Bitcoin Expo addresses the future of the currency

MIT holds second annual Expo over two days

Speakers travelled from all over the country to 26-100 last weekend to discuss the future of bitcoin during MIT’s second annual Bitcoin Expo. The event was live-streamed to benefit remote viewers.

After a successful run last year, MIT Bitcoin Club president Jonathan Harvey-Buschel ’18 said that for 2015, the club wanted to “take it to the next level.” Harvey-Buschel estimates that about 500 people attended this year’s expo.

This year, the Bitcoin Expo consisted of over twenty events spread out over two days, punctuated by meals and “networking breaks.” The speaker and panelist lineup included founders and CEOs of bitcoin-related companies, engineers at these companies, various professors, and students.

The event addressed bitcoin from a financial point of view on Saturday and a technical one on Sunday. Many who were interested in one aspect more than the other chose to attend only one of the days.

Saturday’s opening keynote was delivered by Charlie Lee MS ’00, creator of the bitcoin alternative Litecoin and Engineering Manager at Coinbase, a bitcoin wallet and exchange service.

Lee spoke on the “nature of money” and said he believes cryptocurrency represents money’s best form. “I payed for my flight using a currency [Litecoin] I created three and a half years ago,” he said. “I think this deserves an ‘achievement unlocked.’”

Other Saturday speakers discussed bitcoin regulation, general accessibility, value fluctuation, and trading. “Mastering Bitcoin” author Andreas Antonopoulos discussed bitcoin’s public perception in the media and the benefits of the current bitcoin mining system.

“It’s not about bitcoin succeeding,” Antonopoulos said in response to a question about plans to transition from today’s financial system to one based on bitcoin. “It’s simply about bitcoin surviving while the entire world economic system collapses in ashes around it.”

Gavin Andresen, a developer of the bitcoin protocol and chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, delivered Sunday’s opening keynote. He discussed some of the technical changes that bitcoin would have to make in order to handle worldwide demand for transactions.

Other Sunday speakers discussed current and future bitcoin technologies, as well as challenges like scalability, proof of payment, and security. Armory Technologies developer Andy Ofiesh talked about the advantages of a decentralized proof-of-payment system, and bitcoin core developer Peter Todd explained how bitcoin’s payment verification structure can be scaled up indefinitely.

Sunday also included student project presentations, including one from Sam Udotong ’16. Udotong presented his app, Fireflies, a person-to-person delivery service that uses bitcoin payments. Udotong and his team won the Awesome Award in last year’s MIT Bitcoin Competition (BitComp).

The expo wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with remarks from the presidents of the Wellesley and MIT bitcoin clubs.

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