Bitcoin has a large presence on and off, the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This makes sense when we consider that this is one of the finest technical colleges in the world. The University itself has not become directly involved in cryptocurrency in the past, but it seems that this is about to change. The fall semester will be offering “Computer Systems Security 6.858” and a few of the modules in the class are related to cryptocurrencies.
According to the class description, there will be twenty-five modules, at least two of which will be focused on virtual currencies. The class is at senior level and designed primarily for mechanical engineering students with a focus on building secure computer systems. There will be two lecturers during the class, James Mickens and Nickolai Zeldovich. Mickins is a guest lecturer at MIT and, according to his MIT biography “purchased a large cave to act as a warehouse/fortress from which he can defend himself during the inevitable robot war that was prophesied by the documentary movie “The Matrix.”” Zeldovich is an Associate Professor in the school´s electrical engineering and computer science department and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Sloan Fellowship in 2010.
One of the modules in the class, “TorCoin” is specifically cryptocurrency oriented. The modules abstract describes the class:
“In this paper we introduce TorCoin, a distributed consensus protocol based on the Bitcoin block chain. This protocol will be used to establish new nodes on the network, and to determine node validity and bandwidth. TorCoin will run in collaboration with TorFlow, an existing code designed to determine bandwidth and monitor node behavior, using an RPC interface. To handle the computational costs of mining, we propose to partially outsource these costs to the Bitcoin network using the existing work sharing protocol. We discuss our implementation and provide an analysis of security concerns. Finally, we provide proof of concept, along with potential directions for future work.”
Cointelegraph has been unable to reach either of the lecturers for comments on the remainder of the class modules and the class itself. The fact that MIT has included instruction on various security and design aspects of cryptocurrencies is encouraging. Bitcoin itself is an idea that is barely six years old. Most of the developers working in the field are self-taught, learning as they develop and many of the security problems that have begun to appear can certainly be traced to this problem. Bringing development into the structured, and well financed, university setting seems to be an idea whose time has come.
This is not MIT´s first venture into cryptocurrency classes. The same class in 2013 contained modules such as “Bitcoin Transaction Graph Analysis” and “Analyzing the Bitcoin Transaction Graph: A Look at Mixers and Traceability”. Draper University is also offering Bitcoin classes, for free.
Universities are opening their doors on many different levels to the idea of Bitcoin and virtual currencies. Not only are a few beginning to consider Bitcoin as a payment option but they are now beginning to offer development classes in a structured environment. MIT is one of the leaders in this area but it seems likely that more schools will follow their lead, lending some of the best minds in the world to develop a new way of doing business and protecting our assets.
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