by Dominik Schlener, who discussed the concept and implementation of PublicVotes, a voting platform he built with Ethereum that could help countries save as much as 99.78 percent of the costs associated with counting and collecting ballots. Michael Gord, founder of the McGill University Bitcoin Club, followed to talk about his experience hosting the McGill Bitcoin Airdrop, where students each received USD $10 in Bitcoin free, in exchange for helping to increase user adoption.
Later in the afternoon, Enigma co-founder Guy Zyskind took the stage to explain the backend behind his technology, which utilizes a large decentralized network of computers that enables users to query and compute with data that remains encrypted throughout the entire process. By splitting a large, encrypted dataset into smaller packets and only compiling the final decrypted query together on the client’s computer, Enigma is bringing theoretical distributed computing to reality using blockchain as the backend.
The afternoon was comprised of a discussion about increasing the block size, limitations of blockchain-based voting and approaches to identity verification on the blockchain from Netki CEO Justin Newton.
Former MIT Bitcoin Club executive director Jeremy Rubin closed the conference with macroeconomic theory and how it relates to the current state of the Bitcoin community.
Set overlooking the Charles River, the third annual MIT Bitcoin Expo brought together developers, founders and students to discuss both technical issues and potential solutions in today’s polarized climate.
When asked about the conference, current MIT Bitcoin Club executive director Nchinda Nchinda simply stated, “We're going to make blockchain great again.”