Oxford Faculty are Building the World’s First Blockchain-Based University 2 302

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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A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, Brian grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. He's lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and now writes and makes films in the Pacific Northwest.

2 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.

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Defrauding Crypto CEO Josh Garza  Sentenced in Landmark Case 0 55

The disgraced former CEO of fraudulent crypto company GAW Miners has reached the end of a legal saga spanning more than three years. Josh Garza has been sentenced to 21 months in prison and payments of $9,182,000 in damages. His prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release, including six months of home confinement.

US Attorney for the District of Connecticut John H. Durham announced the sentence, which follows Garza’s guilty plea to wire fraud.

How GAW Miners Lost Their Zen

GAW Miners started as a cloud mining service. Fraud allegations began to emerge in 2014, and formal charges followed. The SEC accused GAW with acting as a Ponzi scheme by selling more crypto mining power than they really had. Around that time, GAW also peddled its token, PayCoin, which they promised had a $20 ‘floor.’ That floor dropped out in 2015, to the ire of beswindled token holders. By the end of January, one PayCoin was worth less than $2.

According to the Department of Justice, Garza “stated that the market value of a single paycoin would not fall below $20 per unit because Garza’s companies had a reserve of $100 million that the companies would use to purchase paycoins to drive up its price. In fact, no such reserve existed.”

Nor did an $8 million transaction in which GAW’s parent company allegedly purchased controlling shares of ZenMiner (another company founded and operated by Garza). “Garza made multiple false statements related to the scheme,” the release states, “to generate business and attract customers and investors.”

The PayCoin collapse initiated the undoing of GAW and ultimately of Garza. GAW tried to bounce back with some unsuccessful endeavors like a crypto exchange called Mineral and a platform for making Amazon purchases called CoinStand, before the company went into default for failing to pay their power bill.

The truth eventually began to come to light after internal emails and documents surfaced, after GAW went under separate investigations by the SEC and the DOJ. A few years later, these investigations have finally resulted in Thursday’s sentence.

Justice and Fraud in CryptoSpace

The sentence is a win for the Department of Justice, which has been puzzling over how to govern the crypto world, and could set precedents for following cases, including investigations already underway.

A Bloomberg study has found that over 80 percent of ICOs are scams. Meanwhile, TechCrunch reports that over 1,000 crypto projects have failed in 2018, and $1.1 billion in cryptocurrencies have been stolen this year, according to CNBC.

The crypto landscape and the justice system clearly have some reckoning to do, but investors need to exercise serious caution in the meantime. Although Garza’s sentence sets a precedent, it’s based on a situation that’s not necessarily unique.

Garza’s Sentence May Not Satisfy Defrauded Victims

Critics of the sentence have pointed out how with good behavior Garza could be out in 18 months, a light load considering his fraudulent acquisitions through PayCoin could’ve totaled $20 million by some estimates, and considering the 20 years of prison time per infraction Garza was facing in court. The lighter sentence was part of a plea deal.

While Garza denied all charges at first, he expressed remorse about his actions in a courtroom statement Thursday, according to CoinDesk. Garza is ordered to report to prison on January 4th, 2019.

Bow To Your New God, Blockchain. Bow Down. 0 85

It’s pronounced ‘Zero Ex Omega’.

It’s the brainchild of two people who apparently have lots of time on their hands and a penchant for publicity stunts: artist Avery Singer, child of Ramona Singer, who seems to be someone on television, and Bay Area whiz kid slash former CEO of Augur Matt Liston.

Together at a conference at New York City’s New Museum, Singer and Liston unveiled 0xΩ. It’s a blockchain religion they invented.

Do we need a blockchain religion? Of course we do. Look at it this way: blockchain has always been a religion. Singer and Liston are just making it official—and, of course, decentralizing it.

Not a Critique of Capitalism, But…

“In our secular culture, we have sort of replaced religion with capitalism or, rather, this rampant consumerism,” Liston told Wired. “0xΩ isn’t a direct critique of that, but I think it’s definitely a clear point to make.”

Put that way, 0xΩ isn’t so different from the Church of the SubGenius, which satirizes everything on Earth to rough sketch a core dogma of meaninglessness and mayhem transcendable only by the attainment of ‘slack’. Or more recently, it resembles trends in chaos magick, which asserts that “nothing is true and everything is permissible.”

These anarchic belief systems (or anti-belief systems?) can be seen as responses to some of late capitalism’s gaping failures, namely the frenzied fervors of consumerism, epidemic feelings of void and alienation resulting from an absence of cultural roots, and the general collapse of institutional religion as a place to find any meaning or value.

From this climate emerges the great and terrible Dogewhal.

Yes, Dogewhal.

“We have this avatar I’ve created who is a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, an ethereum logo,” said Singer at the unveiling, while muffling laughter.

Is this a joke? Yes! Is there more to it than that? Also yes!

The rest of the crypto world takes itself so seriously, it can stand a little shake up from time to time. If nothing else, 0xΩ brings that relief. While ostensibly the meaningless antics of the clever, it could actually have some new ideas about how we approach belief systems, and some new applications of the block.

The Block X Religion

0xΩ is a custom religion, but it’s also a platform for existing religions. On 0xΩ, everyone in the religion has an equal say in which beliefs prevail, and what will be the content of sacred texts.

It’s a takedown of traditional hierarchies in which acolytes apply themselves to the instruction of a master who holds the keys to the kingdom, hierarchies which people are less and less interested in.

“We’re incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness,” Liston said. This deliberate manufacturing of consensus reality, if it works, would make Peter J. Carroll proud.

Where Did This All Come From?

The name ‘0xΩ’ itself has gnostic overtones. The void, or the original nothingness, multiplied by the sum total of all material existence, signified by the character Ω. Nothing times everything. Whence comes the universe? From what void does it all spring? You could ask the same of Bitcoin, which spontaneously emerges from nothingness just as the universe did, or does, maybe.

Liston, who also previously worked with a decentralized prediction company called, ironically, Gnosis, says he “grew up Jewish.”

He was pushed out of his position as CEO of Augur in a series of legal battles surrounding one of the world’s first ICOs. Augur, a betting tool that rewards users for correct predictions on elections, markets, or even the weather, seems an apt place to start for someone whose business aspirations seem to revolve around the ethereal nature of belief.

Regarding his approach to blockchain, Liston says “I’m obsessed and very driven by what these technologies can do, but I’m bored with it being a space that’s dominated by engineers and finance people.”

Like What Does Religion Even Mean, Dude?

It raises questions like: Is a democratized religion even a religion? Do the people know best on matters concerning the secret laws of nature? What is the point of all this? The best answer to the latter is probably ‘well, what is the point of anything?’

Sure, 0xΩ may be dismissive of the cultural post that world religions occupy. It’s a bit like someone mouthing a bunch of gibberish and declaring they’ve just founded a language. But it disrupts the evangelical fervor of blockchain enthusiasts, and that, if nothing else, is a service to humanity.

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