Oxford Faculty are Building the World’s First Blockchain-Based University 3 2111

The academic hive is abuzz with blockchain activity. Students looking to formally study blockchain technology can now do so at a number of prestigious universities, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, Georgetown and MIT. The blockchain bug has even made its way into the ivy league at Cornell and Princeton Universities.

“The courses are often jam-packed, and most have waiting lists,” CNBC says of blockchain classes at Berkeley, which also has a student club devoted to the block. The club is so popular it turns away 96 percent of applicants, according to CNBC. Most students, they say, are more motivated to improve the world than they are to make tons of money.

Across the pond, faculty from Oxford are going beyond just offering classes and developing what they hope will be the world’s first decentralized, borderless, blockchain-based university, called Woolf University.

The Borderless Blockchain University

Woolf University’s vision is a school where students can ‘show up’ to a class by checking in on the app. The app executes smart contracts that track the student’s academic history and financial aid, automatically pay the professor, and bypass innumerable bureaucratic hurdles usually relegated to lengthy paperwork processes.

For about half the cost of regular tuition, a student in Brooklyn could take a class in Yoruba from a professor in Nigeria and earn an EU degree.

‘The World’s First University ICO’

Woolf University’s founder Joshua Broggi, who also serves on Oxford’s Faculty of Philosophy, has just announced what he’s calling “the world’s first ‘university ICO’.”

“Woolf will use a blockchain to enforce regulatory compliance, eliminate bureaucratic processes, and manage the custodianship of sensitive financial and personal data,” the announcement says.

“Our ultimate aim is for this to be a driver of job opportunities and security for academics, as well as a low-cost alternative for students,” Broggi told Forbes.

Private sale of tokens is open now, and crowd sale will be August 30th through October 10th. Token sales are not available to citizens of China, the United States, or Iran.

Stanford is Taking Blockchain in a Different Direction

Oxford isn’t the only place expanding their blockchain vision beyond 202 classes.

Last month, Stanford announced their Center for Blockchain Research (CBR), which endeavors to develop new blockchain based technologies at one of the world’s top research institutions.

Led by professors Dan Boneh and David Mazières, the center’s first five years of research are backed through partnerships with some of crypto’s big names: the Ethereum Foundation, Protocol Labs, the Interchain Foundation, OmiseGO, DFINITY Stiftung, and PolyChain Capital.

The focus of the CBR will be blockchain as it relates to computer engineering, and its potential impacts on global business. “This is a fascinating area of research with deep scientific questions,” said Boneh. “Once you get into the details you quickly realize that this area will generate many PhD theses across all of computer science and beyond.”

A Global Watershed

Last fall the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts announced that they now accept tuition payments in Bitcoin. In April, the world’s first masters degree in cryptofinance was launched in Brazil. Universities in Moscow, Copenhagen, Cambridge and Cumbria are also researching blockchain’s now and future uses.

These developments, when taken together, could indicate a global watershed moment in the marriage of academia and blockchain tech.

Blockchain and Academia are Transforming Each Other

With the global academic world switching on to blockchain’s potential, and with projects like the CBR and Woolf University taking shape, the world of academia could be at a transformative threshold. Woolf students could conceivably find themselves learning about the blockchain through a blockchain supported infrastructure, while Stanford grads could be taking what they learn in blockchain courses and applying it to doctoral research in the CDR.

We can expect this to transform academia. It’ll transform the blockchain, too.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

3 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I am on the core leadership of Woolf. It is important to make clear for the readers that the Woolf project was designed independently from the University of Oxford, although several of its members are from that university.

    1. Thank you for the correction! I’ve updated the title and body to reflect this.

Happy 10th Birthday, Bitcoin!! 7 2973

On January 3rd, 2009, block number zero produced the first 50 bitcoins. They were mined by none other than the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Thus was born the phenomenon of the decade. And on January 8th, ten years ago today, bitcoin became a public network when Nakamoto released bitcoin version 0.1.

Nakamoto announced the release via the Metzdowd cryptography mailing list, calling bitcoin “a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending.”

Nakamoto’s description of the software that would revolutionize technology is sparing and to the point. “It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority,” the succinct announcement goes on. “Windows only for now.  Open source C++ code is included.” It describes the proof of work as “ridiculously easy”.

It follows with a brief description of how transactions work, how many coins will be released and how they can expect to split every 4 years, along with the caveats that the software was still “alpha and experimental,” offering “no guarantees”. It’s signed with no letter closing, simply:

“Satoshi Nakamoto”

Bitcoin, This Is Your Life

My what a ten years it has been. Just to recap:

On January 12th, 2009, programmer Hal Finney, who had downloaded the new bitcoin software immediately, received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. This was the first ever bitcoin transaction. Over a year later in May 2010, programmer Laszlo Hanyecz received 10,000 bitcoins in exchange for two Papa John’s pizzas, initiating the first real-world bitcoin purchase and thereby creating the pizza index.

Bitcoin simmered until 2017, when it’s value jolted from $900 to over $19,000, and bitcoin became a household name. Over the past year, the original crypto has settled to a more modest $4,000 valuation, and stirred up a lot of public din in its wake.

Where Were You on January 9th, 2009?

So where were you on the day of Nakamoto’s announcement? Probably on your couch watching DVDs of Pineapple Express and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia seasons 1 through 3, or laughing at Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog on your iPhone 2.

It was a simpler time. Wired was calling Google Earth the number one app on the fancy new iPhone app store. Competition was fierce with Windows 7 in beta. Facebook had recently dropped the “is” from status updates, and a fun app called Twitter (formerly “Twttr”) had just introduced a feature called Trending Topics.

Trending Topics

David Bowie was celebrating one of his eight final birthdays, while Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze were enjoying their last few months among us mortals. Only days later, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles made aviation history by skillfully crash landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, saving everyone on board.

A burgeoning class of ennui soaked fashionistas, deemed “hipsters,” were described in Time Magazine as “smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization,” a vermin who “manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity.” They went on with this colorful character sketch:

“Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

Time Magazine, 2009

Is it time for any of that to come back into style yet? Maybe give it a few more years. We need a break.

Williamsburg was gentrifying and Portland was still America’s best kept secret. The streets were flooded with fixed gear bikes and the sounds of Grizzly Bear, Real Estate, Kings of Convenience, and TV on the Radio.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was just a few days old, and Fever Ray’s self titled was about to drop. The world was listening to Lady Gaga, whose single “Just Dance” hit number one on Billboard’s top 100, and Taylor Swift’s Fearless, which was the top selling album.

That same month, box offices favored the cuddly Marley & Me, while The Dark Knight swept the people’s choice awards. Audiences were still getting wowed by Avatar, paying a lot to be disappointed by Mall Cop, and getting hyped about the upcoming Watchmen movie.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, a president with a multisyllabic vocabulary was about to be inaugurated (a rarity in the 21st century, we would find out), and his kids were playing with a Wii they got for Christmas.

Here’s To Another Decade Ahead

What a time it was, the dawn of 2009. And most of us, at least for a few more years, had never heard about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, or bitcoin.

And now here we are.

So, dear reader, here’s to ten more years of crashes, booms, bubble scares, hype, derision, libertarian fanboys, pizza and moon lambos. Happy tenth birthday, bitcoin!!1

South Korea to Launch K-Voting: Elections by Blockchain 4 2865

South Korean officials are developing a blockchain based voting system, scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Naturally, it’s called K-Voting.

An election watchdog called the National Election Commission, along with the Ministry of Science and ICT, started developing the system in June in pursuit of a more reliable and secure online voting system. The ministry hopes the transparency of the blockchain will prevent any tampering with election results, because anyone, including the candidates, can see the data and vet the results themselves.

The launch will begin by testing the system with lower-stakes trial runs, like surveys. After assessing the results of the trial runs, the ministry and the NEC will launch the full version of K-voting, which will use the blockchain throughout the entire voting process, from voter authentication all the way through tallying election results.

“We expect the blockchain-based voting system to enhance reliability of voting,” said ministry official Kim Jeong-won. “The ministry will continue to support the application of blockchain technology to actively utilize it in areas that require reliability.”

It’s Not Korea’s First Dance With Blockchain Voting

This isn’t the first time South Korea has used blockchain for voting. Last March, citizens used a voting platform developed by Blocko to decide how to prioritize community projects in the local budget. The blockchain election took place in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea’s most populous province, which surrounds Seoul and is home to many federally administrative buildings including the Ministry of Science and ICT headquarters. With 9,000 participants, the vote was smaller in scale than what the ministry hopes to implement now. But the success of the project boosted confidence in the potential of the distributed ledger for regulating and securing online elections.

“Blockchains will change the world within a few years just as smart-phones did,” Gyeonggi-do Governor Nam Kyung-Pil said at the time. “We can complement the limits of representative democracy with some direct democracy systems by using blockchains, the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

“Numerous institutions have contacted us to adopt a blockchain-based voting system after the voting in Gyeonggi-do,” said Blocko CEO Won-Beom Kim following the success of the project. “By using a blockchain technology in online voting, we can save expenses required to maintain a central management agency and time to collect vote results.”

Blockchain Voting in West Virginia

For this year’s midterm elections in the US, West Virginia introduced a blockchain-based app to replace absentee ballots. The app was specifically geared towards West Virginia residents serving overseas in the military.

Around 144 West Virginians in 30 different countries apped in their votes on the platform, which was developed by Boston-based startup Voatz. West Virginia reported the experiment as a success. “This is a first-in-the-nation project that allowed uniformed services members and overseas citizens to use a mobile application to cast a ballot secured by blockchain technology,” West Virginia Secretary of State Andrew “Mac” Warner said following the midterms.

Despite the professed success, Warner’s Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Queen told the Washington Post they have no plans to expand the project, and “will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting.”

The Precedents Are Set for ‘Direct Democracy’

But West Virginia has set a precedent, and now blockchain voting has a foot in the door Stateside. A bolder election-by-blockchain enterprise like South Korea’s K-Voting could inspire change in the States where election reform is desperately needed. If K-Voting takes hold, it could change the face of democracy worldwide.

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