Category Archives: MIT

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Low Pass Rate in Malta’s Crypto Exam Hinders Government’s Blockchain Aspirations

Malta’s Financial Services Authority’s (MFSA) cryptocurrency exam for financial practitioners has returned some unexpected results with a disappointing 39% pass rate.

The questions set by the MFSA were in accordance with Malta’s latest legislation, the Virtual Financial Assets Act (VFA), which requires financial practitioners wishing to move into cryptocurrency to gain agent certification through a pass in the new exam.

Clearly, the government hadn’t expected such poor results, particularly given late changes to questions to make them more manageable for examinees. This now means that 61% are unable to make the move from careers such as accountancy, auditing, and law. The 250 candidates sat a multiple-choice paper which was simplified towards the end when examiners noticed that the responses were going to result in a poor pass rate, but despite this, only 39% managed to get through the paper successfully with a pass-grade.

The new legislation is part of Malta’s drive to becoming Europe’s hub for cryptocurrency and blockchain. The exam was intended as a first move towards ensuring companies offering ICOs or portfolio management services in the future would have someone on staff who had a high degree of crypto competence with certified credentials.

Malta’s Digital Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri would be dismayed by the outcome of this first set of accreditation examinees, particularly given the sentiments of a recent speech at this year’s Delta Summit 2018 Blockchain Conference:

“Malta will be the epicenter of the Blockchain industry. I invite stakeholders, operators within this space, investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators to be part of yet another exciting chapter for Malta and be part of the Blockchain Island.”

Having adequate skilled personnel will be an integral part of the country’s drive to raise its fintech profile. Schembri will hope that the recent EUR 300,000 blockchain scholarship partnership forged between the University of Malta and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) will be a more successful training programme for young aspirants transitioning from ICT, law, finance, and engineering.

Split over three years and starting this academic year, students can apply for the scholarship and start blockchain and DLT-related Masters and Ph.D. research dissertations. Of the courses, Schembri, said, “These companies need technical resources both to build and to operate by use of this technology, as well as experts in financial services, law, and managerial roles.”

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Alumni College Donations in Crypto Have Their Own Problems

Colleges and Universities around the world have experienced an increase in the amount of alumni donations being made in cryptocurrency.

Most, if not all, donations appear to be made by alumni wanting to share their good fortune in their digital currency investments. Last year was a fantastic year for crypto, as investors either seasoned or totally new to the concept of digital currencies and Bitcoin, made their fortunes very quickly.

It appears that many of these educational institutions were reluctant to take these, not so hard-earned, donations and some needed convincing.  Nicolas Cary, the co-founder of wallet creation website Blockchain, says his donation of 14.5 Bitcoin to his old alma mater, the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, was hard fought:

“I had to do a little bit of convincing for them to accept it. They wanted to dig in about how it works and what the process would be. We had a lot of conversations.’’

The problem appears to be that many colleges in the US simply don’t have a process for receiving such donations. This is particularly baffling as the cryptocurrency industry is young in both its own existence and the average age of its adherents, which in turn increases the likelihood of the alumni making donations using alternatives to the dollar.

Even Ivy League colleges such as Yale and Harvard who have recently announced crypto investment funds claim it becomes much more challenging in terms of creating a process for alumni donations. Harvard as yet hasn’t received a crypto donation, although Yale would like to do but hasn’t yet established a method of implementation.

Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and the University of North Carolina (UNC), have all made investments from their endowments into at least one crypto fund.

Some of the reasons for the reticence up to this point can be put down to media hype; being associated with some of the bad press that occasionally sticks to crypto and other factors such as some of these currencies’ past volatility. Add to this, dealing with the IRS, and the donations can seem less attractive than those made in hard cash. However, with the recent crypto fund adoptions by some of America’s most respected educational institutions, this is likely to change.

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5 Top Unis Follow Yale Down Crypto Investment Path

Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and the University of North Carolina (UNC), have all made investments from their endowments into at least one crypto fund. These are some of the highest caliber universities in the United States, all with endowments in excess of USD 1 billion, and can be considered institutional investors. These five universities follow the lead of Yale University, which invested some of its USD 30 billion endowment in two crypto funds, Paradigm and Andreessen Horowitz.

It was reported that David Swensen runs Yale’s USD 30 billion endowment, whose choices are copied by institutional investors worldwide. That appears completely true, with the sudden investment of five other major United States universities into crypto. Harvard University has the biggest endowment in the United States at USD 36 billion. MIT has an endowment of USD 15 billion, Stanford University USD 25 billion and UNC USD 3 billion.

These endowments represent a significant amount of money relative to the total crypto market cap of USD 203 billion as of 11 October 2018. Of course, only a small fraction of these endowments have been invested into crypto but if successful then more will likely be invested. Now that these academic heavyweights have invested into crypto, it is likely that other endowments across the United States will soon diversify into crypto, as well as other institutional investors.

The entrance of major universities into crypto investment is one of the first positive confirmations that institutional investors are dipping their toes into the crypto space. Institutional investment has been hyped as the likely cause of the next big crypto rally. The currently low crypto prices, with Bitcoin sitting near USD 6,000, represents an opportunity for institutional investors to buy in and get the most bang for their buck.

Jon Victor, the journalist who originally broke this news, says, “A move by endowments into funds that will directly bet on cryptocurrencies signals a major shift in investor sentiment toward the asset class, in the same way that institutions over the past decade became more willing to invest in private tech companies. Backing from such closely watched institutions could help validate cryptocurrencies, which are still considered too risky by many institutional investors.”

 

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Chinese IT Ministry Seeks “Industrial” Scale Blockchain

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIT) is reportedly looking at ways it can push forward its plans for blockchain integration into the financial sector and other industries.

The MIT, established in March 2008, is the state agency responsible for regulation and development of the postal service, internet, wireless, broadcasting, communications, production of electronic and information goods, software industry and the promotion of the national knowledge economy, according to Wikipedia.

A local media report says the MIT wants to progress the use of the new technology forward as it sees it very much in its initial stage. This would involve expanding blockchain, which is principally being utilized in the financial sector, into areas such as supply chain management and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Being a local news report, the news is highly likely to represent more of a government statement than an objective view but it suggests that the government wants to accelerate blockchain in China. The reports says that MIT wants the country to “unite” to provide “a healthy and orderly development of the industry”, according to China Money Network.  It added this will need to be done on an “industrial” scale to integrate it into all areas of Chinese society.

It appears that infrastructures will need to be updated to provide this long-term plan, as the report suggests that MIT wants to involve local departments in boosting the capacity of computing power and storage.

The agency recently released a statement suggesting that the country had experienced “exponential” growth last year along with research by He Baohong of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), that only 8% of blockchain projects launched are still in operation; a fact that the Chinese government would be keen to change.

On 23 July, ConsenSys and the Xiong’an government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a “dream city” project, marking the first time that Xiong’an has publicly recruited a foreign development studio to aid in its blockchain efforts.

This is one of several technological fields that the government has listed as part of a cutting-edge plan to transform Xiong’an into a leading tech hub for the country.

 

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MIT Media Lab’s Enigma Pioneers Blockchain-Based Secret Smart Contracts

Enigma is a blockchain-based platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab that facilitates secret smart contracts. On 30 June 2018, Enigma announced the launch of its testnet, which developers can use to start experimenting with secret smart contract technology. The MIT Media Lab is not forking any existing blockchain; instead, it is building Enigma from scratch.

The goal of Enigma is for decentralized applications to become widely adopted, and the Enigma team believes the development of secret smart contract technology is essential for this to occur. Enigma secret smart contracts hide the origin of a transaction and can be executed on the blockchain without being decrypted. This is beneficial since it will ensure that no government, organization, or hacker can view the inner-workings of decentralized blockchain-based apps, let alone interfere with them or manipulate them.

On the testnet, nodes will not be allowed or necessary since this is just an experimental phase. When the mainnet goes live, users will be allowed to run nodes to secure the network and earn fees in the process, and there will also be security deposits to reduce bad behavior. At this point, Enigma cannot be integrated with Ethereum-based decentralized apps, but when the mainnet goes live, that is expected to be possible.

Ultimately, the Enigma team foresees that secret smart contracts will become the new standard, and this will help decentralized apps transform from novelties into necessities.

 

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Researchers Claim That Recent Cost of Crypto Mining Figures “Pulled out of the Air”

Earlier this week, a study published by Dutch researcher Alex de Vries concluded that Bitcoin mining uses almost as much electricity as the entire Republic of Ireland, but Standford lecturer Johnathan Koomey says his figures are wrong, reports NBC news.

The recent claims that cryptocurrency is draining nation’s power supplies have been compared to concerns in the 1990s when some experts predicted that half of the US electrical grid would be needed to power the then-burgeoning internet, which was later proved to be highly exaggerated.

Koomey’s Berkley Lab proved these calculations wrong at the time, and then again in another study in August 2011 concluding that the data centers used less than 2 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Dutch researcher, Alex de Vries who made the new claims last week, seems to have ignited yet another argument over exactly how much power is being used in excess as a result of the adoption of new technologies.

Koomey asserts, “For two decades, people have been eager to overestimate electricity use by computing…My concern is that we simply don’t have adequate data to come to the strong conclusions that he’s coming to.”

The rise in popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has sparked numerous concerns regarding the energy required by thousands of computing systems that power virtual currencies, and De Vries is certainly not the first to comment on it.

De Vries estimates that the Bitcoin network consumes “at least 2.55 gigawatts of electricity currently, and potentially 7.67 gigawatts in the future.” He also writes that figures will gravitate towards a figure of 8.2 gigawatts by as early as the end of 2018, as energy supplies are further called on to mine cryptocurrencies.

It is these figures that De Vries and other experts in the field contest, suggesting the numbers were simply “picked out of the air.” Koomey argues:

“There may be some basis for them, but it’s a very unreliable way to do these kinds of calculations, and nobody who does this for a living would do it like that. It’s odd that someone would.”

Christian Catalini, an assistant professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, who researches cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, pointed out much of the problem with these kinds of assertions is that data is not actually taken from miners. The very nature of the process often demands that those mining value their privacy, making energy consumption data hard obtain, and therefore to calculate, plus the equipment miners use is varied:

“The main challenge is that this gear is scattered across the globe and faces different prices. This debate keeps popping up, but it would be great if someone did some data sharing with the miners and got some good estimates.”

Bitcoin mining, whether individually or through a mining pool. is often set up in order to keep costs to a minimum, and frequently mining is conducted in such places as caves, energy-rich areas or low-cost countries, in order to reduce costs and maximize user profit. These variables make it hard to ascertain how much global energy is actually being used.

De Vries has responded to counterclaims to those made in the PwC report by his critics, suggesting that, “Right now, the information available is pretty poor quality overall, so I’m hoping that people will use this paper as a foundation for more research.”

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