Since joining the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) last year, I have been impressed by the passion exhibited by members of the cryptocurrency community regarding the future digital currency economy. The potential that this disruptive technology possesses is impressive, and I am eager to see more people from underrepresented backgrounds join the conversation.
This is why I am excited to announce a new scholarship opportunity for people of color and women interested in cryptocurrencies. The Chamber of Digital Commerce, a trade association representing the digital asset industry, in collaboration with the DCI, will be providing 30 diversity scholarships for the Chamber’s upcoming event, the DC Blockchain Summit, on March 3rd at Georgetown University. The Chamber of Digital Commerce has donated 10% of tickets (worth $100 each) to the event and will be working with the DCI to identify students and young professionals to attend the summit.
The scholarships are being offered to people of color and women between the ages of 18–25. The summit will be the first of its kind held in D.C. and aims to provide insight into policy challenges facing the new technology. The conference will include thought leaders and companies like Microsoft and NASDAQ, among others. Click here to apply to become a DC Blockchain Summit Scholar. Applications are due February 24th and scholarship recipients will be informed of their acceptance into the program by February 29th.
I’m eager to expose more people from underrepresented backgrounds to the ongoing dialogue around cryptocurrencies because I remember my own experiences first learning about this new field. One of the most powerful ideas that initially attracted me drew a parallel between Bitcoin and the Internet. Just as the Internet changed the way we communicate, so to will Bitcoin and its underlying technology change the way we transact. That’s a powerful statement. It brought back memories of me begging my parents to get Internet access for the home computer because “it was the next big thing.”
While I don’t miss those early days of dial-up and getting yelled at by my older brother for tying up the phone line, learning about digital currencies has brought back that “futuristic feeling” I got when clicking on the AOL icon. A portion of my life I was accustomed to (reading printed encyclopedias for research projects, writing letters to communicate with long distance friends, etc) was being turned on its head.
So, what everyday events will be impacted by this new technology? What types of transactions may look very different in the future?
How about using the architecture / ledger underlying Bitcoin, known as the blockchain, to store single instances of electronic tickets to concerts and sporting events? This would make purchasing tickets from 3rd party websites like StubHub less nerve-racking as it would mean the person you bought the tickets from couldn’t also sell it to someone else. No more holding your breath and crossing your fingers the next time you walk up to the venue. You will know you are the sole owner of that ticket — that it’s legit.
I also find it exciting to see people from different backgrounds, including in developing countries, explore ways this technology can benefit their communities.
“In my community, there’s a trust for smartphones, there’s a trust for social media, and a desire for better money management and investment,” says Malena Lopez, a first-generation Mexican-American who received a DCI diversity scholarship to attend the Consensus digital currency conference last September. “There’s a general mistrust of financial institutions…. Digital currency, I know, is here to equalize things in a completely groundbreaking manner.”
Malena’s insights are especially interesting given an article recently published by Bitcoin Magazine. The article discusses why Mexico’s demographics are aligned with the benefits of Bitcoin. I look forward to hearing more from Malena as she explores these kinds of opportunities and engages more in the community.
“Attending the conference gave me the knowledge and jumpstart I needed to explore opportunities…and I can’t wait to be a part of what’s next!” said Malena.
I share Malena’s enthusiasm and look forward to tracking down more educational opportunities for people of color and women in this field. I also look forward to fostering a more diverse cryptocurrency community in the process.
Next Story — 25 Students Selected for the MIT Intro to Cryptocurrency Bootcamp for People of Color and Women
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25 Students Selected for the MIT Intro to Cryptocurrency Bootcamp for People of Color and Women
Today, the MIT Digital Currency Initiative is excited to announce the selection of 25 students to attend the first-ever Cryptocurrency Bootcamp at the MIT Media Lab. More than 300 students from 5 continents, 36 U.S. states and 150 universities applied for the opportunity to attend the bootcamp.
These students not only represent diversity in ethnicity, gender and geography, but also in their fields of study and interests. While 58% of the students are studying computer science or engineering, the other 42% are majoring in subjects like psychology, art and accounting.
Likewise, their interests range from co-founding an organization whose mission is to make communities safer through wearable tech and mobile apps to starting an internet of things (IOT) club on campus to give the university and classmates access to the latest IOT advances. As a result of their experiences building companies and starting organizations, they now want to leverage cryptocurrencies in developing economies to empower family members back home or figure out how IOT can be applied to the blockchain.
The students will learn about cryptography, elliptic curves and merkle trees, and participate in hands-on labs deconstructing transactions and building mining devices. At night, the students will attend personal development sessions, learning about leadership skills, tips for applying to graduate school and entrepreneurial life hacks.
Lastly, we’re excited to announce three new bootcamp sponsors: Tucows, Deloitte and 21. These companies and our previously announced donors, The Kapor Center for Social Impact and Xapo, have generously donated more than $100,000 in money and in-kind donations to organize and pay for the all-expense paid trip to this Cryptocurrency Bootcamp from August 21 to August 26, 2016.
Please join us in congratulating the 25 students below:
Dir of Digital Currency @medialab, @UCLA Alum, Returned @PeaceCorps Volunteer, Nicaraguan phone company founder, most recently Senior Advisor @whitehouseostp
Jul 23 min read
MedRec: Electronic Medical Records on the Blockchain
Today, you have more access to information about your health than ever before. From the personal tracking offered by Fitbit and Apple Watch to the genetic testing that 23andMe allows from the privacy of your home, new services now make it possible to access and store rich medical information about yourself in real time. Yet the most basic and traditional of our medical information — the records generated by your doctors — remains trapped in a lockbox to which you have only very limited access.
On average, Americans visit 16 different doctors in their lifetime. While both the HITECH and the Affordable Care Acts now enable and in some cases mandate that data from your doctor’s visits be stored digitally, medical records and results from different facilities and physicians are often stored in incompatible databases.
Despite the advances in consumer health technology so visibly on display at your local Best Buy, the ability to personally update your medical records with new information from your doctor, or with data from a device like a Fitbit, still escapes us. At the same time, your medical records are more insecure than ever, as evident from the increasing number of hacks and data ransom attacks against hospitals.
MIT Graduate student researchers Ariel Ekblaw, Asaf Azaria and Thiago Vieira, along with Senior Research Scientist Andrew Lippman, are developing a cryptocurrency-backed technology to address these issues. They are developing a system, called MedRec, for managing medical records that use the Ethereum blockchain.
MedRec restores patients’ control over their medical data. It does this by linking access to the patient’s medical records across the variety of their doctor’s databases. By functioning as an interface between institutions’ siloed health records it also has the potential to include personal sources of data like your Fitbit or 23andMe.
Importantly, MedRec allows patients to securely grant other doctors access to their personal information, as well as healthcare providers, researchers, and even the patient’s children and grandchildren.
In this way, it could, for example, help future generations more accurately answer questions about illnesses in the family, an increasingly important piece of data as precision medicine efforts scale up. By putting your health records into a blockchain-managed system, you and your doctor should not only be able to update and review your medical information in real time, but also know it has been held securely.
A novel design feature of MedRec is the way records are validated and added to the blockchain. The miners for MedRec are medical researchers who are rewarded with access to census-level data of the medical records. Similar to the census, the individual privacy of the person is protected, and the aggregate data is used for critical research. In essence, this is both a medical research blockchain, and a clinical one.
Federal legislation has helped dramatically speed up digitization of medical records as well as incentivize data sharing with new pay for value payment models.
In a new digital and payment era, consumers should have control and access to their own health information in a secure manner.
There are various efforts to unify a patient’s medical records across the country and MedRec is a novel way to help us achieve that. To learn more about MedRec, read the research team’s latest publication here from the MIT Media Lab.
Dir of Digital Currency @medialab, @UCLA Alum, Returned @PeaceCorps Volunteer, Nicaraguan phone company founder, most recently Senior Advisor @whitehouseostp
Jun 303 min read
What is bitcoin and the blockchain?
A list of articles, blog posts, videos, books and courses to help get you started.
As bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have become more popular, we’ve gotten more and more requests from people seeking suggestions for how to learn about the technology.
In pulling together this list of starter articles, blog posts, books and courses, we’ve found that most people are initially willing to invest about 30–45 minutes to learn about cryptocurrencies. That can then ignite enough curiosity to invest another 2–3 hours — and then they’re off to the races.
Feel free to share this list with others. Over the last year, members of the Digital Currency Initiative have sent it to several hundred people — from finance ministers to longtime developers interested in the cryptocurrency space and, as a result, have seem them change their policy position or even change jobs.
This list of articles is by no means exhaustive; it’s a living document. Feel free to suggest your favorite ethereum, smart contracts, regulatory and DAO explainer articles ([email protected]) or create your own list and share it with the community!
Apply Now: MIT Intro to Cryptocurrencies Bootcamp for Underrepresented People of Color and Women
The MIT Digital Currency Initiative is excited to announce a week-long intensive bootcamp covering key cryptocurrency concepts for women and underrepresented people of color. The event will take place at the MIT Media Lab August 21–26, 2016. The Kapor Center for Social Impact and Xapo have generously donated $70,000 to cover each student’s flights, hotel and other expenses to cover the cost of the bootcamp.
To apply for the program, click here. NOTE: all applications are due by July 11th.
The bootcamp is aimed at undergraduate sophomores, juniors, and non-graduating seniors at US institutions, and will include classroom training and hands-on exercises. The objective is to provide students with a foundation of topics underlying the technology. While students do not need to have a deep background in cryptocurrencies, awareness of the new technology and/or coding experience is encouraged.
Students must be available for a phone interview between July 12 — July 19. Participants will be notified of acceptance into the program by July 22. Students should plan to arrive in Cambridge, MA on August 21 and depart on August 26.
These students will:
Gain hands-on technical experience
Engage in networking opportunities with influencers and leaders in the cryptocurrency/blockchain space
Be encouraged to start clubs on their campuses and develop events for their communities to engage and inform more students on topics important to the technology
Pursue research and internship opportunities on their home campuses
In addition, the students will engage in discussions on entrepreneurship, leadership, strategies for applying to graduate school, and approaches to effective communication.
Twenty-five students will be selected for the program. Selected students will receive up to $500 to cover air/train travel to Cambridge, MA. Room and board will be covered for all participants.
Upon acceptance into the program, students must submit a refundable $100 deposit that will be returned to them upon completion of the program. Students should also be prepared to participate in pre-work activities leading up to the bootcamp.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT THE DIGITAL CURRENCY INITIATIVE
Since starting in 2015, the DCI has been committed to providing opportunities in digital currency for URMs and women. We have collaborated with organizations such as Coindesk, Girls Who Code, the Chamber of Digital Commerce, CODE2040, Microsoft-sponsored TEALS programme, and National Center for Women & Information Technology to give students and young professionals educational and networking opportunities.
Through these efforts, the DCI has worked with over 200 students and young professionals worldwide.
Last month, we collaborated with the conference Consensus 2016: Making Blockchain Real to provide over $100,000 in scholarships to women and people of color. Over 200 prospective students and young professionals applied, and we were extremely impressed by the quality of the responses.
The 50 Consensus Scholars attended the multi-day event in New York City, some traveling from as far as Australia and Brazil. At the event, the scholars participated in luncheons where they networked with leaders in the space, attended information sessions identifying how the blockchain could cause industry disruption, and listened to speakers from a variety of functional and technical backgrounds.
Following the conference, a number of the scholars blogged about their experiences. Two examples of these posts can be found here and here.
It was such an incredible opportunity to learn more about blockchain and to get a greater perspective into how things are shaping for the future, and how we can be a part in shaping this. — Consensus 2016 Scholar Yael Heiblum
We’re at a crucial point for this developing technology. But realizing its potential will require significant research and development. Innovation will happen when that R&D is open to the widest breadth of ideas; so, the more diverse the community the best chance we have at success.
To apply for the bootcamp, click here. Applications are due by July 11th.
If you have any questions on the application or the event, please reach out to Gina Vargas at [email protected]
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